"5 Moves You Should Avoid At The Gym" Useless Article of the Day

Posted on 28 Nov 2014 08:19


This article was published on Philly.com and written by Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC, Athletic Trainer for US Soccer Federation. Justin Shaginaw is apparently a "Sports Doctor".

The 5 moves it covers are:

  1. Deep Squats
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Overhead Presses
  4. Bench Press to your Chest (as opposed to your feet)
  5. Anything with heavy weights

I'll briefly summarize the misinformation presented before each of the exercises listed above. He begins his article by stating:

"If you’re a power lifter or body builder, please stop reading."

But then, although the article is supposedly based on what he tells his "patients" he implies that the article is for "the rest of us." Apparently, we are all Justin's patients. He says it is not about what you CAN do, but what you SHOULD do. A personal trainer's job is not to suck all the joy out of a client's life. Part of staying fit and healthy is to BE ABLE to do the things you want. For some of us, what we want is to be strong, or to do other stenuous activities that bring us joy. That is a part of living a healthy life. Something that is lost on Justin, as you will see.

Let's get started:

Deep Squats

Being a "sports doctor" Justin has felt the insatiable need to throw around medical terms taken from an anatomy book. He writes that squatting past 90 degrees puts undue stress on your knee joint and at that angle (at the bottom) when the knee is fully bent, if there is any rotation there will be a "pop" and the meniscus will tear.

He's also added a bit about how in old age (35-40 apparently) the meniscus starts deteriorating naturally so it is beneficial to not stress it.

I don't think people should be obsessed with "deep" squatting specifically. If you are competing in a powerlifting meet then it is important to get the rules right and squat to the depth that the rule book states. However, for recreational lifters you must squat till you squat right. It is not so much about depth as it is about getting the drive right and improving quality over time. If you drop into the squat too fast and you find yourself bouncing out of the hole then you are not squatting right and not squatting right will result in injuries.

The knees over toes myth has been debunked by Eric Troy on his site. Check out the link: Knees Over Toes Myth Although Justin advances his theory of how an injury will occur from deep squatting, and complains about having to debate it, he produces no evidence that his prediction of injury occurs. No evidence to support his predictions means that has not been confirmed. Does this evidence exist, and he is just not aware of it? No.

Dead Lifts

He uses the same principle of "old age will kill your joints" to say that deadlifts are bad for everyone. Justin says that with old age the disks in the spine deteriorate (I am beginning to see a pattern where the problem is not the lifts or even performing them correctly but growing old being the culprit and root cause of all evil) and because it has been "shown" that "repetitive flexion activities" are a "significant factor" in "back injuries", most importantly "bulging and herniated disks". He seems to be completely unaware the way the deadlift is usually taught, it is NOT a repetitive flexion activity and he, again, cites no evidence to back up his prediction of injury, even for when flexion does occur.

He suggests that instead of deadlifts one must focus on other exercises to strengthen your hip extensors (because that is why we do deadlifts - to strengthen our hip extensors):

  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Bridges
  • Squats above 90 degrees

I fail to see how that joint argument can hold up in the face of unilateral leg exercises. Please note how I used a clever sounding word like "unilateral" as well. The issue with lunges is that if squats are "bad for your knees" then lunges can only be worse. Same with step-ups. Instead of distributing the load between two legs you will be isolating it on one. I don't know how that is "safer".

In my experience, no exercise done wrong is "safe". Just like driving badly is "unsafe"; this same principle applies to lifting weights as well.

Overhead Presses

Once again, the main culprit is deterioration of rotator cuff tissue because of AGE. I'm telling you: Justin has something against people becoming old. Old is bad.

Sometimes I cannot tell whether this article is written as a joke or Justin is being a troll or whether he is genuinely serious about his misinformation and believes all this nonsense to be true.

His suggestions for working the shoulders in a way that does not do them harm is to perform push-ups and incline pull-ups on the Smith machine or TRX. He has not elaborated why these two exercises don't strain the rotator cuff tissue but actual overhead presses will do harm. I believe he has written no reasons for his recommendations because he has none. He should be saying it is about the plane of movement (another fancy phrase I have in my arsenal) but that point would actually go against him.

Bench Press to Your Chest

The bench press is not a functional lift. I thought only psuedo strength coaches and wannabe gurus throw around the word "functional" like it's a whole different training system. Oh wait…

Being a "sports doctor", Justin has diagnosed the bench press as being the lead cause of labral tears because with age (ta-da!) there is a natural degeneration of the labral tissues.

There was a time when Doggcrapp training by Dante Trudel was the in-thing and everyone was obsessed with his writings. Those days are behind us now, but at the time, Dante had written comprehensively of how the flat bench press is a major culprit of pec tears. I can understand why the bench press can be held responsible for these things because a lot of lifters start flaring their elbows and doing this exercise wrong can strain the wrong muscle. I think performing the bench press correctly can be okay in the long run.

I want to add something personal here. I have genetically loose shoulder joints. I am prone to painful dislocations. I have experienced many dislocations in both shoulders. The one exercise that both my doctors (also sports doctors but ACTUAL sports doctors) and my coach and mentor Eric all agree on is the Overhead Press being a boon for me. Doing this exercise heavy keeps the ball-and-socket joint intact and tight.

Anything with Heavy Weights

Again, Justin has talked about age and how as you grow older doing heavy weight training only messes you up. I'm glad he stopped at 5 moves because I don't think I could read any more.

I think Justin has overlooked a very important fact: we don't lift heavy weights for "health" reasons. Deadlifting 500+ pounds for reps is not going to improve my health, save me from cancer, get my kidneys functioning right or anything actually HEALTH related.


I don't think Sports Doctors should give advice about gym exercises. I don't believe strength coaches, bodybuilders and powerlifters should go about dispensing medical advice either.

Justin's points are all false, largely debunked and very biased. In his conclusion he has written:

I always tell my patients, “Is it better to look good or to feel good?” Let’s move away from working out the way we always have and start thinking about our long term health, as many of the exercises we do are counterproductive to our overall goal of living a healthy, happy, and pain free life.

He has overlooked the fact that old age is also counter-productive to living healthy, happy and pain-free because it causes deterioration, degeneration and breakdown of all essential important tissues in the body.

In all sincerity, I believe that doing any exercise wrong is opening yourself up to injury. I don't see why getting stronger, or lifting heavier is at odds with improving core strength, joint mobility and improving movement patterns. I think they go hand in hand. Without core strength, joint mobility, and correct movement patterns, your maximal strength will be limited at some point in your training. But even if your goal is not absolute strength these "moves" are so widespread a part of everything from general fitness to high level athletics, the inevitable conclusion may be surprising to some folks:

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof!

That's right. This is not a debate about which brand of toothpaste is the mintiest. Justin, in his little article, has made some quite extraordinary claims about exercise. Yet, he not only brings no extraordinary proof, he brings no "proof" at all! Articles with such grandiose claims, but no evidence, can safely be ignored.

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