Jun 8, 2017
Caution Needed

All exercises require proper technique if they are to be done safely and effectively. But some are inherently more dangerous than others. When designing a strength training program, it’s important to know which exercises are more likely to cause athletes problems so that you can take steps to make them safer. Here are three of the more dangerous movements and what you should keep in mind.

The Kettlebell Swing

People who perform the kettlebell swing often complain of how it hurts their back. But this is more a result of poor technique rather than the exercise itself. Tony Gentilcore, a strength coach and performance expert who contributes to T-Nation.com, outlines a few of the common mistakes made with the kettlebell swing and how to avoid them.

“Most people squat their swing rather than making it a ‘hip snap.’ The bell should never drop below knee level. Ever. When it does, you’re increasing the arc of the swing and placing more stress on the lower back,” he writes.

Gentilcore suggests staying upright for as long as possible on the return swing. This means that the groin (or hips) should catch the bell. If the kettle bell goes below the knees then you will put unintended stress on the back.

Before doing the kettle bell swing, the athlete should demonstrate that he or she can perform a basic lumbar movement with a stable spine. If they can’t, adding heavier loads and more reps will hurt more than help.


Movements such as squats, deadlifts, and the bench press all fall into the category of powerlifting. While these are very common to any strength training regimen, they are also some of the movements that cause the most injuries.

“What makes these exercises so effective at building muscle is precisely what makes them dangerous,” writes Bret Contreras, another strength coach and contributor to T-Nation. “They load a large portion of the body’s musculature in a stretched position, thereby creating high joint reaction forces and lending themselves to compromised postures.”

Contreras provides come basic but important advice for how to keep powerlifting safe. Athletes should be kept to strict rules regarding form. These rules need to be enforced and not compromised for the sake of lifting heavier loads. It’s also important to take breaks from heavy powerlifting and select days to lift lighter loads so that the body can recover. Along those lines, athletes should not be over-eager to increase volume. Lastly, athletes should listen carefully to their body and make appropriate adjustments.

Most notably, the bench press can cause problems because athletes are eager to increase loads and reps in order to build arm muscle. Elbow and shoulder issues are all too common. In order to avoid elbow injuries, stop short of locking out on the press. In terms of shoulder issues, it can help to do alternative exercises such as the floor press.

Barbell Jump Squat

This exercise has become a go-to for those looking to build plyometric power. But in order to avoid injury, it’s critical that athletes don’t overload.

“The issue I have isn’t with the exercise itself, but instead with nonsensical loading,” writes strength coach Jake Tuura. “For most athletes, landing with 185-225 extra pounds on the back leads to spine jarring and knee caving. And if acute injury doesn’t occur, the athlete sets himself up for long-term wear and tear and faulty movement patterns.”

The solution is simple: lighten the load. This will take the stress off the spine and allow athletes to focus more on triple extension and maximal jump height.

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