The 8 Most Overrated Gym Exercises For Women

Some of these may shock you, some may even have you asking… “Did she really just say that was overrated?”

Yes, I certainly did.

As promised, this is the follow up to Tuesday’s Most Underrated Exercise post. If you missed it, check it out!

As for today, these are moves that I see repeatidily glorified, yet truth be told, I don’t think they deserve any gold medal or spot on the exercise pedistol.

But, I’ll let you decide.

The 8 Most Overrated Exercises

overrated exercises for women

Overrated Exercise: Running. 

I can already feel the glares. I promise, running friends, I am feeling them loud and clear.

Now, keep in mind…

I am a runner. I love to run and have no intentions of stopping… ever.

running overrated

But truth be told… Running is overrated.

It has become the “go to exercise”…

Oh you need to lose weight? Go run. You want to do something “fitnessy”? Sign up for a race. Oh you don’t like to run? Why not!?

I’ve seen a lot of women lose confidence in themselves because they don’t enjoy the sport and feel guilty about it.

Don’t feel guilty! There are so many other options available.

On top of the running guilt issue, there is also this:

Running puts a lot of pressure on the body, especially for someone who just jumps right in (as many do) which leads to injuries, burn out and an extremely sour taste for this great activity.

Try this instead:

Biking (very gentle on joints), swimming, dancing, boot camps, and circuit training (uh hum, like at Fit Womens Weekly).

Overrated Exercise: Overhead Kettlebell Swings

Now it’s my Crossfit friends’ turn to give me “the look”.

I love kettlebell training, in fact I LOVE kettlebell swings… I am just not crazy about swinging a kettlebell over head.

A KB swing is suppose to be a hip dominate exercise, targeting the glutes, hamstrings and lower back… however when you start swinging it overhead, form can suffer and instead of the hips, your arms and upper back may end up pulling.

This can lead to neck and shoulder issues and is a move that is better left to advanced athletes.

Try this instead:

There is nothing wrong in terms of the benefits you’ll receive, from stopping a swing when it’s parallel with the ground.

Overrated Exercise: Crunches



If you do 500 crunches a day, you’ll have the abs like Brittany (back in her heyday).

At least that’s what I was told.

Crunches are perhaps one of the most insignificant ab exercises out there. They target just one very small patch of the abdominals and can put a lot of pressure on both the neck and back.

Why do they get so much love? Because they feel like they work. That acute burning you get when you’re doing crunches is the reason they continue to stay popular.

Try this instead:

Mt Climbers, planks (here are 30 variations), and ab work using a stability ball (have you ever written the alphabet while in a stability ball plank?).

Overrated Exercise: Kipping Pull-upspull ups

Have you seen these? Done right, they are quite the cardio killer and are really cool to watch. Done wrong, they can cause a lot of problems, which is most often the case.

Kipping is actually a very advanced skill. I was a gymnast and it took years to be able to get it down.

When someone doesn’t know exactly what they are doing, they end up flopping around on a bar like a fish on a hook. They’ll swing, kick and pull… sure their chin might clear the bar, but from repetitive bad habits they may also end up with a pinched shoulder.

Then there is this…

A kipping pull-up is not a pull-up. I’m sorry, it’s not. It’s like comparing a lunge to a squat. Both work the same area of the body, but they target the muscles differently.

My honest opinion, is that no one should add a kip until they can do at least a set of 10 dead hang pull-ups. This will strengthen the joint to help safely progress.

To me, kipping pull-ups are more comparable to a row machine. And pull-ups, are pull-ups.

Try this instead:

Utilize your gym’s row machine. And if your goal is to get better at pull-ups, then use bands or an assisted machine to build up.

Overrated Exercise: Leg Press Machine

leg press machine

Just the thought of being sandwiched in this machine makes me nervous. It always has. But that’s my phobia and not a reason for it to be overrated.

The problem is that this “squat alternative” is easy to do incorrectly, mainly when it comes to foot positioning. Get this wrong, and unnecessary pressure can be added to the back muscles and spine.

Try this instead:

Squats, there are so many variations of squats that can help target your muscles from all different angles so you continue to challenge yourself while avoiding boredom.

Overrated Exercise: Dips


When you think of tricep exercises, is dips the first to come to mind? It is for me. And with just cause! They are great for targeting that small “v” muscle along the back of your arm.

But they aren’t the only tricep exercise, and they can be painful. Anyone suffering from shoulder or wrist problems may feel pressured to have to “push through” another set of dips.

That’s not the case at all, there are so many other options. If this exercise causes a “pinching” in the shoulders, then try something else.

Try this instead:

Cable pull-downs, dumbbell extensions, and skull crushers. In fact, here is an entire post on tricep exercises for women!

Overrated Exercise: Pistol Squats

pistol squat

Here’s another trainer’s confession… I love pistol squats but not because they’re a great exercise. But because I can do them.

That’s really all they are truly good for: bragging rights.

The pistol squat actually puts a ton of pressure on the knees and ankles. If you have great knees, then by all means add them into your workout routines from time to time (I do). In fact, I’ve even put together a progression program just for pistol squats.

However, don’t feel you have to incorporate them.

There are much better moves that doesn’t have ALL of your weight on one foot through such a huge range of motion.

Try this instead:

Step-ups, lunges, split squats (my favorite).

Overrated Exercise: Barbell Bench Press



A gym staple, right? Well, here’s the problem I have. It’s too much of a staple. Variety is the only way to really see results when it comes to your workout.

You wouldn’t want to eat chicken and brocolli every day of your life would you? And your chest doesn’t want to do a barbell bench press every time it’s strength training day.

Then there is the barbell… a great option, but there is a better one. Dumbbells. They allow you to move in a more natural range of motion and encourage you to use smaller stabilizer muscles for bigger results.

The bottom line, if you’re a barbell bench presser, give it up for a month and…

Try this instead:

Dumbbell bench press (at different angles) and push-up challenges.

And there you have it… the top 8 overrated gym exercises for women. I would love to hear your thoughts (even if you disagree with me).

What exercises do you think are overrated? 

Am I off my rocker with any of these?


  • Kim

    I liked this post – especially after reading the underrated moves the other day. Thanks for pointing out some good alternatives for all of those moves!

    • Thanks Kim! It was fun to put together.

  • Melissa

    I think you were spot-on with all of those. And I must admit, I am relieved about the crunches… I hate them! Planks are more fun AND more challenging!

    • Exactly! Forget the crunches, plank it out!

    • Sheila Watkins

      Crunches also increase intraabdominal pressure which directly affects the pelvic floor. Another reason to let them go!!!

  • Kathryn

    You KNOW I hate running which is one reason I love boot camp so much. It gets my heart rate up and its not just about running. I love doing something different (even if its just a different variation) each work out!!

    • Haha, that’s why I love boot camp too!

  • You know, I actually agree on the running thing, even as a runner. Now, you and I *enjoy* running- it’s a hobby for us and a way to socialize- and in that sense, it’s a good exercise because it beats socializing in a sedentary environment. But, I feel like people do jump in too fast and get hurt, and people overestimate how many miles or days a week they actually need to run.

    It hurts me to see people who want to “streak” in running, because I feel like they would be an equally effective runner by cross training, lifting weights, etc, and just running 3-5 days a week. Many runners are “run or nothing” and don’t lift, do yoga, or do any of the other exercises you mentioned… and that’s why they aren’t seeing results (and why they’re getting hurt).

    Crunches are by far the most overrated exercise you listed, I think- takes isolation exercise to the next level.

    • Ronda

      I agree with you 100% Amy – on all of it!

    • Thanks Amy! I agree, people jump in too quickly. That’s an issue with any time of exercise. They often remember being in shape, and feel that can start off where they left off.

  • Agreed. Totally.

  • Ronda

    Excellent article as usual. I swear I learn the majority of my practical “in the trenches” knowledge from you! I would have absolutely listed crunches. I hate them and always felt like the resulting back and neck pain and pressure must be “just me” because everywhere I went trainers prescribed them. But then I learned so much more about the core and tossed crunches out for planks and other core focused moves. :). I also dislike dips from an elevated chair or bench for that very reason – shoulder pain. I find lowering the elevation helps (as in from the floor) and I still get a good tri burn. I love the KB swing adjustment. I can cue the heck out of an overhead one but I am still afraid people are transferring too much pull to their arms getting it overhead – ESP dangerous with a heavier bell. So I’m going parallel with beginners and whenever we are using heavier weights from now on. Thank you Taylor!!

    • Thanks Ronda! I am so proud of you and your fitness journey! Those crunches weren’t just you, a lot of people end up with pain. Planks all the way!

  • I definitely don’t think you’re off your rocker! This was a great post and these exercises as being overrated totally make sense. I’m glad you made suggestions for alternatives! That’s a huge help!

  • Krista

    I really loved this post! Especially about running because everyone in the world pretty much thinks that your a truer athlete if you run. I hate running because I think its boring. Getting my hands on a circuit training workout, I’m in. I make myself go running because its a quick way to burn calories when I don’t feel like lifting, but it isn’t my favorite thing to do. I also love the one about dips-AH I hate those too- but I do love skull crushers!

    • Thanks Krista! I agree, there is this idea that to be a true athlete of fitness enthusiast that running has to be involved. nope, not at all! Circuit training is my love too!

  • Camille

    Not going to lie, this made me a little sick since I do most of these 🙁 but then I was really happy because I also do the alternatives!!! Thanks for sharing, I love and so look forward to your posts!!!

    • Exactly, they aren’t “bad” but its just important not to rely solely on these moves… on any more really!

  • gosh i love you! bam, such truth! and event though i do these exercises, they are not my go to. well besides running, i just love getting out on the trails. More mental!

    • Right back at you friend! Still want you to come for the 200 relay!!

  • Heather

    Yes! I love this post! I don’t fault anyone for doing any of this – I think many of the “authorities” on fitness advocate for them – but I’m so glad you posted alternatives!

    • Thanks Heather! Exactly, there is nothing wrong with doing them, just important to realize that changing things up is crucial!

  • Loved this post, especially about the pistol squats b/c these tight old hips will never let me do them. And as much as I love running, I agree. I see so many people doing it for the wrong reasons. Why do something you don’t enjoy?

    • Thanks! My hips are getting tighter too! Yoga is calling my name lately. So right, if you don’t like it, don’t do it… so many more options. My husband just got into paddle boarding and I am so proud of him for finding something outside of strength training he loves as much as I love to run.

  • Bea

    This article actually made me chuckle a little bit. Not because I think it’s wrong or anything but it was good to see some of the exercises I do get a butt kicking of their own. I’ve resorted to the leg press machine now that I moved and its the only piece of equipment that said hi to me when I walked into my new gym. I often wondered what damage it could do to my back. Thanks for the alternative exercises!

  • I hate Pistol Squats! I am happy they are overrated. And I always do chest presses with dumbbells I definitely think working your arms with a barbell isn’t the best option because of the one-side favoring potential.

    • Haha, good! One of the reasons I love DB’s too!

  • I agree with every single one of these. However, I do prescribe tricep dips for some of my clients who train at home and don’t have heavy enough weights to really challenge the back of their upper arms.


    • Dips in moderation are great! I do them with my class as well. Just not so great for shoulder issues.

  • I am not any kind of authority on exercise, but I have one for your list from my gym:

    The Elliptical.

    People come in and work out on that thing for an hour a day, several hours a week and get no results. They just go back and forth, up and down….over and over…

  • I’d have to agree. Running is overrated but I LOVE it so I am going to keep on running.

    Great post. Thanks for the tips!

    • Thanks! Just had a great run yesterday!

  • What a great post! Definitely gives everyone something to think about! Some of them, while not terrible on their own (like tricep dips), should definitely not be the only exercise variation you do to build that muscle. And thanks for the part about the Kipping Pull-Ups (I’m the girl who looks like a fish on a hook)…now I don’t feel so bad for not being able to do them! 🙂

    • Thanks! Definitely don’t feel bad! Work on standard pullups first, then progress.

  • Teri

    Great read. Thanks for the post and the alternatives. I’ve recently injured my forearm and have tendonitis. I think I did this with an over head kettle bell swing. Since then, I’ve been trying to rest it and let it heal and been running instead here and there (I’m not too great at it). Well, that isn’t working so good. I have put back on 6 pounds and I look like I have too. I am starting back tomorrow at the gym this is a great start for something new for me. Your thoughts?

    • Good luck Teri! I definitely recommend taking it slow, if the dr has given clearance. Also, there is no reason why you can’t get a lower body strength training workout in. My thoughts? Listen to your body and ease back into everything! You’ll get there.

  • dan

    You forgot the most overrated of all. EXERCISE!!! Dips overrated? Pistol squats overrated? I think someone does not want to exercise. How about just chatting for 45 minutes in the locker room? Yeah, that will do it. Ohh, hey, I almost forgot; everyone who cant do 10 sit ups or crunches love to do planks, ( truly, the most overrated exercise ever ). Good day ladies.

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