Lou Schuler is an award-winning journalist and the co-author (with Alwyn Cosgrove) of The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged.

Q: Are There Any Exercises I Shouldn’t Do?

Yes, and they depend largely on your physical quirks. The dumbest exercise I ever did, for example, was the single-leg squat. It’s a perfectly fine move for some people, but my history of knee injuries made it a terrible choice for me. I limped around in pain for months afterwards; finally, a physiotherapist worked the knots out of my injured leg and I could walk upright again. The experience was painful, but I learnt an important lesson: sometimes the best training programme is defined by what you choose not to do. Admittedly, that choice isn’t always easy, especially with popular exercises like the barbell bench press. “I happen to like it,” says gym owner Mike Boyle. “But guys tend to do it too often, with too much weight and poor technique.” As a result, they may pay for their temporary boost in muscle mass with a lifetime of shoulder issues. Boyle’s least favourite exercise, by far, is the bench dip, followed closely by the more challenging parallel-bar dip. “If you place your shoulders in a dip position, unloaded, you immediately feel the stress,” he says. And yet most of us who work out have done our share of dips, ignoring the discomfort because we think we’re building muscles that will make it worthwhile. We aren’t. Listen to your body. The best exercises are the ones that allow you to do the most work with the least pain. The worst, hands down, are the ones that hurt. And all you need for an effective, total body programme is a push, a pull, a squat variation and a dead lift variation.