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The 7 Most Dreaded Exercises and Why You Should Do Them

author image Linda Melone
Linda Melone is a seasoned writer and certified strength and conditioning specialist specializing in fitness and health. She also holds a B.S. in nutrition. Her work appears on WebMD, MSN Health,, AARP, Oxygen and in many other online and print publications.

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The 7 Most Dreaded Exercises and Why You Should Do Them
You must do the thing you hate. Photo Credit: Milkos/iStock/GettyImages

Getting fit can be a bit of a love-hate situation. You love the results, but the process can often be less than fun. And some exercises can be downright awful — morale-crushing, seemingly ungratifying and all kinds of unpleasant for one reason or another. Unsurprisingly, this usually includes exercises people don’t do well. It brings to mind the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Here are some of the most dreaded exercises and how making peace with them can help you reach your goals faster.

1. Burpees
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Syda Productions

1 Burpees

You know an exercise is tough when you find T-shirts about it. “Death by Burpees” and “Those burpees were fun — said no one ever” were clearly created by people who were not a fans of this challenging exercise. To do it, you first do a squat, place your hands on the floor in front of you, jump back into plank, do a push-up, jump your feet back to your hands, and then reach your arms overhead and jump. Only to repeat it all over again and again and again.

“They’re hard because you are using so many different muscles,” says Pete McCall, master trainer and blogger for the American Council on Exercise. “Plus, it’s an explosive exercise, and your body is not made to do a lot of them.” But they are a great full-body exercise, which is ideal when you’re short on time, he says. Do no more than 15 reps in a set, though, says McCall, so you don’t end up lapsing into poor form or possibly injuring yourself.

Read more: 15 New Burpees You Must Try

2. Man Makers
They will make a man (or woman) out of you. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/lunamarina

2 Man Makers

Another combination exercise, the killer dubbed the “man maker” combines three tough exercises into one even tougher move. With a pair of dumbbells (or kettlebells), you first perform a push-up, which is then followed by a row on each arm. Then you jump up into a squat position and immediately launch into an overhead press. This one is definitely not for the beginner. Little wonder why it’s not such a popular exercise.

“You’re using so many muscles in one movement that five sets of eight of those will thrash you,” says master trainer Pete McCall. He also notes that many of these types of high-intensity exercises are often taken from Navy SEAL training and designed to weed out the weaker people. “You shouldn’t do them every day because you’re working at a different level,” he says. Do them on alternate days with lighter, less intense exercises to avoid injuring yourself.

3. Push-Ups
Seems simple enough — until you attempt 20 of them in a row. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Jale Ibrak

3 Push-Ups

When “Drop and give me 20!” is used as a punishment, how are you supposed to love push-ups? As with burpees, push-ups use a number of different muscles all at once, which increases the difficulty and decreases the fun factor tremendously. But it’s also what makes them time-efficient and effective.

Push-ups are really a moving plank, so they require a whole lot of core strength, says Mark A. Nutting, certified exercise physiologist and owner of Jiva Fitness in Easton, Pennsylvania. Plus, they are great for the chest, front of the shoulders and triceps and don’t require any equipment, he says. If you’re intimated by them, Nutting suggests starting with incline push-ups, leaning on a higher object like a countertop and gradually working your way lower until you can do them on the floor.

Read more: 24 Essential Push-Up Variations for Total-Body Strength

4. Mountain Climbers
Climbing an actual mountain sometimes feels easier than these. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Jacob Lund

4 Mountain Climbers

Another total-body exercise (are you seeing a pattern here yet?), mountain climbers get your heart racing, your legs pumping and your upper body firing on all cylinders — at the same time! They are a popular addition to boot camp-style classes.

“Mountain climbers are a killer exercise that challenges your balance, agility, proprioception (an aspect of balance) and coordination,” says Teri Jory, certified trainer and founder of POISE Productions Fitness Technique. “They fire up nearly every muscle group in the body, including deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quadriceps, hamstrings and hip abductors.” Use time, not repetitions, as you build endurance. See how many you can do in 60 seconds, and try to increase your reps each day.

5. Pull-Ups
Kids do them on the playground — why can’t we? Photo Credit: Motortion/iStock/GettyImages

5 Pull-Ups

Good old-fashioned pull-ups are probably the most important exercise being avoided by most folks today, especially by women, says Wayne Caparas, author of “Biologic Revelation: The 10 Minute No-Sweat Anti-Aging Workout.”

Pull-ups are critical to the development of the invaluable fast-twitch and super-fast-twitch muscle fibers (our fight-or-flight fibers) in the lats and their peripheral muscle groups, he says. They’re also a legit survival exercise if you need to pull or hold your own body weight. Caparas recommends starting with a spotter and aiming for 15 full-range, controlled pull-ups without assistance.

Read more: 10 Exercises to Help You Conquer the Pull-Up

6. Box Jumps
Jump, jump, jump! Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/GettyImages

6 Box Jumps

Explosive exercises (called plyometrics) range from easy (jumping jacks) to high-intensity moves. Box jumps fit into the latter and are dreaded by sane people everywhere. They build explosive power and work the fast-twitch muscle fibers. The challenge makes them enticing to try, but doing them incorrectly can land you in a world of hurt.

But when done with proper form, box jumps increase the elasticity of the Achilles tendon and prevent injuries to the tendon, which are quite common, says master trainer Pete McCall. The key to doing them correctly is to jump up and step down — don’t jump back down, says McCall. “Trying to jump back down increases risk of injury.” And be sure to thoroughly warm up. Then perform some small jumps before attempting a box jump onto an 18-inch platform.

7. Sprinting and Running
Put everything you’ve got into this! Photo Credit: FS-Stock/iStock/GettyImages

7 Sprinting and Running

Running may be a quick way to burn calories, but it’s also one of the toughest forms of cardio. To help yourself get acclimated to the idea of running, it may be helpful to go back in time a a few years. “As kids, running was natural and part of our lives,” says exercise physiologist Mark A. Nutting. “Like most physical activities, when we stop doing them, they become a challenge. Running and sprinting are like that. People who dislike running have probably not run in a long time.”

Calorie burning is only one of the benefits. “Running is a great way to train your cardiovascular system,” says Nutting. “It can be meditative, gets you outside in the fresh air and has a low equipment need (just a good pair of running shoes).” Adding sprints to your running repertoire also builds power, which you need more as you get older, he says. “Sprints also increase your metabolic rate, so you burn fat even more than longer, slower running.”

Read more: Why Sprinting Isn’t Just for Athletes

What Do YOU Think?
Tell us what you think! Photo Credit: UberImages/iStock/GettyImages

What Do YOU Think?

Are there any exercises you avoid doing? Which ones? Are any on this list? Are there any others you would add? Do you ever incorporate these dreaded exercises into your workouts? Which ones will you add now? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments below!

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