Is There Such Thing As A “Bad” Exercise?

It seems like every time I scroll through Instagram, I see a handful of posts from various trainers, physical therapists, and chiropractors that are telling me to “STOP doing this!” or “DON’T do that!” As a doctor of physical therapy and certified strength and conditioning specialist, I’ve studied the human body well enough to know that most, if not all, of these messages are untrue. To someone who is new to exercise or trying to get out of pain, hearing “this exercise is bad” is confusing and can even induce unnecessary fear. Let me tell you why I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a “bad” exercise. 

I want you to know this: Exercise is GOOD. Study after study has shown the impact of exercise on our physical and mental health. In fact, I’ll challenge you to find ONE thing that a healthy dose of exercise doesn’t make an impact on. Our hearts become more efficient, bones become stronger, and muscles and joints become resilient. Sleep, digestion, and circulation are better after exercising. Depression and anxiety symptoms are also positively influenced. 

To go along with that, the human body is incredibly adaptable. A ballerina can find extreme ranges of motion while a strongman competitor can access amazing total-body strength. Yes, this requires dedicated training, but the same principles apply for a farmer who carries heavy buckets of feed every day or a novice runner who gradually works up to marathon distances. Over time, the body builds strength, endurance and mobility based upon the loads that are placed on it. 

Now, there are some situations where one exercise is more appropriate than another. This is especially true after a surgery or injury. We need to be mindful of the stress that we are putting on the sensitive tissue. Think about a cut on the knuckle of your index finger – you’re not going to completely stop moving it, but it does help to temporarily back off on fully bending and straightening your finger while it heals. The same applies to our muscles, joints, and discs. We definitely don’t want to stop moving after an injury, but we do want to be intentional about choosing exercises and parameters that will optimize healing. If you want to start deadlifting, we want to choose a deadlift variation and appropriate weights, sets, and repetitions that we can build on over time. As your body adapts, we adjust the training program accordingly. 

This is why I am SO passionate about a tailored exercise routine! It’s important to understand your goals, whether that’s general fitness, sport participation, or maximum strengthening. If you need help choosing the *BEST* exercises and the parameters that go with them, reach out to a trusted professional who will guide you, not someone who creates fear that a certain exercise is inherently harmful. At The Body Lab, we will carefully evaluate your current capabilities and help you design an exercise routine that keeps you on your path to your healthiest self. 

If you need guidance on a routine that best fits you and your needs, or if you are needing assistance with an injury, we’d love to help. Book an appointment online with either of our doctors here.

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