By Sean Barker
Author of The Dad Fitness System

Old habits are hard to break. But if you keep doing these 5 old school exercises you will be breaking more than old habits.

1. Leg Extensions

Unfortunately this exercise seems to be the extent of most guys leg training. Probably because sitting down and pumping out reps of quad extensions are a lot easier than squatting down with hundreds of pounds on your back.

Despite the “burn” you may feel from your upper thighs when performing this exercise, it is not a very efficient leg exercise as it only isolates the muscles above the knee. The only time this exercise has much benefit is in a rehab setting where these muscles directly surrounding the knee need to be developed for stability and strength. Otherwise opt for any variation of the free-range squat.

2. Behind the Neck Pulldowns

This is another exercise that I still see people doing in the gym. I cringe every time I see someone take a wide grip on the angled ends of the pulldown bar and starting pulling it down behind their neck. The angled ends of the bar are an outdated design and are not where you should be gripping the bar.

This puts your shoulders and rotator cuffs in a very vulnerable position. Putting most of the stress on the shoulders and limiting range of motion away from the back muscles this exercise should be crossed off your list. Work on being able to do bodyweight chin-ups instead or at least pulldowns to the front.

3. Behind the Neck Shoulder Press

Similar to the behind the neck pulldown, the behind the neck barbell shoulder press places your shoulder in a delicate position. It is basically the same movement but by adding additional weight to the bar and pushing up in the vertical plan you are putting your rotator cuffs at an even greater risk of injury.

With the extra weight you can pile on the bar with this exercise, trying to even unrack the bar will soon send your shoulders screaming in pain. Switch to the safer option; the front barbell shoulder press.

4. Concentration Curls

Probably the most popular bicep exercise for beginners wanting to “get the pump” and get Arnold-like biceps. It’s too bad a lot of experienced trainers still waste their time on this exercise. No matter how many reps of concentration curls you do, you won’t get that bicep peak like the Terminator, as muscle SHAPE is genetically determined.

Muscle SIZE on the other hand can be increased through basic movements that allow a heavy weight while use many muscles instead of isolating one smaller muscle. Standing barbell or dumbbells curls are a better choice for bicep development, but better again are close grip chin-ups, which put a lot of stress on the upper arms while working many other muscles.

5. Crunches

If would be nice if all you had to do to get that ripped six pack would be to lie on the floor and pump out hundreds of reps of back breaking crunches. Despite what the infomercials want you to believe, this is NOT true! You wouldn’t build your biceps by doing 100 reps with no weight, so why would you think you would develop your abdominals by doing 100 crunches or more? Your abdominals primary purpose is to actually stabilize your spine and to keep your torso from twisting in half under times of physical stress, not lift your neck off the floor.

Overall, the best exercises for your abs are exercises that allow your body to use your core the way it was meant to be used: for stability and support. Bodyweight planks, and compound exercises like squats and overhead presses will work your abs better than any crunch will ever do. Combined with a clean diet you might just see those abs looking back at you in the mirror.

OK quiz time. Do you see a trend with these 5 exercises?

They all involve sitting down, (which we are all experts at already) and they work only a small section of muscle, allowing you to pump out endless reps without much effort.

For you busy guys who want to get the most out of your workouts, stop wasting your valuable time on these old school exercises that break your body down instead of building it up.

Get Strong! Stay Strong! (and lift smart!)


  1. phitzone says:

    On the leg extensions, working those muscles that help stabilize the knee is very important. The problem isn’t in doing the exercise, but in doing it correctly.

    And you know that crunches are not supposed to help one to “lift their neck”. They are a very effective exercise, along with many others in hitting the abdominal muscles.

    Both of these should only be a piece of the puzzle though, and not be the only ingredient in the spice rack.

    On the other three movements, I could not agree more that these should be avoided.

  2. Ariel says:


    I agree with the 1st 4 of your exercises that are not necessary. But if you do crunches properly, and hold each crunch for a second or 2, you could do just 12 reps and activate the stomach muscles. You combine crunches with the other core exercises that you mentioned and then you have a perfect overall abdominal program.

    Check out this blog, its also interesting to see how others view training and nutrition.

    Also please visit my website:

  3. chriskolba says:

    Doing leg extensions does nothing to help with stabilization of the knee. The quad never works in isolation and the knee does not function without the ankle and the hip. You need to consider the knee in a weight bearing action working against gravity, ground reaction and momentum. Leg extensions are pretty much good for hypertrophy of the quad. As we would say, leg extensions train for show not go!
    The function of the abdominals is to stabilize the spine and create rotational torque production….in a verticle/upright position. Again consider gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum. Thats not to say sit ups are bad just a much smaller proportion of the program. If your doing 100 reps then your wasting your time. The abs are muscles just like the chest or arm. Besides if you really want a six pack nutrition and interval training are the keys.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. ljhealth says:

    Sean, I enjoyed reading your post, and learning from you.
    I look forward to reading you fitness updates.

  5. midnightbuzzkaori says:

    Hi! I’m a physical therapist in Japan.
    I enjoyed reading your blog. I’ll come check out again!

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