Top 10 Contraindicated Exercises, Pt. 2

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In the first part of this article, I discussed a number of contraindicated exercises — outdated movements that can be unsafe and unproductive — along with modifications for improving their safety and effectiveness. Here are the top 5 such exercises, as I seem them.

As mentioned in the first part of this article, one of the many benefits of research is that we learn to fine tune exercises, so that they are not only effective, but also safe.

Contraindicated exercises by definition are “known to be risky” because they weaken vertebral discs, ligaments, and tendons that may be damaged at a later time or injured during the time of performance.

The single most area of the body that is commonly abused is the spine. There are many exercises, especially for the abdominal and lower back muscles, that damage discs the discs in the spine by increasing compression force on the spine at while they are moving. One way to visualize this is to first imagine that each of your fists is a vertebra. Then, picture putting a sponge between the fists and pushing your fists toward each other. This pressure exerted on the disc (the sponge) is compression force which, when repeated, can lead to a seriesof events that leads to intense pain.

With that in mind, below is my perception of the top five contraindicated exercises and safe, effective modifications, where possible:

5. Neck rolls: Make circles with your head.

Result: A lot of compression force on the cervical vertebrae.

Modification: Turn your head to either side; in a separate movement tilt your head.

Stretches: Sides of the neck.

4. Back extension with arms and feet off of floor: On floor on tummy, lift feet and arms off the floor at the same time.

Result: A lot of compression force on the lumbar vertebrae.

Modification: With forehead on the floor, arms reached forward and legs straight, lift right arm and left leg at the same time, then down, and then switch limbs.

Strengthens: Lower back.

3. Leg lifts: On back on floor with legs straight, lift both legs off the floor at the same time.

Result: A lot of compression force on the lumbar vertebrae.

Modification: Bend one knee and lift the other leg straight up to a 45-degree angle.

Strengthens: Front of the hip.

2. Inverted neck stand: On back, push body up in the air so that your feet are pointing toward the ceiling and your body is off the floor except upper chest, neck, and head.

Result: Increased intrathoracic (chest) and cervical pressure.

Modification: None!

Strengthens: Nothing!

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1. Sit ups: This is self explanatory.

Result: A lot of compression force on the lumbar vertebrae.

Modification: Roll up just far enough to lift head and upper back off the floor.

Strengthens: The front of the abdomen.

About the Author

Jeanne “Bean“ Murdock is the owner BeanFit, a health and fitness consulting company. She is the host/producer of Celiac Radio and the author of “Ask Bean“, an online column, and “Successful Dating at Last! A Workbook for Understanding Each Other“ and “The Every Excuse in the Book Book: How to Benefit from Exercising, by Overcoming Your Excuses”. Contact Jeanne for more information at 408-203-7643 or through her website


These resources are for the purpose of personal trainer growth and development through Continuing Education which advances the knowledge of fitness professionals. This article is written for NFPT Certified Personal Trainers to receive Continuing Education Credit (CEC). Please contact NFPT at 800.729.6378 or [email protected] with questions or for more information.