Welcome to the Biggest Loser - Turlock's 12 Week Weight Loss Challenge.

Biggest Loser Turlock begins a new 12-Week Individuals Challenge on January 7, 2014! You’re making a commitment to lose weight, and we’re looking forward to supporting you along the way. Check in on our blog often for weekly results, mini - challenges, and tips to help you stay on track and lead a healthy lifestyle!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eating for a Healthy Heart

A Heart-Healthy Diet Plan
 -- By Becky Hand, MS, RD, LD with Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
Looking for ways to kick start your heart-healthy lifestyle? Start by looking at your diet. Poor food choices can have a negative effect on your heart, weight and overall health; but making small, sustainable changes to improve your diet can have a lasting impact. There is a lot of misinformation about what foods are or aren't heart-healthy, so it may surprise you to learn that you don't need exotic fruits, imported nuts, or even pricey supplements to take care of your ticker. By making heart smart choices at home, at the grocery and at your favorite restaurant, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Dietary DOs and DON'Ts for a Healthy Heart

 focus on fruits and vegetables. Most American's don't come close to eating the recommended minimum of 5 servings per day, but vegetables and fruits of all kinds and colors should take center stage in a heart-healthy diet. They're rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote a healthy heart and body, plus they're filling and low in calories, which can promote weight management. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned (without sugar/syrups or added salt), raw, cooked—all fruits and vegetables are good for you. Here are more tips to fit them into your meals and snacks.

 overdo it on juice and processed "fruit" snacks. The fruit filling in a breakfast pastry is mostly sugar—not a real serving of fruit. And while small amounts of 100% fruit juice can fit into a healthy diet, they're also concentrated sources of sugar (naturally occurring) and calories compared to whole fruits, which also boast heart-healthy fiber while juice does not. Find out how juice can fit into a healthy diet.

 monitor your sodium intake. Sodium gets a bad rap—and deservedly so. Our bodies do need this mineral, but in much smaller quantities than we normally eat. To prevent high blood pressure and heart disease, a healthy sodium goal to strive for is no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. Keep in mind that sodium doesn't just come from the salt shaker; processed foods, frozen entrees, canned vegetables, common condiments (like ketchup), deli meats (such as salami) and cheeses (including cottage cheese) can be high in sodium, as can many restaurant dishes. Learn how sodium sneaks into your diet and ways to reduce your intake.

 forget about added sugar. Most people know that sugar isn't exactly a health food. It providesquick-digesting carbohydrates, but no real nutrition (think: vitamins and minerals). While many people associate sugar with the development of diabetes, few people realize that sugar plays just as much of a role in heart disease as dietary fat does. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that individuals who ate more sugar had lower levels of HDL "good" cholesterol and higher triglycerides—markers of increased heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars (about 100 calories) each day; that number becomes 9 teaspoons for men (150 calories). Just one 12-ounce can of cola has about 130 calories, or eight teaspoons of sugar. Learn more about where sugar lurks in your diet.

 cut back on fat. To reduce your risk of heart disease you need to choose the right types of fat, and make sure that you're not eating too much fat in general. Most adults eat too much fat, regardless of the source, so cutting back on dietary fat is a good first step to a heart healthy diet. That's why choosing low-fat products, baking or broiling instead of frying, and reducing or omitting the fats that recipes call for (think: oil, shortening, lard) are important first steps to get your fat intake in line. Avoid fats that elevate your cholesterol levels: trans fats (hydrogenated oils found in baked goods and many margarines) and saturated fats (usually found in high-fat meats and dairy products, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry, beef fat, cream, lard, butter, cheese and dairy products made with whole or 2% milk, as well as baked goods and fried foods that contain palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil). About 25-35% of your total calories for the day should come from fat sources. For someone eating 1,500 calories per day, that's about 41-58 grams of fat. SparkPeople's meal plans and nutrition rangesmeet this guideline, so if you track your food and are within your daily fat goal, you are meeting this recommendation.

 fear all fats. Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, certain types of fat, such as monounsaturated fat and Omega-3s, actually promote heart health. Once you've gotten your fat intake in line, focus on making heart-smart fat choices to meet your daily recommendations. Fats found in nuts, olive, soybean and canola oils, fish and seafood.

 imbibe in moderation (if you drink). Research indicates that a moderate alcohol intake has been associated with a decreased risk for certain cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease. A moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. To find out if a moderate alcohol intake is appropriate for you, talk to your doctor about your consumption of alcohol, medical history, and any medications you use. Learn more about alcohol and your heart.

 start drinking alcohol if you aren't already a drinker. There are other, healthier ways to reduce your risk of heart disease rather than drinking alcohol, which also comes with its own set of risks and can lead to problems. If you don't drink now, don't start. Other healthy habits (like not smoking, eating right, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight) can also help you reduce your risk of heart disease.

 fill up on fiber. A high fiber diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Certain types of fiber may help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Adults should aim for 20-30 grams each day. To meet your daily quota, select a variety of unprocessed plant-based foods each day, including whole grains, (oats, whole-wheat bread/flour/cereal fruits and vegetables and beans.

 forget about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance made in the liver and cells of animals. It is therefore found in animal products (meat, poultry, dairy and eggs), but not plant-sourced foods. A high intake of dietary cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. For the prevention of heart disease, limit your intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams each day. If you already have an elevated LDL cholesterol level or you are taking a cholesterol medication, this goal is even lower: 200 milligrams daily.

While it may seem like there are a lot of "rules" to follow to protect your heart, it all boils down to making smart choices on a consistent basis. Focus on the foods that you know are good for you—whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein choices, and healthy fats—and limit or avoid the types of foods that don't do anything for your health (think empty calories, fried foods, sugar and sweets, and high-fat meats and dairy products). When you focus on the good stuff and make healthful choices most of the time, you'll be doing your body—and your heart—well.

American Heart Association. "
Nutrition Center: Healthy Diet Goals," accessed March 2011. www.heart.org.

American Heart Association. "
Saturated Fats," accessed March 2011. www.heart.org.

HelpGuide.org "
Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking To It," accessed March 2011. www.helpguide.org.

Mayo Clinic. "
Healthy Diet: End the Guesswork with These Nutrition Guidelines," accessed March 2011. www.mayoclinic.com.

United Press International. "
Eating Fiber May Reduce Heart Risk," accessed March 2011. www.upi.com.

Welsh, Jean A, Andrea Sharma, Jerome L. Abramson, Viola Vaccarino, Cathleen Gillespie and Miriam B. Vos. "
Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults," Journal of the American Medical Association.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10 Excuse-Busting Exercise Truths

We all have those days where we just don't wanna go to the gym. But sometimes, all you need is a little dose of reality to get you in the right mindset to work out. Consider these thoughts the next time you feel like bailing on your exercise routine. 

The First Step is the Hardest
The amount of time we spend procrastinating is often much longer than the amount of time it would take to actually do the thing we're putting off! Do yourself a favor and just do it--now, not tomorrow. You'll get a lot more done and you'll see much faster results! 

Doing Nothing is the Easy Way Out
If you really want to change your body and your health, the hard truth is that you will have to work for it. Where has doing nothing ever gotten you? Going through the motions and doing the bare minimum isn't going to give you the maximum results that you deserve. Put your all into your workouts, and watch your hard work pay off!

Perfect Conditions Don't Exist
If you always waited to exercise until you were in the perfect mood or until the weather was ideal, do you think you'd ever do it? Probably not! Get out there and get your workout done before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it--you'll be glad you did! 

Working Out Makes You Happy
The next time you find yourself feeling down, lace up those sneakers!An endorphin rush might be just what you need to brighten your day.

You Get What You Work For
You can wish to reach your weight-loss and fitness goals all you want, but you won't ever reach them if you don't do anything to achieve them. Get up now and put your dreams into motion! 

Every Choice Dictates Your Progress
You can't expect to get good results if you keep making exercise excuses and quitting before you have a chance to reach your goals. Stop cheating yourself--make the right choices to get the results you want. When faced with multiple options, think about how each one will affect your progress. That foresight will have a major payoff in the end! 

Don't Fool Yourself: You Have Time
We're all busy, but if we're honest with ourselves, we can probably find a few extra minutes every day to get some exercise. Check out these ideas for sneaking in exercise

Every Workout Makes a Difference
Never underestimate the impact that one workout can make! One workout leads to the next workout, which leads to the next workout after that. Your weight-loss success is made up of many seemingly insignificant workouts and good food choices; every single thing you do to improve your health counts for something, no matter how small. And one little workout sure makes more of a difference than an afternoon of sitting on the couch!

Your Future Self Will Thank You
Change takes time, and it can be hard to see that change taking place on a day-to-day basis. But when you look back over a larger chunk of time to where you started, those tiny changes add up to something amazing. So don't quit! A year from now, you'll be happy you stuck with it. 

You Never Regret a Workout
We've all regretted skipping a workout, but when was the last time you felt guilty about making the choice TO work out? That's right, probably never. Drop your excuses and just do it--you won't be sorry!

Written by Melinda Hershey, Sparkpeople Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

7 Fun Fat-Burners for Fall

When the scenery is beautiful and the temperature comfortable, almost any activity--including exercise--seems more enjoyable. Here are seven ways to get fit and burn calories* this autumn season.

*All calorie burned estimates are based on a 150-pound woman; people who weigh more will burn more calories.

Play BallYou don't have to be a pro athlete to toss around the pigskin! Grab some friends (or the kids!) and head outdoors for a fun game of flag or touch football to burn more than 500 calories per hour. Then you won't have to feel guilty about spending hours watching your favorite team from your comfy couch (although you might pick up some sweet moves to try in your next game with friends). Calories Burned: 520 per hour

Rake and ShakeRaking leaves is a great upper-body workout! When raking leaves, change the movement and direction to make full use of your muscles. Rake in front of your body to target your shoulders. Rake both right to left and left to right to work both arms evenly. This way, you'll help prevent blisters by avoiding repetitive motions too. Calories Burned: 260 per hour  
Hitch a RideHorseback riding is not only fun, but that it also works muscles you're not accustomed to using and burns a good amount of calories. It's a great way to enjoy nature and the beautiful season. You can check with your local Chamber of Commerce to find a stable in your area. Calories Burned: 470 per hour
Take a HikeThe uneven terrain and inclines you encounter on the hiking trail forces your body to work harder than walking on a flat surface. That means you're recruiting more muscle fibers (to adjust to the terrain) and challenging your balance (therefore engaging your core). That translates to a bigger calorie burn than walking alone. Plus, the scenery, sounds and scents along the way are so beautiful that you'll forget you're huffing and puffing as you climb the hills!Calories Burned: 400 per hour
Go Pumpkin PickingVisiting a local pumpkin patch is a fun fall activity for kids and grownups of all ages. You could spend hours searching for the perfect pumpkin, and while you do, you'll be accumulating several hundred steps into your day as long as you say no to the hay ride to and from the patch! Up the ante by carrying your pumpkin as far as you can that day, but do so carefully. Keep the pumpkin as close to your body as possible and always squat down (don't bend) to pick one up or set it down for a break. Extend your day of fall activity by trying out a corn maze, or picking a few apples at a nearby orchard. Calories Burned: 175 per hour
Race to the FinishFall is a great season for running, so you're sure to find a race you can run or walk almost every weekend this autumn, including Halloween races and Thanksgiving Day events, too. Check out SparkPeople's free 5K training programs and free 10K training programs to get started, or join a local running group to train for an upcoming race in your area! Calories Burned: 460-680 per hour
Get SpookedIf fear is the culprit behind your racing pulse, no, you are not getting the same aerobic (or calorie burning) benefits as a workout. The activity of walking or--better yet--running through a haunted maze, theme park or house, however, does the trick! This is a great way to enjoy the season and fit in a little more physical activity to your day. Walk through the frightful space and you'll burn about 150 per hour, but run or sprint away from those scary ghouls and you'll increase the burn to over 250 calories per hour!Calories Burned: 150-280 per hour 

Written by Nicole Nichols, Certified Fitness Instructor and Health Educator

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

100 Simple Ways To Lose Weight

Get slim—without the gym—with this easy plan to move more

The biggest health hazard you're up against just might be a chair—or a couch or recliner—and all the time you spend sitting in it. Desk jobs, long commutes, too much TV time—all that inactivity our daily routines dictate—is about as bad for us and as fattening as a steady diet of bacon and bread. And despite what you might think, slipping on walking shoes for daily sweat sessions alone isn't enough to combat the slow slide toward sickness. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who sat for more than 6 hours each day had a 37% increased risk of premature death, compared with women who sat for less than 3—regardless of how often they hopped on a treadmill.
Nearly all of us are at risk. The average American spends more than 8 hours each day with his or her rear glued to a desk chair, car seat, or couch, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
More from Prevention: The 10 Best Walking Shoes For You
Just like a car that idles so long its engine stalls, your metabolism puts on the brakes when you lead a sedentary lifestyle, says James A. Levine, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. The moment you go from walking slowly to sitting, your active calorie-burn rate drops from roughly 3 per minute to 1. Meanwhile, your triglyceride and blood sugar levels rise. Over time, sitting for hours every day causes your levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL) to fall and puts you at risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of cancers.
But you don't have to go so far as to torch your couch. Dr. Levine has developed a program called NEAT (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) to combat America's sitting epidemic. It requires you to rethink all your habits and find new, more active ways to get through your day, like walking into Starbucks instead of sitting in the drive-thru. If you move enough, you can offset the danger of all the sitting you can't avoid. Bonus: You can burn up to 1,000 calories a day, without ever setting foot in the gym.
Learn more simple ways to lose weight when you join the Flat Belly Diet online.
Get moving with your daily routineTo prove that this too-good-to-be-true fat-loss solution works in the real world, we asked Dr. Levine and Chris Freytag, our resident fitness expert and pro trainer, to run a Prevention test panel on the principles of NEAT. They armed 25 women with a wearable device called the Gruve, which monitors personal activity level and tracks calorie burn.
The challenge was simple: The women were told to maximize their daily movements and add mini boosts of activity whenever and wherever possible to burn a mega amount of calories every 24 hours. The results were astonishing: In just 4 weeks of following a 1,600-calorie-a-day diet and maximizing the incidental activity of their days, the women lost a combined 99 pounds—some dropping up to 11 pounds, or almost 3 per week! Here, how they went from chubby couch potatoes to muffin-top-blasting moving maniacs—and how you can too.
Your Pound-Melting Plan
Step 1
Calculate Your Calories
Wear an activity monitor (our panelists wore the Gruve) for 1 week to determine your baseline activity level and daily calorie burn before moving on to steps 2 and 3. This will help you gauge how much—or how little—you're currently moving and help you discover where you can make small changes that'll add up to big results. (Click here for advice on how many calories you need to burn.)
Step 2
Start Moving More
After learning how many calories you typically burn in a day, aim to up that number by at least 500 for the next 4 weeks. This will result in an average weight loss of 1 pound per week. Challenge yourself to find creative ways to change your regular patterns (keep reading for 100 inspiring ideas), and stick with those that work best for your lifestyle.
Step 3
Fight Fat With Food
The focus of this program is to make healthier choices all day long, and mealtimes are no exception. Follow a 1,600-calorie-a-day diet that's packed with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and fewer refined sugars and processed foods. You'll have just the right amount of energy to fuel everyday activities and keep hunger at bay while speeding up weight loss.
100 ways to stand up for your health100 Ways To Stand Up For Your Health
At Home
1. Hide your remote. If you must watch TV, at least stand up to change the channel.
2. When cooking or baking, ditch the hand mixer and use a wooden spoon instead.
3. Take each family member's laundry upstairs separately.
4. When tidying up, put things away in multiple small trips rather than one big haul.
5. Chop fresh vegetables instead of buying frozen ones.
6. Invest in quality pots and pans; the heavier they are, the more energy it'll take to use them.
7. Paint, hang curtains, or finish any other home-improvement task on your to-do list.
8. Stand up and march during your favorite TV shows. (Try our Couch-Potato Workout.)
9. Rather than yell toward family members in other rooms, walk over to talk.
10. Stand while styling your hair and putting on makeup.
11. Walk around your home, yard, or neighborhood while on the phone.
12. Hand-wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher.
13. Wash your car instead of taking it through the car wash.
14. Put most-used items on top or bottom shelves so you have to reach for them.
15. Leave your cell phone in one location, so when you need it, you must go to it.
16. Start a compost pile in your yard.
17. Help your kids clean their rooms.
18. Organize a closet.
19. Rake the leaves as a family.
20. Give the delivery guy a break; when you order food in, pick it up yourself.
21. Take a shower instead of a bath.
22. Walk to the mailbox instead of checking the mail from your car.
23. Plant or weed a garden or care for indoor plants.
24. Ask for the paper to be left at the end of your driveway instead of by your front door.
25. Give your dog a bath instead of paying someone else to do it.
26. Instead of sitting and reading, listen to books on tape as you walk, clean, or garden.
27. Preset the timer on your TV to turn off after an hour to remind you to do something more active.
28. Slide a small trampoline under your couch and pull it out for Real Housewives marathons.
29. Put up more Christmas lights.
30. The next time it snows, up your karma and shovel your neighbor's sidewalk too.
31. Turn on tunes and dance while cooking.
Don't let your desk job keep you down At Work
32. Drink lots of water. (You'll stand up for refills and trips to the bathroom.)
33. Hover just above your chair in a squat position for 15 seconds every hour.
34. Keep a small water glass, which you must refill often, instead of a large water bottle on your desk.
35. Stand up each time you talk on the phone.
36. Schedule meetings to take place in far-off conference rooms.
37. Buy a plant for your office--watering it will make you more active.
38. Set your computer alarm to ring hourly--stand up for 1 to 5 minutes each time it goes off.
39. Walk your lunch outside or to another location in the office instead of sitting and eating at your desk.
40. Invest in a standing desk like the Ergotron WorkFit-S ($379; ergotron.com)—or get crafty and raise your monitor and keyboard with books. (Check out our step-by-step instructions on building your own standing desk.)
41. Purchase an under-desk pedaling machine, like the Stamina 15-0125 Instride Folding Cycle ($70; stamina products.com).
42. When you need to brainstorm, do it while walking.
43. Dust your office weekly.
44. Walk around the block once mid-morning and once midafternoon.
45. Make friends with someone on another floor; visit her often.
46. Stand while you open and read your mail.
47. Wear comfortable shoes (or keep flats under your desk) so you walk more.
48. Get rid of your garbage can; walk trash to the kitchen bin.
49. Use the vending machine three floors up—and take the stairs.
50. Swap your desk chair for a stability ball—then gently bounce on it.
51. When sitting, draw in your ab muscles and tap your toes.
52. Place your stapler far enough away that you have to stand up to get it.
53. Put people on speakerphone and pace your office during conference calls.
54. If you're meeting a client for drinks, suggest standing at the bar instead of sitting at a table.
55. Invest in a treadmill desk like the TrekDesk ($479; trekdesk.com).
56. Instead of a sit-down meeting, ask your boss if you can "talk and walk."
More from Prevention: 7 Ways To Exercise At Work 
57. When you're waiting for a flight, toss your carry-on in a locker and tour the airport.
58. Skip the people movers.
59. Stand while waiting for a train.
60. When stopping for a road-trip break, take a quick lap around the parking lot.
61. Carpool. On days you don't drive, fidget as much as possible.
62. Get off the bus two stops sooner; walk the rest of the way.
63. Book hotel rooms on a high floor and walk up.
Have fun, lose weight, no sweatRunning Errands
64. If you're buying only a few items, skip the cart and carry a basket.
65. "Waist dance" to the radio or tap out a beat on the steering wheel while driving.
66. Bag your own groceries.
67. Do a few biceps curls each time you pick up shopping bags.
68. Visit a store instead of shopping online.
69. Walk between stores that are in close proximity (don't drive).
70. When picking up your kids from school, get out of the car and greet them with a hug instead of waiting in the car curbside.
71. Skip waiting rooms. When you have an appointment, check in and then head out for a walk until the receptionist phones you.
72. Take a lap around the grocery store before you start shopping.
Just For Fun
73. Get coffee with friends "to go"—walk as you talk and sip.
74. Pick your own apples, strawberries, or other fruits and veggies.
75. Go for a hike.
76. Have sex.
77. Give your sweetie a massage (then have him return the favor).
78. Paint your own toe-nails instead of sitting for a pedicure.
79. Host a party—the cleaning and prep work will keep you off the couch.
80. Plan active dates with your hubby, such as bowling or golfing, instead of dinner and a movie.
81. Play Frisbee with your kids.
82. Get your book group to slip on sneaks and chat on the move.
83. Play fetch with your dog.
84. Build a snowman.
85. Tour a winery instead of just buying another bottle.
86. Volunteer to deliver meals or help build housing.
87. Go window-shopping or antiquing.
88. Visit a museum or art gallery.
89. Go out dancing or take dancing lessons.
90. Enroll in an active art class, such as sculpture or ceramics.
91. Teach your kids your favorite sport (or have them teach you theirs).
92. Go shopping for new clothes—wriggling into 10 pairs of skinny jeans will get your heart rate up.
93. Cut down your own Christmas tree.
94. Go Christmas caroling with the kids.
95. Buy standing-room-only tickets for sporting events—you'll save cash too.
96. Do away with chairs at your next cocktail party; standing will keep everyone mingling.
97. Go camping.
98. Spend the day on the slopes.
99. Join your kids when they break out the Wii, instead of just watching.
100. Play backyard games:
  • Badminton
  • Bag toss
  • Bocce ball
  • Croquet
  • Frisbee
Beyond The Pedometer
Ready to kiss your love(seat) handles good-bye? Here are three gadgets that'll help banish chair chub:
1. Striiv ($99; striiv.com)
This touch-screen device monitors distance and calorie burn and keeps you motivated with games powered by your movement.
2. BodyMedia Fit Core Armband ($179.95; bodymedia.com)
This armband monitors the calories you burn with every movement through four unique sensors, records your sleep duration and efficiency, and lets you track progress online.
3. Gruve ($179.95; gruve.com)
This multifunctional device senses the intensity and calorie burn of nonexercise activities such as walking to the copier. As you close in on your daily movement goal, a light changes from red to yellow to green. Plus: It vibrates when you've sat too long.

Read more: http://www.prevention.com/print/30005#ixzz28AMohlOW

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 Exercises You Should NEVER Do

Do You Avoid These Danger Zones?
  -- By Dean Anderson, Fitness Expert
Most people believe that all exercises are good, safe and effective. After all, it's all exercise, and that has to count for something, doesn't it?

The truth is that some of the machines in gyms aren't safe at all (especially for people who have common muscle, joint, and health problems). Certain exercises require a bit more know-how than the average person possesses. And other exercises are downright wastes of your time.

But before we examine some of the most controversial exercises, I want to make it clear that every exercise on this list isn't always unsafe or ineffective for everyone. What you should do—or avoid—depends on your goals, fitness level, health history, workout schedule, and other personal issues. An article like this can't replace your own efforts to identify your goals and needs. That requires you to do some research on your own, talk to your medical professional about any pain or physical limitations you have, and learn how to exercise with proper form and technique.

So what makes an exercise risky? Here are a few red flags to look out for:
  • Any unusual or “unnatural” movement pattern in the exercise
  • Any movement that causes pain or discomfort in any way
  • Any movement that enhances muscular imbalances that are already present
  • Any movement that requires joint flexibility that is above and beyond your range of motion
  • Any exercise with risks of injury that outweigh the potential benefit of the exercise itself
That said, the following exercises pose high risks and are generally considered contraindicated (if not controversial) by reputable fitness organizations and experts.

Think Twice Before Trying These 5 Moves

1. Behind-the-Head Lat Pulldowns
In the “old days,” people were actually taught to pull the bar behind their heads when doing a lat pulldown exercise—and many people still do that today. Bad idea.The problem? Only people with extremely flexible shoulder joints can do this behind-the-head movement safely, and even they have to be very careful about not hitting the back of their necks with the bar. In addition, almost anyone who spends their days deskbound is likely to have rounded shoulders or poor posture—a symptom of poor shoulder flexibility (among other things), making this exercise a no-no.

The Alternative: You can still work your lats without the risk of behind-the-head pulldowns by pulling the bar down in front of you. Sit with your spine straight, abs pulled in, and then lean your torso back slightly, keeping your spine straight. Pull the bar down towards your chest, but not below your collar bone.

2. Squats or Leg Presses with Deep Knee Bends
Whether you’re doing basic squats on your own or using a leg press machine, it can be very dangerous to bend your knees too deeply. The Problem? When your knees bend too deeply, your spine cannot maintain proper alignment. When that happens, the pelvis tilts and the lower back begins to take over, increasing the risk of strain to your lower back muscles or damage to spinal discs. In addition, bending your knees too deeply can injure or damage your knees, especially if you have knee problems.

The Alternatives: Squats and leg presses are generally safe and effective when done properly. But you should never bend your knees or hips more than 90 degrees during these exercises. Here's an example of proper form when doing a leg press machine, but this can apply to squats with a barbell, and the sled machine, too.

3. Seated Leg Extensions
This is a very popular exercise for targeting the muscles on the front of your thighs (quadriceps). The Problem? This exercise poses major risks to the knees. Lifting heavy weights in this position (with all the resistance focused at your ankles), is not what the knee was designed to do. If you have any kind of knee problem, or use a too much resistance during this exercise, you can easily run into big trouble.

The Alternatives: Simple squats and lunges, with or without added weight, will work your thigh muscles naturally, safely and effectively. If you want to expand on these exercises (to develop explosive force for sports like soccer, basketball, or volleyball, for example), try sport-specific plyometrics. If you can’t do lunges and squats because you lack the leg strength, start with simple ball squats or modified "mini" lunges, and only lower yourself part way, gradually increasing your range of motion as you get stronger.

4. Inner and Outer Thigh Machine Exercises
These machines are pretty popular in most gyms. Both involve sitting with your knees bent in front of you. The adduction machine is designed to target the muscles of the inner thighs, and the abduction machine helps target the outer thigh muscles.The Problem? Using your inner and outer thighs to lift weight while in a seated position puts you at risk of straining these relatively small muscles and aggravating lower back and hip problems. In addition, your inner and outer thigh muscles are designed to support movement, not to be prime movers like they are in these types of exercises.

The Alternatives: The best way to target these muscles safely is with body weight exercises, such as standing adductionstanding abductionlying adduction andabduction exercises, Pilates exercises, or similar movements that use resistance bands or the cable cross machines. Always start with a weight you know you can handle, and add resistance gradually.

5. Upright Rows
In this exercise, you stand holding a barbell or weight in the center, with hands close together, and bring your hands up under your chin. The Problem? Upright rows are controversial because the movement can compress the nerves in the shoulder area, impinging the shoulder.

The Alternatives: Instead of standing to perform an upright row, try bent-over rows, bending forward 90 degrees at the hip, holding weight down beneath your shoulders with hands slightly more than shoulder width apart, then lift weight straight up towards your chest until elbows and shoulders form a straight line. You can also try front or lateral shoulder raises, using a modest weight, so that you don’t need to lean back or use momentum for assistance.