Most of the men I work with who are in their 30s are still trying to live like they were in their 20s. They stay active and continue working out, which is great. However, there are modifications that all 30-year-olds should be making—by staying away from these six worst exercises for 30-somethings.
You want to avoid low-back pain. In your spine, you have discs, which have a fluid center but do not have their own blood supply. The only time they get blood and fluid is when the vertebrae above and below compress on them. This becomes a problem when you hit your 30s, because studies show that when you turn 25, your discs start to dry up. Staying active and moving helps keep them hydrated, but the training regimen that 30-year-olds should follow needs to be varied.
Here are six of the worst exercises for men in their 30s with a focus on protecting the low back.
Sit-Ups are bad for anyone, but especially 30-year-olds. When you do a traditional Sit-Up and round your back, you put your low back in a stressful position. Over time, you may herniate a disc from the excess stress. Replace classic Sit-Up with Planks and Side Planks.
2. Heavy Deadlifts
Deadlifts are an incredible exercise, but they must be done carefully. If you have no background lifting heavy in your 30s, it’s not a good idea to jump into heavy Deadlifts. Without perfect form and the requisite core, back and hip strength, you run the risk, again, of putting excessive stress on your lumbar spine—which is especially problematic since you are lifting a heavy load off the floor. Also, avoid doing Deadlifts toward the end of your workout, since fatigued muscles make it more likely that your form will break. That said, if you know how to deadlift and gradually progress to heavier weight, the exercise isn’t problematic. You just need to be cautious.
3. Rows with Rotation
Rows are fine for strengthening the back muscles, specifically the rhomboids. However, when you perform a row, you must keep your core tight and stay away from rotating. Bending, lifting and twisting is the easiest combination to herniate a disc. This is the exact motion of a row if you combine the rotation aspect. Perform rows, but activate your core muscles and don’t rotate your upper body.
4. Russian Twists
In this staple core exercise, you get in a sit-up position and rotate from side to side, usually with a med ball or weight to train the obliques. Problem is you are rotating through your lumbar spine, which is designed for stability not mobility. Once again, this can become problematic over time if you’re not careful. Instead, opt for anti-rotation exercises like Pallof Presses or anti-flexion exercises like Side Planks or Suitcase Carries.
5. Overhead Presses
Overhead pressing exercises are not inherently bad moves. If you have a desk job or poor posture, your upper body mobility is likely not up to snuff, which makes it almost impossible to press overhead correctly. We often see an arch in the lower back to compensate for tightness in the upper body, forcing the lumbar spine to hold the brunt of the weight in a compromised position, which as you can guess is not ideal. Also, if you don’t have proper mobility, then there’s a good chance your shoulder mechanics will be poor, which can put stress on the joint and eventually cause pain or serious injury.
6. Leg Press
Many people like the Leg Press because they can load up on weight. However, the range of motion used is often far too great, which puts compressive forces on the lower back. Instead of doing heavy leg pressing, opt first for Squats. And if you want to leg press, try using only one leg at a time for high reps, and lower only until your hips are at a 90-degree angle to prevent your lower back from rounding.