• 19 Dec - 25 Dec, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly

Take a look around your gym: You'll probably see some fellow gym-goers hammering out these exercises. But that doesn't mean you should too. These crazy common moves are, at best, ineffective – at worst, dangerous. Here are the moves – and exercise machines – you should ditch from your workout routine.

Smith machine squats

Squatting on a Smith machine might look like a safe alternative to the squat rack. In reality, it's anything but. When you lower into a squat using a Smith machine, your back stays straight and almost perfectly perpendicular to the ground, which compresses and stresses the vertebrae. Also, since using the Smith machine requires leaning back into the bar, you overly stress your knees, never fully contract your glutes or hamstrings, and don't train your core.

Try instead: Weighted squats

Save yourself the risk and learn how to do a barbell squat without the machine. Both bodyweight and weighted squats (e.g., goblet, barbell, and dumbbell variations) train your entire lower body functionally, effectively, and without overstressing your joints. Plus, since you're not relying on the stability of a machine, these exercises also work your core.

Machine leg extensions

How often do you just sit around and kick out your legs? Probably not often – if ever. So why do so in the gym? There's no functional benefit to leg extensions. Plus, your knees aren't designed to carry weight from that angle, which could cause injury. While your injury risk is low if you have otherwise healthy knees, why take the risk if the exercise isn't even functional to begin with?

Try instead: Squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges

All of these moves are great for training your quads. Not to mention, they simultaneously strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and smaller stabilising muscles. Since these are all functional exercises, tapping your body's natural movement patterns, your knees are designed to take their weight.

Ab machines

Sure, ab machines are a lot more comfortable than arms-behind-the-head sit-ups, but they can make it awkward to activate your ab muscles correctly.

Try instead: Planks

Most people can – and should – just do full sit-ups. Even better? Drop into a plank: It's more effective for toning your abdominals than an assisted crunch (or any machine), and typically safe for people who can't do sit-ups because of neck pain.

Behind-the-head lat pull-downs

When performing lat pulldowns, the bar should always stay in front of your body. As in, always. Otherwise it's a shoulder injury waiting to happen. Pulling the bar down and behind your head and neck places extreme stress and strain on the front of the shoulder joint.

Try instead: Wide-grip lat pull-downs

Pulldowns are still your traps' main move – just focus on aiming the bar toward your collarbone. You don't need to bring the bar all the way to your chest, but you should move in that direction

The elliptical

Ellipticals are simple to use – which is why people gravitate to them. But, since you move through a relatively small range of motion, it is so easy to slack on these things.

Try instead: Rowing machine

The rowing machine is a better choice to get your heart rate up. Rowing incorporates a lot of muscle mass into the movement, and with a little technique can provide a wallop of a workout. Skeptical? Attempt a 250-meter sprint at max effort, and you’ll never want to step on the elliptical again.

Very light dumbbells

Light weights have their place in barre or spin class, but if you're lifting too light you could be missing out on some serious sculpting. Yes, you will want to start out light if you've never lifted. But over time you must lift progressively heavier weights to gain strength and definition.

Try instead: Anything over five pounds

How heavy should you go? Depending on the exercise, the weights should be heavy enough that the last two reps of each set are significantly challenging.

Triceps dips

It's meant to train your triceps, but it can easily end up overloading the small muscles that make up your shoulder's rotator cuff. It's a risk to lift your body weight when your upper arms are behind your torso. Damage those muscles and even everyday tasks – like washing your hair – can become painful.

Try instead: Cable pushdowns, triceps push-ups, and close-grip bench presses

Tone your triceps while keeping your arms in front of your body with any of these moves.