Imagine your fitness goal is at the top of a mountain. There are many, many different paths to reach those goals. The path that works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa. However, there are obstacles we should avoid on all paths to a healthy and fit body. Below I list my top 5 exercise (aka obstacles) to avoid in your training no matter your path.



This deactivates your core. Sure, your upper body will get stronger but your core will be weak as shit. Weak cores lead to back pain. And, yes, you WILL get back pain one day.


Substitution: Incline Pushups.


Place your hands on something higher than the ground such as a bench or barbell on a rack. Keep your core engaged as you perform your pushups. You’ll eventually work your way down to the ground.





Before I go into the reasons why the American swing is wrong I want to address my Crossfit readers real quick. First, if you’re a competitor and need to perform them in your training and competition then go for it. You obviously understand the risk versus reward scenario and if I have a ton of money on the line then, yes, I’d perform the American swing as well. Now, time to discuss why it is NOT recommended for everyone else.


The two factors that should be considered are your shoulder mobility and trunk stability. I’m a fan of the Functional Movement Screen by Gray Cook and using this system we can help you determine if your shoulders/thoracic spine and core can handle an overhead swing. A score of 2 on these movements with the FMS is passing but it’s like passing with a ‘C’. You made it but it’s not perfect. In my opinion you need a score of 3 on both movements to perform American Swings. The vast majority of people do not have the necessary requirements to swing a kettlebell overhead. In order for most of you to get the kettlebell over your head with an American swing you have to 1) hyperextend your low back 2) bend your elbows and 3) overextend your head forward.


Hyperextending your low back means your disengaging your trunk (aka core) and that is never safe with a weight over your head. Bending your elbows means your shoulder blades don’t have enough room to internally rotate. In other words, you’re grinding and aggravating your shoulder joint. Finally, pushing your head forward leads to neck pain, shoulder impingement issues, and kyphosis.


Substitution: 1) the Russian Swing or 2) Kettlebell Snatch

KBSwing kettlebell-snatch






As a kettlebell practitioner the only ways we ever put a kettlebell over our head are: the get-up, snatch, bent press, or clean to press. Seek a kettlebell practitioner to ensure you’re performing Russian Swings and Snatches correctly.




I would let this slide if the weight used was 50% or less of your 1 rep max and you only performed 5 reps at a time. At least you could diminish the chance of injury since you won’t throw massive amounts of weight around. If you want to go heavy on these lifts then go for it. Just don’t do it in conjunction with running a quarter of a mile, doing 30 pull-ups, and 50 wall balls. You’re not Spec Ops so don’t try to act like it.


Substitution: Isolate your Oly lifts and powerlifts at the beginning of your workout.


If your focus is on strength and power then keep your reps 5 or less per set. Take long breaks (2-5 min.) depending on your ability to recover.


#4 BURPEES (aka The Worm aka Fugly Burpees)


Burpees are fine. Burpees that look like you just ran a marathon and are having a seizure are not fine. Squat down, do a pushup, stand back up. That’s it. Doing no more than 10 at a time, even for a very fit individual, is all that you need. The rare exception to this rule is when your profession or sport calls for you to get knocked down and back up in a hurry. Contact sports like football, lacrosse, hockey, MMA or profession such police or military need to train fast burpees for a short period of time. Anything more and they’re defeating the purpose.


Substitution: A GOOD burpee….or ANYTHING ELSE that gets your heart rate up and blood flowing without compromising your spine. I suggest kettlebell swings, battle ropes, sandbag slams, or tire strikes with a sledgehammer.


Squat down, do a pushup, stand back up. That’s it.




Just…no. Just… Unless, you’re a gymnast….then you can do whatever you want.


Substitution: Strict pull-ups.


If you can’t then work with a band to assist you or use a chair and let your legs help you. I suggest working on your negative pull-up in order to build up the strength faster.



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