Well-trained, experienced and committed fitness leaders will give you expert instruction about the best kinds of exercise to improve a specific aspect of your fitness. Even more important, they will also ensure that you keep exercising for the rest of your life by giving you good advice on the exercises you should avoid.
There is no hard and fast rule about exercises that should be avoided. Some people will say they have no problems from abusing their bodies by playing hard contact sports, or running for years on hard surfaces, or regularly attending high-intensity exercise classes year in and year out, but these people are the exceptions.
However, nearly everyone will eventually injure themselves if they keep exercising in a dangerous manner. If you are younger than 25 then I bet you feel invincible - that your body will always recover from hard, painful activity.
However, I am amazed at the number of people who stop exercising when they reach their mid 20s. I usually find, after careful searching, that the reason is that they have a major chronic injury that prevents them from participating in their favorite activity.
This chronic injury is the result of poor exercise technique or repeated minor injury, such as always feeling sore after exercise, or a niggling complaint that they just ignore until it flames up into a major injury.
Even an apparently innocuous phase of an exercise session such as the stretching stage can cause you severe and incapacitating injury if you do the wrong thing.
You can injure yourself through improper:
- Frequency: Don't repeat the same exercise or exercise session too often. One exercise, such as a jump, performed once or even a dozen times may be okay, but 600 jumps in a high-impact aerobics class will cause injury. Or playing squash twice a week is okay, but playing twice a day will cause injury.
- Intensity: If you have not run for a while and you head off for a 30-minute run, you will injure yourself. If you have not done a bench press for a while and you try the weight you used to lift, you will injure yourself.
- Mode: Something that is suitable in one setting is inappropriate in another. A shoulder stand may be okay in a closely supervised yoga class, but it has no place in an aerobic exercise session.
- Goals: Make sure what you are doing is effective and appropriate. If your aim is fitness for the aerobic energy system and you are using heart-rate monitoring, there is no point in doing lots of lying leg raises, sit ups, or push ups. You will go too fast or limit your range of movement and injure yourself.
You may do exercises in a stretching session that you would never do in an aerobics class. You will have to rely on the knowledge and experience of your instructor and their commitment to knowing the limits and potential of every one of their participants.
Here are some exercises that the average person should avoid unless they have a specific requirement for these movements.
- Avoid the plough: this is where you lie on your back, and then go through a handstand until your feet are on the floor above your head. This pose places a huge pressure on the discs and supporting structures of the spine, and compresses the lungs to limit breathing and the heart to increase intrathoracic blood pressure.
- Avoid toe touching: This was the exercise of the 60s where you stood up straight, and then swung forwards to touch your toes. This forces the knees to over straighten and puts huge pressures on the lower back.
- Avoid inversion: specially after an exercise session. Hanging upside down increases blood pressure to the extent that blood vessels in the eye may rupture and can injure people with unstable spines.
- Avoid the bridge: The bridge is where you bend over backwards until you are supporting yourself with your arms and feet, with your stomach arched up towards the ceiling. This position squeezes the spinal discs and can pinch the nerves running down the spine.
- Avoid deep knee bends: Deep lunges, knee bends, and squats force the knee cap into the knee joint, putting pressure on the lateral ligaments of the knee and pinching the cartilage inside the knee joint.
- Avoid the hurdler's stretch: Do not sit on the floor with one leg tucked up next to your buttocks and the other leg straight out in front, and then lean back to stretch the quadriceps muscles. This also crushes the cartilage inside the knee joint, and also stretches the inside ligaments of the knee, leading to chronic knee instability.