The 3 Best and Worst Exercises

Sometimes you feel great after a few hours of working out, while often that same routine brings with it a heaping helping of back pain. Before stepping into a gym, it’s worth knowing which exercises are ultimately effective versus ones that may leave you bruised. Joe Aiello, Assistant Department Head of Personal Training at Life Time Athletic in Harrison and a certified strength and conditioning specialist, reveals his three go-to moves, as well as a trio you’d be wise to skip.

Most Useful

Squats: Being able to squat and control your own body weight or more is key in maintaining full musculoskeletal functionality all the way from the ankle to the hip to the shoulder. These can include back squats, front squats, or body weight.

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Wood Chops and Lawn Mowers: Rotational movements and exercises are rarely found in gym equipment. Applying these to your weekly program is crucial for maintaining the connection throughout your “kinetic chain” and being able to move easily in any athletic movement. These are particularly great for any golfer, baseball player, or lacrosse player.

Single-Leg /Single-Arm Exercises: These movements can include Bulgarian split squats, lunges, single-arm chest presses, and pull downs. Performing these on an unstable surface or loading your weight on one leg can drastically improve core activity as well as full-body coordination. Single and ready to mingle is my motto! 


Least Useful:

Crunches – For your average individual, crunches do not accomplish what is normally expected: abs. In addition, if form is correct, a crunch can add excess force on both the cervical and lumbar spine that could lead to additional aggravation in lower back pain or common herniations.

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Bench Press – While pressing exercises are some of my favorite, the traditional bench press is far from it.  Locking your hands in place on a bar through a dynamic range of motion can cause unnecessary pressure on the rotator cuff and posterior torso muscles. Dumbbells allow a much more fluid and natural positioning of the upper arms.

Calf Raises – Unless rehabbing from an injury or increasing the strength in a particular range of motion, this exercise rarely does what it’s initially thought to accomplish by increasing calf size.  My advice?  Start running.

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