No-go exercises and what to tell your coach

Meyken Houppermans
Founder and Head Coach
In our previous article, we talked about the weighted sit-up and the Russian twist as not always smart- exercises. Despite scientific research demonstrating the risks, we still see a lot of controversial exercises being done in regular gyms, being programmed by CrossFit boxes and being prescribed by Personal Trainers. For unclear reasons, since they can lead to unnecessary risks when there are better alternatives.

Take matters into your own hand

Especially if you’re one of those millions of people who suffer from pains and aches every once in a while for example in the lower back area (Lower back pain), you need to take matters into your own hand. Instead of blindly following the prescribed workout at your gym or CrossFit box, you need to figure out what works for you, what is the most healthy option for you, so you can get fitter without taking any unnecessary risks. Once we get older (read: 30 and above) we need to train smarter, not harder. (Can you start CrossFit and an older age?)

Do what works for you

Every human body is unique with unique mechanics and neuromuscular processes. No body moves in exactly the same way, so no general training program will fit in the same way. What works for one isn’t necessarily the best option or training path for the other.

By figuring out what works for you and by taking matters into your own hand, for example when something feels sketchy or not right, you can prevent a single issue from being the starting point of a chronical tangle of problems. The human body works as a system. For example, shoulder pain can be causes by a knee issue, and a lower back issue can be the cause of several problems in the upper body. Tackling the cause of the problem prematurely by consulting a professional and by adjusting your training, you can prevent a lot of harm in the future.

It might take some time to figure out what feels ok and what doesn’t. And what works today, might not work anymore in three months from now. Unfortunately we don’t get a user manual at birth, plus our bodies change over time. Simply being aware of your body and having the balls to listen to what your body is telling you, is a great first step. (We all know how hard it is to ignore our ego that tells us that we need to keep up with the rest of the team even though that’s not always the best option)

Three controversial exercises

Despite the fact that we are all unique, there are a few general guidelines that account for everyone. Such as making sure you get enough sleep and proper nutrition. Also, reconsider the following three controversial exercises and replace them for safer and more effective alternatives if you are not sure how to perform them. [1]

The Scorpion twist

Extension and rotation of the spine at the same time at high speed can cause unnecessary stress in the lower back that can lead to spinal osteoarthritis, herniated discs and nerve root impingement. If this exercise is done with the purpose to stretch the chest and shoulder, a better alternative is stretching using a door post. If this exercise is meant to stretch the hip flexors, the Samson stretch is a good alternative.

The Hip turnover or hip cross

Bending and rotating at the same time while lying down, especially at higher speed, is one of the most dangerous things we can do to our lower back. (Rotation is safer when done standing up, because compression makes the spinal discs more resistant to rotation). The better alternative is demonstrated below, preferably with a foam roll in between the legs, so the knees  don’t touch each other. 

The Leg craddle

This exercise is often done during warm- ups to generate hip mobility (by stretching the piriformis). Except, it gives more stretch to the hip capsule than to the muscle. And stretching the hip capsule can cause instability and  hip problems. The better alternative is executed by sitting on hands and knees, and putting your right ankle on your left knee.  Then put your right hand further outside, and shift with your shoulders and hips towards the right. Make sure your trunk doesn’t rotate. Move dynamically: shift your hips sideways and back. 

What you need to tell your coach

Coaches cannot expect everyone to execute the same workout in the exact same way, at the same intensity, or at the same… whatever. Coaches need to realize there is almost never an ‘at the same’, when working with multiple clients. Coaches have the responsibility to check on a daily basis how clients are doing, what they need at that time and how the coach can adjust a general workout to their needs, to make sure they are getting fitter. The athlete jhas the responsibility to provide the coach with information on how they are doing, and by being smart in advance about booking a class or letting this one pass.


Our advice is: Do not take any unnecessary risks. Do not hang on to exercises because you’ve been doing them for so long, because once we all thought they were ok, because everyone is doing them, or for whatever not so great reason. Learn and move on.

Take matters into your own hand, figure out your own user manual, consult professionals, give them all the information about your user manual for them to coach you.

Create your own health!©


Starret, K. (2015). Becoming a supple leopard.

Mc Gill, S. (2017). Low back disorders. Evidence- based prevention and rehabilitation.