If you're over 50, don't ever do these exercises.


I posted this picture last week without context, and then I found the article that it was from. Because of the backlash, they updated their original title from “don’t do these…” to “modify these…” Regardless, it’s just crap pop-culture stuff that keeps everyone weak and sick.

Let’s go through the list. tl;dr - they’re wrong, you should squat and deadlift.

Running Stairs - If you don’t have the balance, that’s a bad thing. And I wouldn’t suggest running down stairs, that’s just hard on the knees. But there’s nothing wrong with a quick sprint up some stairs, and it’s much better than the suggested alternative of using a stair climbing machine. That’s just going to make you sweaty and tired and not actually make you more fit. And training your balance through challenging things will improve it - so that you don’t fall and break a hip later.

Hot Yoga - “I don’t have time for Yoga.” But seriously, I’ve never tried it. Some folks who I know that have done it find it refreshing and sweating does help clear out toxins and stuff. I’m not sure about the safety of getting really warm and loose and stretching farther than you normally would. Let’s call this one a draw.

HIIT - No one should do that more than once every couple of weeks. I’m on record more times than I care to link to here about how frequent HIIT is bad for everyone in the long run.

Spin Classes - Same thing as stair climbers. Go ride a bike, don’t fake it. It’s just HIIT in disguise.

Push-ups - Uh…WTF? You mean, you shouldn’t be able to push yourself up off the ground? Yeah, don’t do 100 of them and do them poorly. That goes for the CrossFitters out there too. There are probably a dozen people in the world that can properly do 100 push-ups for time with perfect (safe) form, and you’re not one of them. Do enough to be functional, but don’t break your shoulders or waste your time worming your push-ups.

Squats with weights - You mean there are squats without weights? That’s just called sitting down. Squats and deadlifts are probably the two most important things for someone to be able to do. Unless you don’t like getting out of chairs. A mini-rant aside:

This weekend I was at the rec center for Alek’s swim lessons. I was just hanging out waiting for lessons to be done and started talking to an older gentleman - probably in his 60’s or so - telling me how important it is for him to be there so that he can keep moving. I totally agreed with him and then proceeded to watch him put a medicine ball between his knees while he sat on a box for reps. No one ever would have come up with that on their own, so I assume he had a trainer tell him that. Why would you ever tell someone to do anything that would help make their knees valgus when they squat. “Knees Out!” is the cue. Any half-brained trainer should know that one. If you’re telling older people do to squats badly and they get hurt, that doesn’t mean that doing squats is bad for old people. You’re just telling them to do stupid things.

Bench press - It’s not bad, but it’s not where I would focus my time if I wanted to be efficient in the gym. It is useful at making your chest and shoulders bigger. Big muscles are good for all of the hormonal effects (it’s cold and flu season, so a few more myokines floating around in your system is probably good). If you have the time and can do it safely - by all means, get those beach muscles. And the sub they suggest is Rowing? Yeah, an erg is great, but it’s nothing like the bench press - pulling is not the same as pushing.

Burpees - I’ll give them that one. No one should ever do burpees, They suck.

Pull-ups - Again, why limit your ability to move your body? Body weight movements, pull-ups, push-ups, and TGUs without weight (aka standing up) are all fundamental things that enable you to participate in life.

Crunches - I agree, waste of time. Kettlebell swings will do more for your core than any amount of crunches.

Dead lift [sic] - The most maligned movement out there. I don’t get it. God forbid you ever pick something up. Keeping people away from the deadlift out of fear of injury is what makes everyone weak and prone to injury. It is hard to teach (funny, that the simplest movement, and a fundamental human activity - picking things up - is the hardest to teach), but done properly, you don’t really need anything else. Full body work, big muscles, heavy weights. It makes you a better person. And we have no age limit at the gym on who can deadlift - just ask Bobby.

“Dead lifts can put a lot of strain on the hips and torso,” says chiropractor….

Yes, that’s true. Strain is a good thing. That’s what makes you stronger. If you want to take the easy way out and do your glute bridges (her substitute movement), you’re never going to get stronger. If you don’t pick heavy things up, your core will atrophy, and if your core atrophies, your back will start hurting because it has no support. And then you’ll bend over to put something in the dishwasher and throw out your back, and you’ll say, “Wow, it’s good that I never deadlifted since I just hurt myself holding a spoon - imagine if I had some big scary weight!”.

Jumping Lunges - Yes, waste of time for most people. Not dangerous, but you can use your time better elsewhere.

Sprints - Seriously? Just go talk to Bobby, our 100m sprinter, and tell him he shouldn’t be doing those. You’ll have to catch him first.

Leg presses - Yes, but no one should do those - just squat.

I hate all articles like this. They take a topic that everyone thinks they’re an expert on (nutrition is this way too), they find some scary statements, find a “doctor” to give them some quotes and then scare people away from being strong and healthy. And then next year a different “health” publication will republish the same article with a different “expert” backing them up. There is no science here, but it gets repeated so many times that it just becomes part of the culture. If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed. (Now, this has been Godwinned.)

Michael Deskevich