Physical destruction: Exercises that will wreck your body - Part 4

In several previous chapters I explained that even the best and quite safe strength training can lead to months of injury. Here's yet another list of exercises that is best to consult with an experienced gymgoer or better: a trainer.

You should definitely read:

Physical destruction: Exercises that will wreck your body - Part 1

Exercise: Zercher squat

Once this exercise has led me to many months of knee contusion. Do not try it, it's not worth it. The safest for knee or hip are the classic full-range barbell squats (also known as ATG). Front squats are associated with much greater risk, and the worst and the least recommended by me are the Zercher's squat. Paradoxically, power squats (half and quarter-squats) can significantly burden and destroy knee joints, full-range movements (olympic squats) turn out to be much safer for the knee joints! The subject was widely developed in the text: "If you were to choose one exercise...".

Why is the Zercher squat a poor choice?

  1. You keep the weight on your forearms - a big problem will arise when you wish to lift decent workout loads,
  2. Keeping the weight on your forearms causes instability. What's the problem? Each unnecessary movement during squats with heavy weight can be a nail in the coffin (your knees hate such overloads).
  3. If you take the weight straight out of the ground, just like in the old movies with wrestlers from the Soviet Union, you are causing enormous tension in the spine (this exercise looks like good mornings with awfully humped back),
  4. The weight is distributed differently - knee overload increases.

I did 170 kgs in the Zacher, but... you can not perform accordingly long sets to stimulate hypertrophy (10-20 reps). After a few repetitions you will have to throw the weight. It is perhaps an interesting exercise for strongmen; but for an average gymgoer who wants to gain mass and strength the Zercher is unnecessary risk. There is an argument for smaller forces acting on the spine. Yes, but... in back squats the weight is evenly distributed between the abdomen, back, knees and hips. Zercher squat forces local overload disparity.

What instead of the Zercher squat?

  •      Classic back squats,
  •      Front squats,
  •      Karlsen squats,
  •      Babrell lunges,
  •      Bulgarian split squats (with one foot on a bench).

Exercise: lying barbell extensions

Like in the case of the previously described series of exercises: the lying barbell extensions is a very good exercise, but burdened with a risk of injury.

Why? The load on your elbows during barbell extension is particularly large. It is of great importance at a time when you do variants of pressing while standing (soldier press, push press, squat jerk), narrow and wide grip bench press, variants of raises (front, lateral, reverse flies), push-ups or martial arts training. Especially at risk are people who have limited dietary intake of fats and/or use performance-enhancing drugs - no flavorings ("dry joints"). In addition, performing the the lying barbell extensions on a standard straight barbell means excessive overload wrists.

What to do to make lying barbell extensions safe?

  • Limit your range of motion (especially if it is forced by the construction of your body, eg. the curvature of your elbow, construction of tendons, susceptibility to inflammation),
  • use the EZ-curl bar instead of a standard straight one,
  • pay attention to potential back strain in lying and overhead barbell extensions,
  • from time to time use cable push downs instead of barbells and dumbbells (less strain on the elbows and wrists),
  • if possible, use a thicker olympic barbell (such as 32 mm): you will stress you elbows to a lesser degree but necessitate greater work of your triceps,
  • use periods of regenerative training (for example: lower volume and smaller load),
  • pay attention to the threat to the shoulder joint in the double hand barbell extensions both in lying and overhead versions.

In addition, be aware of the need to support the triceps training with basic movements with heavy weights for example.

  • dips with a suspended weight (50 to 100% of your body weight)
  • narrow grip bench press (weight up to 85% of full wide grip bench press
  • chair dips,
  • bench press both in lying and in sitting (vertical and horizontal surface).

The lying barbell extensions remain an incomplete, not fully functional exercise. For many reasons using large loads will be impossible or extremely difficult. Triceps plays a special role in building strength on the bench both in lying and standing (Soldier press). The more isolation movements you perform with small weights (lying barbell extensions, dumbbell kick backs), the less improvement you will see in your strength gains.

Exercise: crunches

The notorious exercise which has minimum functionality. Despite this, it is still present for example in the annual PE examination for instance in the army. Many people associate performing hundreds of bends every day with a reduction of fat from the upper body area - which is also a misconception. Fat does not burn locally, but globally (proper diet, running, swimming, weight training, etc.).

Crunches make no sense because:

  • they unduly burden the spine in the lumbar region,
  • if you hold clasped hands behind your head, also your cervical part of the spine suffers,
  • you're not doing anything to get rid of belly fat, which makes this exercise to produce no results in the reduction of the adipose tissue (the topic was widely discussed here​),
  • there are hundreds more functional exercises for example: plank, quick flexes, scissors, windshield wipers, toes to bar or russian twist
  • in almost any kind of exercises in weight training and martial arts crunches will not be useful to you.

Do you want to train your abdomen functionally? Base your training on basic movements and don't use belts. Squats and deadlifts with a barbell, push press, rowing. In all these exercises abdominal muscles perform powerful work. For most athletes excessive training of stabilizing muscles does not only bring no improvement, but it is harmful.

Sources: Zercher Squats: An "Evil" But Effective Exercise 2. Frederic Delavier „Modelowanie sylwetki metodą Delaviera”. Wydawnictwo PZWL 2011 3. Frederic Delavier „Atlas treningu siłowego” Wydawnictwo PZWL 2007 4.

Sources: Zercher Squats: An "Evil" But Effective Exercise 2. Frederic Delavier „Modelowanie sylwetki metodą Delaviera”. Wydawnictwo PZWL 2011 3. Frederic Delavier „Atlas treningu siłowego” Wydawnictwo PZWL 2007 4.