'bad exercises'

I saw on twitter recently a thread on ‘bad exercises’. I’m going to pick a few of these and look at the research for them to see if generally they are advocated for or against. Also, i will look at whether or not athletes are doing these exercises, and if so…why? Is it that actually they aren’t bad exercises at all, or is it that they have chosen this bad exercise over a ‘good exercise’?

Let’s start with the one that seems to be the easiest…jogging. This one should be quick.



Match demands (Mohr et al., 2003; Bradley et al., 2009)

  • 9-15km of distance in an elite match

  • 1-3km of high intensity distance

    In a typical premier league game players will:

  • Stand for 5.6%

  • Walk (0.7-7.1km.h) for 60%

  • Jog (7.2-14.3km.h) for 26%

  • Run (14.4 - 19.7 km.h) for 6%

  • High speed running (19.8 - 25.1 km.h) - 2%

  • Sprint (>25.1km.h) for 1%

This is just one sport, but if you search for match demands for any field/court based team sport then you will see a breakdown like this. Search for rugby union/league, AFL, hockey, netball, basketball, handball…the list goes on and you get the point.

In addition, what about warm ups? Is he saying that you should go from walking to sprinting with nothing in between? And is he saying that in games, that players shouldn’t jog at all? Obviously I don’t believe he is perpetuating either of these. I assume he is talking bout your average weekend warrior who doesn’t know what to train so just goes for a jog instead. Thats fine, however jogging is clearly not a bad exercise and is fundamental to sport. If we make our athletes more efficient at jogging (which they do for over one quarter of a game in football), will this help their performance? My guess is yes.

Leg Press:

Here are some videos of elite level athletes using the leg press:

Chris Hoy (click)

There could be any number of reasons why a coach may have their athlete leg press. Leg press has been correlated to rowing performance (Izquierdo-Gabarren et al., 2010), sprint cycling 1RM performance & skiing in special situations (Turner 2018 - Routledge Handbook of Strength and Conditioning). Clearly, as you can see from the videos, these athletes are having to generate a mind boggling amount of force. This could be a significant physiological ability that needs to be trained for the success in the sport.

So there is no reason that you should completely write off the leg press, some athletes have been very successful using it.

Leg curl

Firstly, one person claimed that the hamstrings DO NOT flex the knee. I am baffled by this and have no idea what that means. If anyone could explain which muscles flex the knee (if it isn’t the hammy’s) then please go ahead…

As for the exercise…again, it depends. As with all of these ‘bad exercise’ posts, the answer to whether an exercise is bad or not is ‘it depends’.

For this one I would point readers to looking into the research into the Flywheel resistance training device, which overloads the eccentric portion of the leg curl:

Flywheel Research

I’m sure there will be more people claiming that good exercises are bad to come and I will try to give my views on more of them. As for me, my thinking is that exercises aren’t good or bad…the rationale behind choosing one exercise over another is the important thing. If you can rationalise jogging (easy to do), leg pressing, hamstring curling, kipping, box squats etc etc then go for it. If your athletes are improving and training well, then I don’t seen an issue. For some exercises such as burpees or the plie in ballet, there may well be better exercises for the desired outcome, however they are inherently part of the sport, and therefore their use is rational.

My Athletic Director Philosophy

New look, new focus.