"Stop! That exercise isn't safe," said Juan, a Job Corps Recreation Supervisor and certified personal trainer.
Megan responded, "But we do it on the Pilates DVD all the time. Why would the instructor do something unsafe?" Megan went back to her Pilates roll up.
Juan stepped back and thought for a minute. Megan has a point; that is a perfectly normal Pilates exercise. It's also a straight leg sit-up. The straight leg sit-up is contraindicated. Any kinesiology textbook will tell you that you should not extend your hip during flexion. That's just plain dangerous.
Who's right? Megan or Juan?
Personal trainers and exercise scientists have been forced to rethink the notion of contraindication because of yoga and Pilates, and all of the associated deep knee bends, unsupported spinal flexion, backbends, and handstands. The exercises that once caused trainers to squirm, or at least warn exercisers of injury, are now making their way into health clubs and recreation centers.
The exercises that we have known as contraindicated, like unsupported forward flexion or an upright row, have now been downgraded in some professional circles from contraindicated to merely "controversial" exercises.1 We know that no exercise is safe for everyone; many of these exercises are taking the same route as sprinting and high-impact aerobics—they are now considered safe for most people, barring injury.
These exercises should be used with care, as injury is still a concern. Videos of contradicted exercises and correct safety precautions are available at http://www.exrx.net/Kinesiology/Deficiencies.html.
Information about new research surrounding contraindicated exercises is available in "Contraindicated Exercises Revisited" by Karen Kemper, PhD, and Megan Ferguson (http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/contraindicated-exercises-revisited-0).
Exercise Prescription on the Net. Exercise Safety. (2010). Retrieved online March 15, 2010 from http://www.exrx.net/Kinesiology/Deficiencies.html