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How to Know if an Exercise is Good or Bad

Athletic physical therapy often consists of answering questions about particular exercises.

What is your opinion on deadlifts? How do you feel about pushups? Is running bad for your knees?

My answers typically start by highlighting the context involved with any particular exercise.

Exercises are often labeled as good or bad, however most exercises are appropriate in a particular context, while being inappropriate in another.

For example, the deadlift is a great exercise when the goal is to build muscle and strength of the “pulling” musculature (glutes, hamstrings, upper back). However, this same exercise can be problematic for an individual with a history lower back pain, and cannot properly control his/her spine as the hips bend.

If a deadlift is inappropriate for a particular person, he/she can work on the qualities necessary to safely perform the movement, should that be a priority. Check out the video below as a reference for how Dr. Cody teaches the ability to brace the abs during a deadlift.

Bracing During a Deadlift

It is much simpler simply label the deadlift as “bad for your back” or “the best exercise for xyz”, however as with most things, the answer is not black and white.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking also applies to entire methods or schools of thought. Well-known strength coach Eric Cressey (and sadly the strength coach of the New York Yankees) wrote a great article about his process for assessing particular methodologies.

What do you think of XYZ method?

Keep an eye out for any professionals in the field of health, medicine, or fitness that label things as good or bad. Things are rarely that simple as a myriad of different factors exist within the presentation of every individual. If you experience a professional that claims he/she has the only guaranteed solution, and everyone else is wrong, run!

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