Five Exercises Women Should Avoid

Chicago Tribune

If you hate sit-ups, you're in luck. They're one of the top-five exercises women should completely avoid, according to personal trainer Kristal Richardson.

While women can tackle the same workouts as men, their joints are generally looser than a man's and "poor form and too much weight can lead to stiff joints or even damage." Here are five exercises that Richardson says women should avoid.

Don't do straight leg push-ups. Push-ups often are the culprit of neck, lower back, elbow and shoulder pain.

Instead try: Push-ups on your knees. Focus on where you place your hands to make sure you're working the chest. You can also try the dumbbell bench press instead for toning the chest and shoulders. Lie flat on your back and, with arms straight up and dumbbells in hand, slowly lower the arms to just past a 90-degree angle or until you feel a slight stretch in your chest. Repeat three sets of 10 reps.

Don't do sit-ups. If you lock your hands behind your head, it can cause a torque in the spine, which ultimately leads to neck pain, she says. Remember sit-ups are different from "crunches." When you do a sit-up, you bring your torso up 90 degrees, so your back is off the floor. A crunch has a limited range of motion; you raise your torso about 45 degrees and your lower back will still be on the floor.

Instead try: Bicycle crunches, which are considered one of the most effective abdominal workouts. Lie on your back, place your hands next to your ears and start a pedaling motion with your legs, lifting the left shoulder to the right knee and vice versa. Try three sets of 10.

Don't do weighted squats. Squats with a weight bar on your back build serious bulk in the rear end and upper thighs, places women are most likely looking to trim down, said Richardson.

Instead try: Lunges, which "don't place nearly as much stress on the lower back and distribute the workout throughout the entire leg," she said. Take a long, even stride forward with one leg. Be sure to keep your knee at a 90-degree angle with your foot for support. If you have bad knees, try doing a reverse lunge by stepping backward.

Don't do behind-the-neck shoulder presses. This exercise strains the shoulders, both on the way down and up. The little muscles on the top of your shoulders work too hard and become inflamed, causing "weight lifter's shoulder," she said.

Instead try: Seated shoulder presses. "Hold a pair of dumbbells overhead with your arms straight and palms facing each other," she said. "Then, bend your right elbow and lower your right arm, moving your elbow out to the side until your upper arm is parallel with the floor." Press back up and repeat with your right arm for three sets of 12 reps with each arm.

Don't do standing dead lifts. Since women are typically more flexible than men and can bend down farther, it puts even greater stress on their legs and lower back. It also results in bulky back, leg and rear-end muscles.

Instead try: Leg kick-backs. Facing a wall, stabilize yourself with your arms and kick your right leg back as far as you can. Repeat 10 times, then do the same with your left leg. Try two sets.

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