Given that many of us pay upwards of $20 per boutique fitness class, it makes sense we’d trust our instructors to keep our bodies safe no matter the difficulty level involved. So we were curious what those same instructors would advise us against doing, whether because we’re likely to do it wrong or because it’s just not as good for us as we thought. We asked the experts, and here are nine maneuvers you might want to avoid, according to those who know best.
Do This, Not That
"To perform it correctly and avoid injury to the lower back, ab work with leg lifts requires a lot of flexibility in the hamstrings, a great deal of strength throughout the core and a neutral spine. Quite often people compromise the spine position to create a bigger range of motion with the legs—not only does this increase risk of injury, it takes the work out of the abs, which should be the focus."
—Vanessa Dunn, co-owner of Ballet Bodies
"The lunge is one of the most popular moves in fitness classes today. It requires coordination, stability and flexibility in the hips, and it can be quite dangerous. Most of us sit for long periods throughout the day, then rush into a class. We expect our body to perform at a high level, but we've been programming it all day to do just the opposite.
Since most classes include some variation of the lunge, I recommend prepping your body first. Perform a few static lunges with each leg. This will help stretch out your hip flexors and quads and reprogram your nervous system to provide the stability and coordination you need.
There's no shame in sticking with static lunges until you're comfortable with other variations. Great instructors will provide regressions and progressions ensuring that everyone in class gets the most benefit for their fitness level."
—Carl Helmle, vice president of operations at Physique 57
"CrossFit is very high intensity with weights. You need to build up to it. It's easy to get hurt if you just throw yourself into it."
—Sarah Levey, founder of Y7 Studio
"I don't recommend doing the same exercise every day. It is possible to overtrain. Each muscle group needs time to repair. By mixing up your workout, you avoid plateauing and also keep your mind and body stimulated.”
—Simone LaRue, founder of Body by Simone
"When our bodies get comfortable, they adapt, and what was once challenging and transformative becomes easy. We no longer see the same results, and imbalances start to appear. Find alternative routines you can slot into your week that will bring you into balance and keep you inspired, challenged and rewarded for your hard work!"
—Jolie Manza, founder of Surfin2Yoga
"Unless a client has an immobilizing injury, I stay away from the leg extension machine. It puts excessive pressure on the ligaments of the knee and can do more damage than good. There are much better ways to work your quads with squats, split squats, Bulgarian split squats and lunges. These exercises engage many muscle groups at the same time."
—Keith Simmons, TroupeFit trainer
"Throwing a weighted medicine ball against a wall puts your neck out of alignment. This is a fairly new move, so we haven't yet seen the long-term results, but I believe it'll cause neck problems and pain later in life. It's most important to work out safely, with proper form and alignment, so that you don't injure your body."
—Valerie Lonigro, TroupeFit trainer
"The bench press puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder. It's just as important to row or pull the weight to keep the chest and back muscles in balance. If you bench more than you row, you put your shoulders at risk, which can result in shoulder impingement, poor posture and back pain."
—Matt Kohn, TroupeFit trainer
"Remember this throwback to PE class? You lie on your back and a partner standing above you throws your ankles to the ground, so you have to resist his or her strength. I never recommend core work that's jerky or requires a lot of momentum. It's dangerous for the lower back and not effective at strengthening the core."
—Kaitlyn Noble, Thumbtack personal trainer
"Those in the yoga practices need to be very aware of their body and strength before going into headstand. I was not aware of my long neck and how much pressure it would take on from the weight of my body, so after a few weeks of headstands, my neck went out from the continuous strain."
—Kelsey Patel, owner, Pure Barre Beverly Hills