No two bodies are exactly alike. Therefore, in any form of exercise there are always exercises that are considered “contraindicated”. A contraindicated exercise is any exercise that would be deemed unsafe or potentially unsafe for the demographics of the group in question.
This is an important distinction to make because an exercise deemed contraindicated for a back care class may not be contraindicated for group of professional football players training during the off-season. And because of the variety of body shapes, sizes and abilities of people in general, what might be considered contraindicated for one person may not be for another.
Due to the nature of group exercise, it would be nearly impossible to make those determinations for each and every student and for multiple exercises or movements. Therefore, to err on the conservative side we often label an exercise as contraindicated if it is potentially unsafe for anyone in any class. In private or semi private training, the needs of the individual can be catered to more specifically, therefore only exercises specifically contraindicated for that individual need to be eliminated.
There are certainly exercises that are contraindicated for most people including athletes. For example, exercises that repeatedly load the ligaments of the joints without protection from the muscles will ultimately lead to instability and injury. Loading of the ligaments occurs when joints move past a “normal” range of motion and rely in the ligaments to hold things in place.
An example of this is the “hurdler stretch”. Once a very common stretching exercise seen at track meets, in group exercise classes and with team stretching, it is now generally accepted as a contraindicated stretch. The reason for this is due to the stress placed on the inside of the knee joint of the back leg while it is held in place. The stress is placed on the ligaments of the knee from the hip position above and the foot position below.
At Function First we often hear statements such as, “I was told squatting is bad for your knees”. Squatting in and of itself is not bad for your knees. If it were, we would all have to find a way to use the bathroom standing up and crawl on our stomachs into and out of our cars. The fact is we all squat many many times a day just through every day life.
Repeated squatting, with weights and using poor form could be bad for the knees of someone with an existing knee injury or with poor lower body mechanics. But overall the squat is a safe and very effective functional exercise.
An exercise or movement may be contraindicated for you right now, especially if it causes pain. We know pain is a warning sign and telling the body it does not appreciate what you are doing to it. But an exercise is not necessarily contraindicated for life. Over the years we’ve had hundreds of clients be able to do exercises and movements they thought they would never do again. Bending, reaching, twisting, shifting-all things that we need to do in life and are better prepared for through the right exercises.
Be smart about what you do, but don’t assume you can never do something again. You might be cheating yourself of a more fulfilling life.