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Is it okay to say ‘no’ to an exercise?

Fitness woman in sport outfit exercising in gym

Our workout plans usually consist out of all sorts of exercises. These exercises differentiate depending on the goals we wish to achieve, the nature of the workout itself, which program we decide to follow, and so forth.

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Every now and then, it just so happens that we come across this one exercise which seems…odd. You’ve seen people perform it, you’ve had gym buddies recommend it to you, but there is something wrong about it but you can’t put your finger on what it is.

Once you’re there, on the spot, lifting the weight, or getting in position to perform the exercise, something is bothering you. It might be the positioning of your feet that feels weird or perhaps the machine doesn’t fit your size… it happens to everyone.

What should you do? What does this mean for the future of your workout? Should you go through it even though it feels off? Is it you who is making a mistake or is the exercise wrong? We need some clarification.

There is a brief list of things you can ask yourself first before letting go of the exercise and forgetting all about it. There are steps you can take in order to determine what could have gone wrong.

First, the obvious

Okay, so you decided that you are going to perform a certain exercise you find attractive. Let’s say you’re interested in doing deadlifts, sumo deadlifts to be precise. You saw someone you like and follow on Instagram and that person is just killing it when it comes to sumo deadlifts. You wanna try it out too, right?

If you go straight to the gym tomorrow and try to do sumo deadlifts yourself just by copying the movement you saw on the video…well, you have no right to complain if you’re doing it wrong.

There is a very simple reason why something might feel wrong with the exercise – you’re a beginner. Pulling off any exercise just like that, out of the blue is almost unheard of and hardly anyone could just copy it like that and get it right. Especially not if it’s such a complex exercise. Form, weight, breathing…all these things could be lacking.

You should do your research first.

Find a couple of videos or read a book/article that explains the fundamentals of the exercise. Learn as much as you can about the exercise in theory. In this example, that would be learning the basic implications of the deadlift first, and then the sumo version. Other exercises will ask for other background knowledge. Perhaps you already know something from the previous exercises you’ve done so you won’t need to study much. It all depends.

Later, once you have some facts under your belt it’s time to hit the gym.

If you’re new to an exercise it’s always smart to have someone around to show you how to start. Perhaps it’s your gym buddy or a personal coach. If you see someone at the gym whom you’ve seen perform the exercise you like, ask them for some advice. Don’t be shy!

Remember, nobody was born in the gym with all the knowledge handed to them on a silver platter. All of the people there had to start from somewhere, just like you!

Always try to master the simple movements which are involved in the exercise before venturing deeper into the heart of the exercise. This way you’ll make gradual progress and thus make sure you’re learning the right way.

Additionally, start off light. No matter how strong or capable you are, if you’re a novice when it comes to an exercise always take it slow and steady. No reason for you to lift heavy right off the bat. Your muscles and tendons aren’t used to the movement and your body doesn’t move like a perfectly aligned swiss watch. Once you’ve gained some experience you can always add weights if you feel like turning up the volume, so to speak.

Is that it?

Improper lifting form, not yet developed muscles, and fatigue are only the most common problems people face when hitting the gym. However, does that cover all the potential causes of pain or discomfort from lifting? Not really, no. You can still feel pain, discomfort, or some other type of weird and unsettling sensation even though you perfected the technique, had all the resting time in the world, and feel great otherwise.

Now, this is where the problems become a bit more…personal.

Personal, how? Personal in the sense that it depends on the person who is doing the exercise and his body. Every person has a specific body. Some types of bodies are more suitable for some specific exercises and less suitable for others. For example, generally speaking, people who are tall have a hard time perfecting bar movements. Their bones are longer, which asks for more ankle mobility, hip flexion, etc.

If you find yourself struggling with some exercise, the reason behind it might be your genetics. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s time to call it a day. Plenty of people do additional work, via stretching for example, in order to still make gains even when it comes to exercises that weren’t really “built” for their bodies.

Therefore, the next time you feel something is odd when you’re on some machine you find cool, perhaps the machine isn’t really built for your body. Try something else.


Of course, we have the injuries. Depending on the injury itself, sometimes you will be able to continue working on the exercise which caused you trouble. If you manage to recover completely, fix the mistakes you made, and feel comfortable mentally with pursuing new gains with that exercise then there really is no reason why you should avoid any exercise at all.

But, sometimes it happens that people go through injuries which cause havoc to their bodies and not only temporarily. Chronic pain, swollen joints, injuries which leave you with a high probability of a new injury…these are all signs that you might want to swap the exercise for something else. Sometimes you just need to let go. There will always be other exercises for you to choose from so don’t worry.

Needless to say, injuries are a big deal and a clear sign for you to think about changing your exercise choices

No gains?

If you are stagnating for longer periods of time or simply see no development whatsoever when it comes to an exercise then it simply might not be for you. Even though plenty of other people find success with that exercise it doesn’t mean that you will find it too.

Try not to make a big deal about it. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. Simple as that. You don’t need red flags from your body for you to reconsider or think in other directions. Sometimes the reasons behind the why’s are invisible. Doesn’t mean that they do not exist.

Just keep in mind that there is no “golden” or “miracle” exercise that you MUST perform if you want to achieve your goals. There is no such thing and no such exercise will ever exist.


We hope we made your fitness life a bit easier with this article. People wonder what lies behind unsuccesful workouts because they wish to optimize the effort they put in and reach their full potential. We’re here to provide YOU with the necessary support in order to do just that.

Going through all the bullets we’ve mentioned will surely help narrow down the list of things that might be holding you back when it comes to gradual progress – something we all strive for.

Thank you for your time.

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