3 Exercises That Are A Complete Waste Of Time!


Bicep Curl

Don’t have time to read this article? Let me sum it up in a few words for you: “Single joint movements are for meatheads.” Too harsh? Not really. The only reason to do single joint movements is to improve aesthetics at the sacrifice of function.

Here are 3 exercises that produce minimal results and are a complete waste of time:

1. The Leg Extension

The leg extension is for people who are afraid of the squat rack. I suppose there are people out there who squat a ton and then use the leg extension machine as a “finisher”. Whatever. And there’s that guy sitting on the leg extension machine banging out reps, weight stack smacking away who has never had a broomstick across his shoulders let alone a few hundred pounds.

Why do I think the leg extension sucks? Because you are cheating yourself from the opportunity of training the opening and closing of the hip, which is essential to virtually all athletic movement. If you are going to train the legs without any hip involvement, you are totally wasting your time.

2. Bicep Curls

Bicep curls are for the beach. Really, is there any reason to do bicep curls other than to make your arms “look good”? I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some people probably like that bulging bicep/scrawny back combo.

One thing you’ll never see is a thick strong back that looks like a topographical map of the Rockies with tiny twig biceps. This is because when you do compound pulling movements like pullups and rows that build a strong back, you also strengthen the biceps. So again, we’re dealing with efficiency or lack there of. Kill two birds with one stone and pull instead of curl.

3. Calf Raises

The only thing that should do calf raising is a cow. This one really gets me going. Think about what the calf muscles do from a functional standpoint and you can’t help but think about sudden explosive changes in direction: sprinting, jumping, and lateral foot work.

Despite this fact, gym goers everywhere are pinched underneath shoulder pads that bear the weight of the stack of a calf machine as they do their best to stand tall and pulse their ankles through flexion and extension for three sets of ten. Skip some rope. Do some box jumps. Run a hill sprint. Do anything but brag about 250 pound calf raises.

We could easily add lateral raises, triceps kickbacks and a host of other exercises that I didn’t mention in this list of exercises that suck. But I think you get the point by now.

Train movements- not muscles and you’re sure to get a superior workout.

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3 Exercises That Are A Complete Waste Of Time!
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3 Exercises That Are A Complete Waste Of Time!
Have you been doing some exercises and not seeing the results you want? Here are 3 exercises that are a complete waste of time.
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Gym Junkies
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  1. Very true! I do bicep curls now, but I see what you’re talking about. My back is pretty weak, prolly should switch to pullups…

  2. “Single joint movements are for meatheads.”
    You mean straight leg deadlifts, Reverse-Hypers, Back-Extensions, Glut-bridges, …

    Or more prehab-/rehab-type exercises like Y, T, … internal and external rotation, …

    Several powerlifters do curls from time to time because they otherwise get problems with their ellbows.

    OK, I respectfully disagree. Single joint movements are just one tool in your box and nothing bad.

  3. @Matthias

    I think we’re closer on this than you think. All of the movements in your initial list involve the opening and closing of the hip. All athletic movement will involve the opening and closing of the hip so I agree that stiff legged deadlifts, reverse hypers, and back extensions are good exercises. But I’d also stand by statement, as each of those movements involves at least some movement from another part of the skeletal structure – namely spinal flexion.

    As for the prehab/rehab exercises (inlcuding the curls to offset the elbow soreness that may accompany imbalances from excessive pressing), saying single joint movements are for meatheads is admittedly overbroad. However, I still contend that single joint movements for muscle development (whether that be hypertrophy, strength, endurance, etc.) are inefficient and do not translate to functional movement.

    I’d like to see more comments from you at GymJunkies. This kind of rational exchange of training ideas is what we welcome. Thanks!


    • Hey Vic, great article again, I’m really glad I came across your site!

      I totally agree with you about these exercises not translating over to functional movement and for the most athletes these 3 exercises really serve no purpose. I implement more back work to take the place of bicep curls and find it really effective.

      I must point out 1 exception though and that would be competitive bodybuilders and figure athletes as their training is focused on hypertrophy and symmetry and at times it’s a good idea to include these very specific isolation exercises to optimize those goals. Just had to mention that (my hubby is a pro-bodybuilder) 🙂

  4. It really depends on your definition of meathead Vic. The 3 exercises that you mention are not suitable for you with your particular training goals but that doesn’t mean they’re without any merit at all. Let me be clear that I am by no means a fan of the leg extension. After doing squats for a while, there is no leg extension machine in the country that can even challenge you. I also think it’s a little hard on the knees but I know it’s good for rehab and beginners seem to like it. Curls do not produce muscle imbalances and again IMHO can actually serve to strengthen the bicep which will help in other lifts. They will in themselves only make the bicep very slightly larger but if that’s your thing then what’s wrong with that? Calves are a bodypart that doesn’t respond easily to training. Just like your bicep/back analogy many people have great quads through squatting but have these freaky thin calves. To ‘visually’ balance the legs, they train for hypertrophy and the calf raise is the best for the job. I also think that a stronger, bigger calf would help in explosive movements if that aspect is also trained. In a nutshell, isolation movements can and do help break strength plateaus even in other movements, make people feel better about themselves, are fun to do for some (motivation is important) and can be excellent for rehab.

  5. @Bri: Isolation movements can and do help break strength plateaus – I respectfully disagree. I’ll bet my Chuck Taylors you’ll never see a power lifter do a triceps kickback to improve his bench press.

    Make people feel better about themselves – so does masturbation, but it doesn’t ever replace the real thing.

    Fun to do for some – see preceding sentence.

    Masturbation jokes aside, your point is valid that exercise selection is going to be a factor of your training goals. Isolation movements are just another tool in the box, and the job at hand determines the tool to be used. The big compound movements are like your hammer. Bicep curls and leg extensions are like the tiny allen wrench that always falls to the bottom of the box and is only good for putting together cheap furniture.

    So I’m rereading what I just typed and it came out more snarky than I intended. But I got in a tool box simile, a wager on my Chucks, and the first GymJunkies mention of masturbation so I’m gonna let it ride.

    I’d love to see more comments from you, as differing and well thought out opinions are what helps everyone learn. Email me direct at vic@gymjunkies.com if you want to bat this around some more. Thanks!

  6. 2/3 of them being open chain exercises doesn’t surprise me in the least. A great list. Not only are they useless, but the leg extension can be harmful to your knees!

  7. Vic, let’s put your masturbation to one side and keep on track ;). Tricep kickbacks are a waste of time, you’ll get no complaint from me there. If this article were about kickbacks and bench dips then we’d be in agreement.

    Feeling good about training is very important even if it’s not the real thing. You see, I would rather see somebody in the gym, doing stuff they like (or don’t mind too much) than not being in the gym. In that sense, there is a point to some exercises that many of us probably don’t like too much. This is a general point.
    The leg extension specifically gets some very harsh commentary and while I absolutely do not like it and will never in my life sit on one of those damn machines again, I can see that it does benefit some people. I know I’m gonna get flamed so I’ve come prepared. If you don’t believe me then hear it from Dr Squat (http://drsquat.com/content/knowledge-base/symmetry-and-exercise-funk). This is a quote from this page:
    So, rather than forcing you to give up your teddy bear, let me offer some advice that you may find very useful. Maybe you can keep your teddy bear (it’s probably not hurting anything for you to do so), and at the same time, begin doing some of the tried-and-true permutations of all of the bodypart exercises in such a way that you will derive maximum benefit. Isn’t that the name of the game?
    You see, training is a bit like politics. People set up camp on different sides and don’t see eye to eye on anything. We should be more grown up about it and see value in exercise where it exists. There is no one size fits all recipe for everybody. What works for one person may not work for another. All the best, Bri.

  8. Shauna: I agree, that if you are a bodybuilder (including figure competitors) then single joint movements will be important to your fitness program. Like my take on long slow running, if bodybuilding is someone’s thing, I say have at it. It’s just not MY thing, so you won’t see me doing a biceps curl anytime soon. Thanks for the comment!

  9. Biceps curls a waste of time? Pull ups nor chin ups hit my biceps as biceps curls. All depends on your build / genetics. But the, seeing your arms i guess you know what you’re talking about. Aye!?


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