The 6 Worst Bodybuilding Exercises

The Most Useless Bodybuilding Exercises

We already put out an article about the best exercises you could do to build muscle mass, hopefully you saw it. But, that article got us thinking about the exercises people love doing, don’t really help in budging the needle in the right direction. In simpler terms, these are the worst bodybuilding exercises you can do.

Many of the exercises on the list are here because people don’t take out the time to learn the proper form of performing them, and quite frankly there are better exercises out there than the ones listed. You could save yourself time and energy by performing substitute exercises in place of the ones on this list, and don’t worry, we have replacement suggestions.

Worst Bodybuilding Exercises

  • Ab/Oblique Rotation Machine
  • Dips on the Bench
  • Romanian Deadlifts
  • Lat pulldown
  • Upright Rows
  • Tricep Kickbacks

Bad Exercise Disclaimer

First off, we want to say that there is no exercise we believe is downright “bad”. Each exercise hits the muscle in a certain way, and that is okay if you enjoy some of the ones on the list that we do not agree with. These “worst bodybuilding exercises” are ones that we find less optimal, and can be substituted with something that may yield better results.

Ab/Oblique Rotation Machine

Many gyms have a machine that has a revolving base which can be used to train the abs and obliques. People need to stand/sit on it and twist their torsos to train the midriffs. Some people take it to the next level by using weights on the base to add resistance.

Why it is Bad

The basics of biomechanics state that you need to avoid moving through the terrible triad of lower back movements: simultaneous flexion, rotation, and side bending, especially under loading. Reading just this one line about biomechanics should be enough to make you stop using the rotation machine, and it is enough to make it one of the worst bodybuilding exercises.

What to do Instead

Russian twists. These are great for the obliques and a fairly simple movement. You just have to lean back, raise your legs off the ground, and twist your torso from side to side. You can even hold a dumbbell, plate, or medicine ball for additional resistance.

Dips on the Bench

Although the dips on the bench are considered a great tricep exercise, an a classic exercise of many Golden Era bodybuilders. They are a simple movement that many people like to throw in as a finisher.

Why it is Bad

The problem with dips on the bench is that many people don’t get anything out of it because they can’t establish a mind-muscle connection with the muscle, and can feel no contraction, making it one of the worst bodybuilding exercises.

What to do Instead

The plate loaded dip machine, or bodyweight dips on the power tower. These allow you to focus more on the squeeze and target the pecs or the triceps more than you would be able to if you were just doing them on a bench.

The Romanian Deadlift

deficit deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift, or RDL, is a favorite amongst gym goers as a hamstring and erector builder. Unlike the traditional deadlift, you keep your back straight so you are able to get more of a stretch on the hamstrings rather than the back and traps.

Why it is Bad

It’s harder to train the posterior muscles as you can’t see them in the mirror directly. To perform the RDLs correctly you need the right amount of range of motion and bend in your knees which is sometimes too much to ask off a beginner.

What to do Instead

Instead of using the RDL for your hamstrings, try something to isolate them more. This is where a machine like the lying hamstring curl comes into play. Laying face down on the machine, with the pad over your heels, curl the weight towards you.

Fun fact: the lying hamstring curl was a favorite for bodybuilder Tom Platz, who had some of the best legs of all time.

The Lat Pulldown

Thought to be one of the best builders for your back width, you can find a lat pulldown in just about every gym.

Why it is Bad

Many people make the mistake of using momentum by swinging back and forth while performing the lat pulldowns. Using the jerking motion takes off tension from your back and puts it on your arms and shoulders, and because of the extra muscle recruitment it makes the list for the worst bodybuilding exercises.

What to do Instead

Single arm cable lat pulldowns are a good substitute. ​All you have to do is attach a D-handle and position yourself as you would for a regular lat pulldown. From there, reach up and grasp the handle with a neutral grip (palm facing in) and pull down towards you. Somewhat tuck your elbow into your hip too.

The single arm cable lat pulldown isolates the lats and allows you to really get a good squeeze and break down the muscle.

The Upright Row

Upright rows are a favorite amongst many on shoulder day as they are said to work the traps as well as the deltoids. You can even see bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger doing them in the classic film, Pumping Iron. 

Why it is Bad

The uprights rows need the strictest of forms to optimally work the traps. If you use weights that are too heavy and need to swing back and forth to lift them, you’ll end up performing a weird variation of overhand barbell curls. All that unnecessary muscle recruitment is why upright rows are one of the worst bodybuilding exercises.

What to do Instead

If you are looking to target the delts and the traps, then a superset between dumbbell lateral raises and bent over dumbbell rear delt flyes will do the trick!

Tricep Kickbacks

Cable tricep extension

People use the tricep kickback for its simplicity. You can just take a dumbbell or even a cable and lean over and extend your arm out, and boom you think you’re doing a great tricep movement.

Why it is Bad

Even though bis and tris are antagonistic muscles, the triceps don’t get the same love as the pythons. Elevation of your elbow, shoulder, the bend in your back, the distance between your feet, there are too many variables connected with performing the tricep kickbacks correctly.

What to do Instead

Tricep rope extensions are a great replacement for the tricep kickback. It allows for a good stretch and squeeze on the triceps to really get the blood flowing.

Worst Bodybuilding Exercises Wrap Up

There you have it, our list of the worst bodybuilding exercises. Will you be ditching these exercises for our recommendations?

Which exercise do you hate the most? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Header image courtesy of Envato Elements

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I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.