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5 Exercises Holding You Back From Your Fitness Goals (Including Burpees)

Sarah King, AEP
Exercise physiologist
By Sarah King, AEP
Exercise physiologist
Sarah King is an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP), personal trainer, and health coach devoted to helping women cultivate strength and confidence.
woman working out at home
Image by Kike Arnaiz / Stocksy
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When it comes to fitness, we all want to get the most bang for our buck. In an effort to get fitter and stronger, many people combine strength and cardio exercises into one gym session. However, it turns out that this popular training style might not be bringing you any closer to your goals.

As an exercise physiologist and health coach, I've seen that the following five exercises often don't deliver the desired results to my clients. Let's dive into why they may not be effective for you and how to find more efficient alternatives.



Burpees are often touted as a full-body exercise that can build strength and improve cardiovascular fitness. And while they do engage multiple muscle groups, the problem lies in their execution. I've noticed that very few people perform burpees with proper form, which can lead to ineffective results and even injuries.

A better approach to boost your cardiovascular health and strength is to incorporate well-executed squats and pushups and do cardio sessions separately on non-weight training days.


High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Yes, HIIT made the list! High-intensity interval training has become super popular because of its timesaving potential. And yes, HIIT can be a very effective way to quickly spike your heart rate by combining cardiovascular and strength exercises.

However, cramming everything into a single workout often limits the benefits of building muscular strength. Additionally, HIIT isn't always suitable for beginners, as it can lead to overuse injuries and even cellular damage.


Lunge with a bicep curl

This is another example of a compound move that would be more effective if separated. While adding bicep curls to your lunges is a way to get your upper body involved, they can limit your leg strength gains. Since the biceps are smaller muscles, you'll only be able to curl a light weight while lunging.

I believe that a better approach is to separate these exercises, performing lunges with significantly heavier dumbbells. This way, you'll maximize your leg strength and overall workout efficiency. 


Bench dips

Bench dips are a go-to exercise for toning triceps, but they come with a significant drawback: Many individuals allow their shoulders to roll forward during this exercise, increasing the risk of injury and diminishing its effectiveness.

To get more value for your effort, consider mastering pushups first, which not only target your triceps but also engage various upper-body muscles, including the pecs or chest muscles.


Weighted side bends

Weighted side bends target the obliques—but these muscles are primarily used for rotating and resisting rotation. This makes the lateral movement of side bends less effective.

For a more productive core workout, focus on exercises like the Pallof press, which more efficiently targets the obliques to promote a stronger core.

How does combining strength and cardio exercises limit overall strength gains?

When you combine strength and cardio exercises into one workout (like a HIIT class or boot camp), there's often a trade-off between the two.

This is because strength and cardio exercises have different energy requirements. Strength exercises are anaerobic, demanding short bursts of high-intensity effort, while cardio exercises are aerobic, requiring sustained, lower-intensity effort over a longer period of time.

Combining both types of exercises in a single session can compromise the quality and effectiveness of each. When you're already fatigued from cardio, your performance in strength exercises may suffer. Conversely, focusing solely on strength within a single session allows you to lift heavier weights, promoting more all-important muscle growth.

Additionally, for optimal strength gains, you need adequate rest between sets to allow muscles to recover and adapt. In a combined session, the rest time is often limited, hindering your muscle-building potential.

This is why I believe that following a training program with cardio and strength scheduled on separate days is a better way to improve fitness and strength.

What are the best workouts for building strength and fitness?

Building strength and fitness efficiently requires a balanced workout regimen. Here are the four core pillars I recommend including in yours:

  • Strength training: Dedicate separate sessions for strength training that focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses. Lift heavy weights and incorporate progressive overload to continually challenge your muscles. If you're new to strength training, I'd recommend investing in a few sessions with an exercise physiologist or qualified personal trainer to learn proper form and prevent injuries. Once you get the hang of the movements, you can start with lighter weights and gradually increase the resistance as your strength improves.
  • Cardiovascular/zone 2 exercise: I'd also recommend including dedicated cardio sessions in your routine. Opt for activities you enjoy, such as running, cycling, or swimming, to boost your cardiovascular health and endurance.
  • Functional training: Integrate functional movements like planks, pushups, and bodyweight squats, which improve overall fitness, core strength, and balance, into your schedule.
  • Flexibility and mobility work: Finally, don't neglect stretching and mobility exercises! These will help you prevent injuries and maintain flexibility.

The takeaway 

Instead of combining strength and cardio into HIIT-style sessions, I recommend keeping them separate for more efficient and effective workouts. Check out a few moves to start with on strength training days here.

Sarah King, AEP author page.
Sarah King, AEP
Exercise physiologist

Sarah King is an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP), personal trainer, and health coach devoted to helping women cultivate strength and confidence.

Sarah is dedicated to helping individuals embrace a non-diet approach to fitness, which means no crash diets, transformation photos, or punishing workouts. Driven by her own experience of battling an eating disorder, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and exercise addiction for 10 years, Sarah made a promise to herself that once she achieved full recovery, she would support others in need. She received her Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise Physiology) at the University of Sydney.