With thousands of exercises you could do, it's not hard to imagine that some are better than others. Some exercises give you a lot of bang for the buck; some exercises are just plain dangerous; and some exercises are just overrated. If you ask the experts what are the most overrated exercises you get a pretty long list. But those that show up over and over include the following.
The Most Overrated Exercises
1. Traditional Crunches.
Walk into any gym at any time of the day or night and you can probably find someone doing crunches. While this exercise is easy to do, and targets the rectus abdominus pretty well, there are far better exercise choices for the abs and core.
Do a Plank on a balance ball instead. All by itself the plank gives you a better core workout than a crunch, but do it on an unstable surface and it works your entire body--shoulders, torso, hips and legs--while improving spine stability.
2. Seated Knee Extensions
The standard seated knee extension is not only over-rated, but it's not great for building any sort of functional strength. This movement focuses exclusively on quad strength, but misses out of the entire movement chain and doesn't help athletes develop lower body strength and stability.
Do a Walking Dumbbell Lunge instead. You'll get a better complete lower body workout with the walking lunge. This helps build dynamic strength and stability throughout the body: quads, hamstrings, and glutes as it improves single-leg strength and stability.
3. Abduction/Adduction Machines
I imagine most people would be happy to avoid this silly machine at the gym. This contraption is intended to condition your abductor and adductor muscles, which are critical for hip and knee stability. The only problem is these monstrous machines don't do a very good job of it. You will never do this movement in real life. In real life the adductor and abductor muscles (the glute medius in particular) help maintain stability in the hip as you move through the entire range of motion (this includes flexion, extension and rotation). In real life this occurs during walking, running, jumping and lateral movements while in a standing position.
Do a Lateral Mini Band Walking instead.
This exercise specifically targets hip function and stability in a real-life way.
4. Traditional Bench Press
Here is another exercise that you will most likely never perform in real life or in most sports. The bench press puts tremendous stress on the shoulder joint, by limiting the movement of the scapula during the movement. (see this explanation) You can modify the bench, or try another exercise.
Do a Push Up instead.
There a literally dozens of ways to modify push ups and increase the intensity and complexity of this basic exercise. If you think you've tried them all, check out the superman push up and the Aztec push up.