I’m not much of a demonzier so to speak especially when it comes to exercise. I get annoyed when I hear people postulate that “you should NEVER do this exercise!” I tend to be of the mindset that all exercises have their place depending on context.
What I mean by context is…
- Client/Athletes current physical ability/capacities
- Injury history
- Coaches ability to coach the exercise
These factors weigh heavily on whether or not I’ll program a specific movement or exercise. All too often I see people prescribed to a certain dogmatic approach to training.
“You shouldn’t axial load an athlete, that means no back squats.”
Then they’ll program front squats…
Which is axial loading. Just say you prefer front squats.
I digress. I say this to illustrate that there is hardly a time where I will consider an exercise worthless. However, there are a few of them.
So, this will be a short one and it’s completely based on my personal opinion so take it for what it’s worth.
Exercise 1: Turkish Get-Up
Yes, the all mighty turkish get-up is about as useless of an exercise as they come in my humble opinion.
That’s right, I said it. Part of the reason I believe this is because of the amount of publicity this exercise gets. It is often touted as a staple exercise and many believe it should be a part of many if not all clients programs.
To quote my colleague Giancarlo,
“The turkish get-up is like killing two birds with one stone, except no birds actually died you just concussed them.”
Meaning, the turkish get-up is okay at a number of things but doesn’t really excel in one particular area.
Why is this?
Too Steep A Learning Curve
For starters the learning curve is too steep for many or for my level of patience. First we start with a half get-up then 3 quarter get-up then a full get up. Many people I encounter can’t overhead press a dumbbell with any sort of weight, let alone hold it there and then attempt to stand up with it.
Yes, you could take the time to teach each individual step but is that worth it in an hour training time frame?
Can we do something that is more productive?
My answer would be yes.
Not Enough Load
Now, I understand that the TGU isn’t prescribed as a “strength” movement.
It’s more of a coordination/stability movement if anything. Which definitely has some merit.
But again what’s the point of training something if we can’t add progressive overload eventually – or at least an amount that’s noticeable, 2.5lbs just doesn’t cut it.
On the flip side, say we have someone who has mastered the turkish get-up. What’s the point of holding 50lbs plus over your head and standing with it? Most of the time, the reasoning is just to say we can. Not a good enough reason in my estimation.
Not Effective Within A Group Environment
The nuances that go along with a turkish get-up make it a time consuming endeavor and difficult to master in an orderly fashion. Now amplify that within a group or team environment. If you have a good client to coach ratio maybe you can get away with it.
Most facilities do not have this luxury.
When I see turkish get-ups performed in a group setting, the outcome is usually pretty poor. Many of the reps are butchered and clients are often stuck wondering why the hell they are doing this “weird exercise.”
In a group setting one coach cannot tend to the needs of this exercise. Many trainees can’t even remember the reps and sets of a given exercise let alone how to do a fairly simple movement such as a squat.
So, asking a coach to give undivided attention to perfect this exercise is going to be a tough sell.
If you’re in a one-on-one setting you could perhaps justify putting it in. I’d be more than impressed if the TGU was done well in a group setting.
One of my pet peeves is highlighting something and then not providing some sort of solution.
Here are some of my suggestions.
- Med Ball/Physio Ball Get-Ups
- Overhead Squat
- KB Overhead Walking Lunge
- Bottoms-Up KB Carry
- Counter-Balance Lateral or Reverse Lunge
Exercise 2: Kipping Pull-Ups
Yeah, just stop doing these. When you’re doing any sort of flailing and claiming it to be exercise you’re doing something wrong. And when I say wrong, I mean you’re essentially hoping you don’t get hurt in the process.
Any sort of controlled pull-up variation will be more beneficial.
Exercise 3: Burpees
Ah yes, Burpees. The exercise everyone loves to hate on.
I’m not any different.
The main reason people hate burpees is because they are another exercise that’s been bastardized into a conditioning exercise.
I’ll extend an olive branch, the act of getting up and getting back down onto the ground is fairly useful from a life skill stand-point.
Hence, why people like the turkish get-up.
But the caveat is that there is so much more to just having people do an exercise for the sake of doing it. The nuance of programming as it relates to sets, reps, rest all play a big part. Burpees are often programmed in a circuit with a bunch of other exercises.
When people are out of shape they tend to struggle in a circuit environment to begin with, so adding the stress of getting up and down off the floor can be problematic from a mechanical standpoint. They no longer hinge from the hips and bend from their spine. They lose the ability to control their tempo and bang their knees off the ground.
It becomes a mess.
Again, there are better options.
- Med-Ball Get Ups
- Push-Ups (strict)
- Legitimate cardio (if that’s the reason you’re programming burpees)
Exercise: Box Jumps
The internet’s favorite exercise, or so it seems. This exercise is butchered constantly because it becomes a competition of who can kiss their ass off the box.
The box needs to be set at the approximate height. Where the person performing the exercise can land in an athletic or “quarter squat” position.
If it looks like your ankles are trying to tell your ears a secret then the box is too high.
Furthermore, the reason you perform box jumps is to lessen the stress on the individual. It’s why you program box jumps before depth jumps. You limit the impact on the joints when you land on a box.
You have to step down off the box and depending on your bunnies it might be multiple boxes in the formation of stairs. Again – we’re lessening impact with this exercise.
Just do them right.
Exercise 5: Anything on a bosu ball.
I think enough people have tackled this particular subject so I won’t beat a dead horse too much.
Balancing on a bosu ball was first made popular in the late 90’s/early 2000’s by the rehabilitation field – mainly PTs – because of some data showing that it was good for knee rehabilitation and return to play protocols.
The data was fairly spotty and when translated to the real on-field world it doesn’t hold up. According to one study done by Behm and colleagues force production on an unstable surface decreases power output by 29.3%.
Not what you’re looking for when trying to get an athlete stronger or more powerful.
Again, I’m speaking from the standpoint of a strength coach. The rehabilitation realm is outside my jurisdiction but there are some studies out there showing there’s a certain level of efficacy in programming bosu squats or things of that nature due to the proprioceptive feedback that goes along with the exercise with injured populations. I’ll stop there.
To put a stamp on it. Let the rehab specialist deal with the injured athletes/clients and you as the strength coach deal with the healthy ones. There isn’t much of a point in introducing unstable surfaces to healthy individuals because it limits the range of motion we can achieve as well as the power output.
Just keep people on the ground.
Stay Strong My Friends