- Weighted Torso Twists Miami fitness pro Jessica Smith, star of the DVD “Walk On: Strength & Balance,” swears off weighted torso twists. “You can do these via a machine at the gym or using a barbell over the shoulders,” says Smith, “but any way you try them, adding that much extra weight to the spine during a rotational movement is terribly unsafe.” Instead, work the obliques with crossover crunches or side crunches.
- Behind-the-Neck Pulldowns This one lands on nearly every “don’t do” list, but it’s an especially important exercise to avoid as you age, says Irv Rubenstein, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and founder of STEPS Fitness in Nashville, Tennessee. Pulling a bar down behind your neck causes excessive shoulder rotation. The move is hard on your shoulders in general, but it’s especially dangerous over age 40 and even more so after 60, when rotator cuff problems often lie beneath the surface waiting to emerge, says Rubenstein. “Instead do pulldowns to the front, stopping at your upper sternum (below your collarbone).”
- Skullcrushers The name makes this triceps move sound more dangerous than it is, but lowering and raising a bar over your head while lying on your back could cause unnecessary stress and inflammation in the elbow joint, says Walker. “I stay away from these, although they’re fairly commonplace in most gyms.” The goal of skullcrushers is to increase the size and strength of the triceps muscle group, but the exercise can cause a ton of stress on your elbow.” Stick with triceps pushdowns or other, lower-risk triceps moves.
- Leg Raises for Lower Abs Doing leg raises — lying on your back with straight legs and raising them up and down six inches — is a dangerous way to work your lower abs, warns Connecticut exercise physiologist Tom Holland, M.S., CSCS. “The torque on the lower back is insane.” A better alternative: Lie on your back with your lower back pressed into the mat and bend your legs at a 90-degree angle (shins are parallel to the floor). Engage your abs as you stretch your legs out a few inches and pull back in, recommends Holland.
- Box Jumps Plyometric exercises such as box jumps require a solid strength foundation before attempting them, says exercise physiologist Tom Holland. Doing plyometrics without adequate strength, balance, speed and correct technique can easily result in injury. The National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests attempting lower-body plyometrics such as box jumps only after you are able to perform five repetitions of a squat using 60 percent of your own body weight in five seconds or less. “And if you do them, I recommend jumping up but stepping down,” says Holland.