FITNESS EQUIPMENT AND EXERCISES THAT ARE A WASTE OF YOUR TIME - AND WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Ensure sure your gym time is about building a better you rather than breaking you!
This is a mockup. Publish to view how it will appear live.
Not all exercises and equipment are created equally, so if you’re looking to maximise your time working out (to be honest, who isn’t?) then it’s worth your while to know which movements are the most effective. Most machines focus on isolating muscles, which initially sounds good, but the reality is that our bodies and muscle groups rarely work in isolation and that functional exercises that create efficient human movement patterns are much more effective. Here’s just a few of some of the major exercises to avoid the next time you hit the gym along with some more functional suggestions.
Abductor/Adductor Machines (aka the Gynaecologist Machine) These machines are not all that effective but people continue to use them because they’re believed to help tone and isolate the inner thigh and reduce fat, but the fact of the matters is that you can’t spot treat areas. More importantly than just how ineffective the machines are, is the dangerous pressure that the pads isolate onto the knee joint. Since when were we made to take a sideways force of ten’s of kilos on our knees?
What to do instead: Lunges. Whether forwards or backwards, we recommend taking a short step and hinging fully into your hips. This helps keep the natural human movement pattern through the hips and knees whilst strengthening the glutes, hamstrings and quads (and even your ankle complex) with proportion to each other.
Lying Leg Curling Machine This machine is highly non-functional in terms of our natural movements. When would we ever need to move our hamstrings in isolation like this? This exercise also doesn’t engage other main muscle groups throughout your body – the ones that all play a crucial part in landing and avoiding injury.
What to do instead: Single leg deadlift. This exercise activates the whole backside of your body while also engaging the core (all what constitutes our abdominal muscles) and challenging stability. Single leg deadlifts are also intuitive as they mimic real life scenarios in which we would need the strength and balance to do everyday activities like picking up items, climbing stairs, and landing whilst walking and running without collapsing.
Related: Is your fitness functional?
Crunches/Sit Ups and Ab Machines Isolating your abs to get them in a six pack shape sounds great but crunches and ab machines are just not effective and that’s because they don’t require the use of our spine to keep us stable. Research has shown that crunches and ab exercises that don’t use our spines for stability are less effective in activating abdominal muscles.
What to do instead: Planks. They activate more muscles in the abdominal area and (when performed accurately) they won’t put strain on your back. They’ll also bring the awareness and control of a neutral spine posture which is useful for the rest of your workout. With a large variety of exercises that incorporate the plank position, you should never resort to crunches again.
Leg Press Machine While this machine may seem safe, when you start to add the weight on you’re missing out on the stability that comes by performing a squat without assistance. Generally, people have poor form on these machines from adding on too much weight and in a study done by the American Council on Exercise, it ranked the worst out of eight different leg exercises that targeted the glutes. Additionally, the leg press machine can present a huge and often damaging shearing force across the knees, significantly increasing the potential for ligament injury.
What to do instead: Step down slowly off a high box. You’re targeting your legs in a functional and natural movement that creates more stability and will reduce the chance of injury.
Behind the Head Lat Pull-Downs The angle of this exercise is not at all natural and puts strain on our shoulders as they move in a direction they weren’t designed for, and is especially wearing on your rotator cuff. Similarly it puts strain on your spine and encourages a kyphotic posture as you have to drop your head forward in order to get the bar behind your neck.
What to do instead: A shrug and row movement using a rowing machine or suspension trainer (like TRX straps). This way you increase your strength whilst gaining a useful control for improving your posture and integrated strength.