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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno

My “Top Ten ‘Waste of F@cking Time!’ Exercises”

I was showing my client Vash how to do Cable Crossovers recently, when he annoyed me. Instead of focusing on performing this valuable exercise correctly, he asked me about doing an alternative movement, Low Cable Crossovers! I told him we will never, ever be doing them as they are a total waste of fucking time! He seemed, firstly, surprised by my vehemence, and secondly, interested in why I thought they were rubbish, as the two exercises seem pretty similar, but are most definitely not! He then suggested I should do a post on Julian’s List of “Top Ten ‘Waste of fucking time!’ Exercises!” I loved the idea — so here they are! 

Me being (not really) annoyed with Vash! Gym-life is no longer how it was when I first stepped into a gym in downtown Johannesburg in the early ‘80’s. In those long-ago days almost everyone who trained was pretty serious, most had some sort of sporting background and trained competently utilising proper, basic exercises — back then gyms were full of people who basically knew what they were doing. Now everyone trains and gyms are full of non-sporty people trying to make the best of their gym-going endeavours, and good for them, I applaud anyone who wants to improve themselves by exercising. I do however, see many of them floundering about all confused and bewildered, training badly and doing exercises that I most definitely do not approve of. I’m not quite sure where all these awful exercises have come from, they didn’t used to exist, but now the gym is full of people doing the most bizarre things. I suppose they are reading some fancy new websites or just copying what the see in the gym — the blind leading the blind. Before we go through my list of exercise no-no’s, there is one sure-fire way of ascertaining beyond a shadow of a doubt whether an exercise is worth doing it not. Basically, if Arnold did not do it — we don’t do it!! I often shut my clients up with, “Show me a photo of Arnold doing a ________, and we will do it too.” Sorted! LOW CABLE CROSSOVERS 

Let’s start with Vash’s request. The traditional Cable Crossover is an excellent exercise, enabling you to get a great stretch, and a great squeeze, working the whole of the pectoral muscle. Crucially, it also feels right, it is a natural movement. The Low Cable Crossover, which, to the uninitiated looks similar to the Cable Crossover, is not a natural movement and hardly works the pecs at all! Whenever I see someone doing it, it always looks wrong and somehow unsatisfactory. As the illustration above shows, it involves some bicep and front delt work, and the tiniest sliver of upper pec! The vast majority of gym-goers are not big enough to need such a (poor) speciality exercise. They need a complete pec exercise, and if you do want to stimulate your upper pec shelf, do a tried-and-tested Incline Dumbell Press. HIP THRUSTS FOR GUYS — No! No! No!  

This is an eye-catching exercise where you basically put your shoulders sideways on a bench, place a bar on your hips and thrust upwards towards the ceiling, flexing your glutes in the extended position. Mostly this exercise is performed by women and is actually quite sexy to watch, although slightly confusing as woman don’t really do the thrusting during the sexual act! Men do, so it follows that a man doing Hip Thrusts would appear extra manly as he thrusts up strongly! But No!! It is so effeminate and girlie to watch a man doing Hip Thrusts. Very strange, but true! Anyhow, guys, do not do this exercise please. If you want to get buns of steel do some heavy back squats. Can’t go wrong there. ROPE PUSHDOWNS — with TWO ropes! 

Why use two ropes? To what purpose? Presumably to increase the tricep contraction. There is absolutely zero benefit in using two ropes on a Tricep Pushdown as the length of the normal rope attachment is more than long enough to enable you to get a full tricep contraction. Using two ropes would allow you to move your arms further apart that is true, but that would just activate your delts as you are now into Side Raise territory. PLUS, when I do see people using two ropes they almost never go wider than the distance of a single rope anyhow. ( See the guy below, two ropes but not an inch wider!) They have no idea why they are using two ropes apart from the fact they have seen some other dude in the gym doing it! Monkey see — monkey do! 

DOUBLE BICEP POSE CABLE CURLS — An exercise in vanity 

I have no idea why anyone would want to do this exercise. It is a completely unnatural movement. Curls should be done with your arms by your side, not held up high and at right angles to your body! All good bodybuilding exercises are performed using a movement that replicates the natural way of moving, this exercise certainly does not do that. I only ever see guys doing this exercise with light weights, going for a contraction. Getting a contraction is a great idea, so why not choose an exercise that gives you a good squeeze and allows you to use a heavy weight too? That seems a far better option. Lying Cable Curls for instance, (which does both of those things) is a thousand times better than this silly exercise. A further drawback is that it is impossible to spot someone doing this rubbish, and in my opinion an exercise that you can’t do some forced reps on is a waste of time. Have these people never read Come on! Critical Sets and Critical Reps, both impossible to achieve without forced reps. I suppose the only reason you would even consider doing this exercise is to admire your biceps in the mirror as you curl. If you want to look at your guns though, just pose, it’s a gym — no one cares. ABDOMINAL SIDE BENDS — with a weight.  

This is the only “old style” exercise on the list — but don’t be fooled — just because it’s been about for a while, does not mean it is valuable exercise. Granted, it is a great-looking exercise, it has a manly and powerful look to it. Essentially the idea is that you hold a weights plate, or dumbbell, in one hand and (supposedly!) use that resistance to help contract your oblique muscles on your opposite side. Unfortunately it isn't very effective at targeting the lateral core because of the angle of force involved. There is just not much resistance as the dumbbell is very close to your body, giving you a mechanical advantage over the weight. Truthfully, the only stimulus your obliques really get is from the exerciser mentally crunching the muscle as your bend to the side. One of the reasons I dislike this slew of new and not very good exercises is the names they are given! Apparently Side Bends are now known as Suitcase Carries!! Speaking of ridiculous exercise names . . . here is my next one. FACE PULLS — stupid exercise, stupid name  

What muscles do Facepulls actually target? Primarily they focus on the trapezius,(traps) but also engage the rear delts too, but mostly, in my humble opinion, it is a trap exercise. Of all the huge multitude of gym-goers, who wants to develop big traps? Basically anyone who wants to look like Bertil “Brutal” Fox, or anyone who is interested in having a neck wider than their head like Jeff King! I think we can agree that large traps are a niche muscle, a muscle that most men, and almost all women, would not really want to develop in a big way. (There are a few exceptions to this rule and I must confess that I am a sucker for a woman with a muscular neck and traps! On the right person they can be a most elegant and beautiful set of muscles). However, 99% of people who lift weighs are focused on having a nice, muscular body that looks good at the beach or in bed. Not so many people are interested in looking like the Hulk.  

Jeff King (top) and Bertil Fox. Both men well-known for insane neck and trap development.  And yet!! Who do I see doing Facepulls? All manner of people! Everyone who trains now does Facepulls! How strange because I never see them doing Dumbbell or barbell shrugs! Never see them doing a solid set of Upright Rows! These are proper trap exercises, but not regularly seen in the gym — because most people don’t want big traps! So I’m frustrated by this exercise. People don’t really know what muscles they are using when doing it. By the way, when I was a teenager I wrote a booklet called “How to Develop World-Class Traps”!! I got my pal Oliver to borrow his cousin’s fancy camera and take some shots of me in action, demonstrating the exercises and doing some impressive trap poses! I typed out the words, glued in the photos, photocopied the pages, and stapled the whole lot together. I took out an eighth of a page advert in MuscleMag International and waited for the orders to roll in! I received 18 orders, all of which were duly dispatched. The money-making aspect of the project was not very successful however, as I was so enamoured by the American bank cheques, all beautifully decorated and exotic-looking, that instead of cashing them, I stuck them in my bodybuilding album!! I know that I have only moaned about 6 WoFTE’s (pronounced “wofta’s) and I promised 10, but I’m sure we have all had enough of my whining for now. I’ll post a Part 2 soon. Big traps contribute to a powerful-looking upper body. 

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