Maillard Howell, owner of Dean CrossFit and founder of The Beta Way can easily name more than a few hard exercises you should avoid trying at home for the first time—and what you can do instead to get similar benefits.
Hard exercises to avoid without proper in-person instruction
1. Bench press
The bench press seems pretty harmless, right? Not when you don’t have a friend nearby. “The best of us use spotters for the bench press,” says Howell. “A newbie can easily be pinned under the bar doing one alone at home.”
What you can do instead: Bench press with light dumbbells
2. Box jumps
Box jumps can be a really effective exercise when you do them right. Trying to learn them at home for the first time might not be the most wise decision, though, as doing so can easily result in injury—especially when you choose something too high, aren’t doing them with the correct form, or haven’t built up the muscle strength required to do them in the first place.
What you can do instead: Box jumps on a low step, or step-ups on a low step
According to Howell, deadlifts—a strength movement that loads the posterior chain—are probably the most botched movements in most gyms. “I would not recommend beginners mess with this at home,” he says.
What you can do instead: Deadlift with or without light dumbbells
4. The snatch
Sometimes it can take years for people to completely perfect it, and that’s why it’s crucial to make sure you’re learning how to do a snatch properly before practicing at home. “The snatch is a dynamic movement that requires a highly-developed sense of proprioception, technique, and explosive speed that results in the weight going overhead,” says Howell. “The risk of something going wrong from ground to overhead is too high for beginners.”
What you can do instead: Dumbbell snatch
5. The clean
The clean is another dynamic movement that requires a substantial amount of strength, technique, and explosive power. “Loading this movement requires all of the posterior chain, and I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners at home,” he says.
What you can do instead: Medicine ball clean
6. Jerk movements
Avoid doing any jerk movements at home, as you could be setting yourself up for a serious injury. “The push jerk, for example, is another dynamic overhead movement that can result in an newbie dropping the weight on their head,” says Howell.
What you can do instead: Single-arm kettlebell push jerk
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