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Fitness Experts Tell All: ‘Exercises I Ditched and What I Do Instead’

As a group fitness instructor and certified personal trainer, I make it a point to be not only aware of the latest health and fitness news but also to realize when something I am teaching to my students is not as beneficial as I previously thought.

For example: I used to have my bootcampers perform bear crawls in one direction and then come back with a crab walk, thinking both worked the core differently.

However, I eventually realized that, for most folks, the crab walk puts unnecessary strain on the wrists and shoulders and does not mimic any possible life event, so I stopped using them entirely.

I asked a few top personal trainers and fitness experts if they have ever stopped using an exercise with students and what they replaced them with instead.

(Keep in mind that all the respondents emphasized that just about any exercise is in fact good for you. However, whatever workout you choose to do — make sure that it is best for YOUR body.)


Elizabeth Pongo, Pongo Power in Brooklyn

“One exercise that I was once a big advocate for was the Sumo Squat. But in reality many people have a natural duck walk, and their toes already turn out. This can be a function of tight IT bands and TFL, which runs down your leg on the outside. Tight IT bands lead to knee pain!

You’ll get more bang for your buck building up to doing a single-leg squat, ultimately! The single-leg squat is proven to recruit the most muscle fiber deep inside your booty.”

Kelly Lee, trainer for Grokker.com

“I found that the crunch was virtually useless when I compared the benefits (results in strength, toning, etc.) and the ‘costs.’ Crunches take too much time, require too many reps and can put a lot of strain on the neck.

Instead I now replace them with the following sequence:

  1. Planks with variations
  2. Jack knives or concentrated bicycles
  3. Pikes on gliders, a stability ball or using TRX suspension bands

All of the above exercises engage more muscles and work the core in a more dynamic way.”

Julz Arney, Julz Arney.com

“As I learn from the latest research, I evolve the way I perform some of my favorite moves to make them more effective.

For example, when holding a plank, I think about gripping the floor with my hands like I am trying to open a jar that is stuck; this helps engage more muscles of the back.”

Jen Ator, Fitness Director of Women’s Health magazine

“I no longer do ‘girly’ push-ups (AKA, modified push-ups with knees on the ground) — these type of push-ups work the muscles in your arms and shoulders, but they cut out most of the core activation.

It’s one of the big reasons you may be able to bang out tons of reps of push-ups on your knees, but then still struggle to do more than a few reps of a regular push-up.

When my form starts to falter on regular push-ups, I switch to eccentric push-ups rather than going to my knees: Start in the standard push-up position, then lower yourself as slowly as possible to the floor. This builds strength throughout the entire range of motion and keeps your core engaged.”

Kelli Segars, Fitness Blender

“An exercise I no longer do, or do very infrequently, is steady state cardio; cardio at a completely steady pace is one of the slowest ways to burn calories and bring about changes in the body.

Instead, I’ve replaced longer duration, steady paced cardio with HIIT (short intervals of very intense activity, followed by a quick rest, and repeat) or total-body strength training to build metabolism-boosting lean muscle.”

Suzanne Digre, Workout Nirvana

“Personally, I no longer do chin-ups with palms facing in, because they put stress on the shoulder and elbow joints. I replaced these with neutral-grip pull-ups (palms facing each other).

If you don’t have a neutral-grip bar, use a mixed grip (one hand facing out, one hand facing in) or both hands facing out. Or even better, use rings!”

Tony Gentilecore, C.S.C.S.

“Specificity serves as the umbrella for EVERYTHING.

Take a softball player for example and the amount of joint distraction forces that are placed on both the shoulder and elbow — it’s quite a lot. Taking care of the shoulder (and elbow) is important when designing strength and conditioning programs for baseball players. To that end, I’d steer clear of exercises that are going to place undue stress on the joints: such as upright rows, dips, barbell bench press and the like.”

Are there any exercises or workouts you no longer perform? What did you replace them with? —Margo

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