6 Exercises that are a Waste of your Time

Strength Training 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

When I choose which exercises to do I always first consider what my goals are.

If I want to grow a specific body part I choose movements that isolate those muscles with a focus on eccentric contractions.

If I want to improve my 1RM in a lift I choose exercises that will bring up my weak points.

When my goal is overall muscle growth I steer clear of power movements.

Knowing what exercises will contribute to your goals and knowing the right way to do them are crucial for maximizing your time in the gym.

Here are 6 exercises that you may be doing that are a waste of your time when considering your goals. They are also a waste of time if you’re doing them incorrectly.

I’ll tell you what these movements are and why they are a waste of your time.

1. Step Ups

If your goal when doing step ups is to build muscle in the legs look elsewhere.

It’s tough to do step ups with enough control and range of motion to have a positive effect on muscle hypertrophy. Most people tend to push hard off of their ground leg to get onto the box, and that turns this into a power builder. Not a muscle grower.

2. Power Cleans

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Power cleans are for developing power. Power is important if you are an athlete, or competing in olympic weightlifting(again, an athlete).

If power is not something you have a specific need for divert your efforts to muscle building & strength developing exercises.

3. Box Jumps

Box jumps are in the same realm as power cleans. It is a power movement used for developing explosive power in the legs for improving vertical jumps.

Useful for basketball players, volleyball players, receivers, etc. People that need to jump high.

Do you need to jump high? Probably not.

4. Sit-Ups

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Sit-ups are everyone’s favorite ab exercise. We’ve been doing them since the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in elementary school–do you have a 6 pack yet? I’d guess not.

That’s because sit-ups are an endurance exercise. Traditionally the muscle building rep range is 8-12 reps, and just about everyone on the planet can do more that 12 reps of sit-ups. The further we get from that range the less effect an exercise has on hypertrophy(muscle growth) and the more it increases muscular endurance.

Pick an exercise like cable crunches that you can load with weight and focus on actually growing abs.

5. PUll-Ups

DSC_4382-Edit-e1480600559765-153404-editedI’ve gone into depth on why you should stop doing pull-ups, but I’ll sum it up here.

Pull-ups are hard, and without great technique they can be hard on your shoulders.

Vertical pulling is an important movement for muscular strength & development, but it isn’t a move for beginners.

Substitute wide grip lat pulldowns if you can, and read 4 Reasons to Stop Doing Pull-ups if you want to know why you may need to take a break from the king of upper body exercises.

6. Squats

DSC01834Squats are my favorite exercise. I’m good at them. Really good at them.

But you are wasting your time if you aren’t really good at them.

Reinforcing bad movement patterns with poor technique by adding more and more weight is a recipe for disaster. 

If your knees hurt doing squats, if they crash in, your heels lift, or you just aren’t able to hit a good depth your squat needs some work. Until you get your technique refined you are wasting your time with squats.

Visit the Serious Guide to the Low Bar Squat to learn all about this awesome movement and how to do it right.


If you’re new to strength training I suggest checking out our FREE Seriously Strong Beginner Program. The beginner program is the best way to maximize your time in the gym to build lean muscle mass and get stronger. Also check out The Serious Guide to the Bench Press and The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift for information on these great strength training exercises.

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.