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5 Exercises I Hate The Most!

Do These Instead!

Posted by Scott_Herman - February 2nd, 2018

Today we’re going to talk about 5 exercises that need to go away FOREVER, but never will. Some of these exercises are exercises that are just completely useless, and some of these exercises are variations of what you’re supposed to do, but people do them a different way because either they want to lift more weight, or they’ve been fed a nice plate of bro science and they just don’t know better. After today, hopefully, if you’re doing any of these 5 exercises, you’ll not only know what not to do, but I’ll teach you the proper way to do them OR an alternative exercise to help you maximize your gains in the gym!

Exercise #1: Bicep 21s

I know so many of you are thinking ‘no, 21s are the best exercise ever, I get a really big pump when I do them!’ Well, a pump doesn’t build muscle! A pump is blood being forced to the area, not necessarily muscle breakdown for regrowth. In fact, 21s were originally invented for SHOULDERS, and it wasn’t doing a lateral raise with half reps, it was invented to hit all three heads of your shoulders. You would do 7 front raises, 7 lateral raises, and 7 rear deltoid raises, that’s what a true 21 is.

The 21 variation that gained a lot of popularity because of the ‘pump’, was where you start with 7 reps doing just the bottom half of a bicep curl, then 7 reps doing just the top half, and then 7 reps where you use full range of motion. Now I’m not trying to say you’re dumb for doing this, because I used to do these all the time, but it was because I didn’t know better, and that’s what everyone in the gym was doing. If you’re currently doing this, it’s not doing much for you. A lot of people will say if you do the half reps at the top, that works the biceps peak more, but that’s not true. There’s two heads in the biceps – the inside head and the outside head. The outside head is the peak, and if you want to grow the peak you need to do exercises that place more emphasis on the outside head. The top range of motion of a bicep curl doesn’t do that.

Now if you’re looking for something more intense that’s ACTUALLY going to give you a better muscle building opportunity, then I want you to try something I invented called MERCY 30s, and they’re labelled this way because they are INTENSE! The way you perform a mercy 30, is you start off with a wide grip and curl all the way up and all the way down for 10 repetitions. As soon as you finish those 10, you’re going to use an inside grip for 10 repetitions, and then as soon as you finish 10 with an inside grip, you’re going to use a neutral grip for 10 more reps to make 30 repetitions total. The reason why that works better than 21s is because on every single rep for mercy 30s, you’re working through the entire range of motion. Also, if you didn’t know, with an inside grip you target more of the outside head of your bicep, with an outside grip you target more of the inside head, and with a neutral grip you target both heads equally.

Exercise #2: Close-Grip Bench Press

This isn’t on the list because the close-grip bench press isn’t a great exercise for triceps, it’s just that people like to do it wrong. You’ve probably seen it in your gym hundreds of times, where people go up to the bar and pick it up with their hands about 3 inches away from each other. As they go down, their wrists tend to bend in an awkward way, and when you’re lifting a lot of weight this form places a tremendous amount of pressure on your wrists and it can actually start to put some pressure in your elbows as well. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but people seem to think they can target the triceps more by benching this way, or they think that because the exercise is called ‘close-grip bench press’, that they have to grab as close as humanly possible. If you’re doing your close-grip bench press like this, you’re doing it wrong.

What you need to do is get a grip that’s just wide enough so that when you get to the bottom position of the movement, your arms are to the sides of your torso, and you’re able to keep your elbows under your wrists the entire time you’re pressing the bar up and down. That’s not only going to take pressure out of wrists, it’s also going to enable you to lift much, much, MUCH heavier weight without getting any pain, and you’re going to be able to overload your triceps even more. Make sure you are doing it RIGHT!

Exercise #3: Barbell Upright Row

These are really great for targeting your rear deltoids and upper traps, and it’s an exercise I like to do a lot in my routines. The reason why this exercise gets so much hate is because 90% of the people I see doing it in the gym are doing it wrong and grabbing the bar with their hands as close as possible. It’s a little different than the close-grip bench press – people usually grab the bar closer on a close-grip bench press because that’s what they think the name implies. People grab with a close-grip on upright rows because the closer your hands are together, the more weight you’re going to be able to lift. Unfortunately, the closer your hands are together, the more you’re going to have shoulder impingement. If you went over to a barbell right now and grabbed it with a close-grip, and pulled it just halfway up, you would feel pinching in your shoulder.

If you want to incorporate this exercise into your routine, make sure you do it right, and that is with a grip OUTSIDE of shoulder width. Aside from alleviating the shoulder impingement issue, having that wider grip is also going to allow you to feel a lot more upper trap and rear deltoid engagement. Of course you will have to go a little bit lighter than what you were doing with a close-grip, but, you’re actually working the muscles harder with a wide grip anyway, so you should be doing it that way.

Exercise #4: Cable Glute/Ham Pull-Through

This may be done more often by the ladies, however, men can still do it, and you do see both genders doing this movement. While this isn’t a bad movement per say, this is more a case of finding something that’s better. To perform this movement, you hold the rope between your legs with your hands resting on your inner thighs. You then sit back as far as you can, before pushing through your heels and flexing your butt cheeks as hard as you can at the top of the movement. What’s wrong with this exercise are a couple of different things.

Firstly, you’re going to be limited to how much weight you can lift, based on how much you actually weigh. Your glutes are one of the strongest muscle groups in your body and I guarantee that you’re going to be able to eventually lift more weight than what you weigh. If you’re a 110lb woman doing this exercise, there’s no way you’re going to be able to do the entire stack without being thrown back into the machine if you lose your footing. The other issue I have with this is the way you have to hold the rope – when you get to the bottom position, it’s just really uncomfortable. Your grip might give out at some point too depending on how strong it is, so there are a lot of things going on with this movement that take away from what you’re really trying to do, which is maximize that glute engagement.

Because of this, you’re much better off doing a barbell hip thrust or a barbell glute bridge to maximize those gains. For a barbell hip thrust, you want to use the back/side of a bench to hold yourself in the air. You take a barbell and place it across your hips, then slide down so that your upper back is the only thing touching the bench. You’ll sit down as far as you can, with your butt touching the ground, then you’ll push through your legs to the top, flexing your butt cheeks as hard as you can at the top, and repeat for reps. Make sure to get a full extension at the top of the movement.

Now if you’re a dude and you’ve never done a barbell glute bridge before, but you REALLY want to improve your squat AND your deadlift, this is an exercise you should be doing. This exercise is done off the floor, and you start by pushing the barbell into your thighs. You then extend your hips to the ceiling, flex your butt as hard as you can, come back down, and repeat for reps. These two movements are WAY more superior for glute engagement than the cable glute/ham pull-through ever will be.

Exercise #5: Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

The actual movement itself isn’t bad, it’s using a dumbbell that’s bad. When you do a dumbbell tricep kickback, for the first few inches of the movement, there’s nothing going on. You could be holding 50lbs or 60lbs, and granted your shoulder might get tired, but your tricep ain’t getting engaged in that range of motion. The only time that tricep is getting engaged is in the final few inches of the movement. The alternative to that is you can still do a tricep kickback, but if you want to make it EFFECTIVE, you need to use a cable machine. A cable machine is going to apply resistance to your tricep throughout the entire range of motion.

I talk a lot about the stretch and the flex being really big parts of engagement, no matter what muscle group you’re training in order to see results. If you want to be able to take advantage of the stretch, which is where you get the most muscle breakdown for regrowth, then you need to do kickbacks on a cable machine. Doing them on a cable machine means that even in the starting position, the weight pulling away from you is putting a huge stretch on the triceps, which is ripping and tearing that muscle tissue down. As you pull back, you get a nice flex, there is still constant tension on the triceps as you return to the starting position, and you then repeat for reps. If you’re currently using dumbbells, I want you to switch to cables, and you’re going to see a whole new world of gains when it comes to your triceps workout.


As much as we would all like these 5 exercises to go away forever, chances are they never will. However, hopefully this is the first step towards seeing the last of these movements, and better gains for everyone all around the world!

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