Overhyped Exercises That Are Actually Wasting Your Time from Overhyped Exercises That Are Actually Wasting Your Time

Overhyped Exercises That Are Actually Wasting Your Time

There are bad exercises for certain people and many are often not even aware that they are doing more harm than good to their bodies, Gail McGhie, an ACE certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and Level Two TRX Trainer, says. But what makes an exercise useless is not just bad shape.  Age, goals and lifestyle also play a role. People in their 40s have different priorities, such as overall health, than those in their 20s, such as strong glutes and a six-pack.

Lat pulldown

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Lat pulldown is among the top exercises trainers, including McGhie, say do more harm than good. This is the case when people pull the bar down behind their head. “This position is contraindicated because it exacerbates the rounded shoulders and forward head position and puts a lot of stress on the shoulder joint,” she adds.

Crunches

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Crunches are very divisive these days, McGhie says. Constant spinal flexion is not the best thing to do and can lead to disk problems. “Also, much of what we do these days is in a position of forward flexion with the head down and shoulders rounded. My preference is all the variations of a plank,” she adds. People without low back issues can do some crunches but also do exercises to strengthen the lower back such as back planks, bird dogs, and back extensions.

Abductor and adductor machines

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“I don't think much of [them], McGhie says. “These machines restrict the body into a non-functional position.  A more functional method is standing and using a cable machine or a band so the inner thigh, outer thigh and core are all working,” she adds. Position a band above the ankles, brace the core, and look straight ahead with the chest lifted and arms at shoulder height, palms up. Start with the feet shoulder width apart and tap the toe down to 11 o'clock, 3 o'clock and 7 o'clock. 

Kickbacks

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Kickbacks are not the best exercises to work the glutes, McGhie says. “Because of the sedentary lifestyle, the butt muscles get weak and actually stop firing. In order to strengthen the muscles of the butt, the body should be moved in all planes of motion.” Gym machines do not allow for this motion.  Squats, lunges, and deadlifts are all wonderful exercises, but the glutes need to be stimulated even more by exercises such as staggered stance squats, and curtsy lunges, she adds.

Leg extensions and leg curls

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The leg extension machine and its counterpart, the leg curl, lock the body into a position and can produce injury, and, frankly, are not that useful, McGhie says. “Get off the machine and use cables, bands, a stability ball, body weight or a TRX suspension trainer to strengthen and sculpt the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Isolation exercises

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“Generally speaking I prefer functional compound movements to isolation exercises,” McGhie says. Functional compound exercises should be done for overall fitness and strength, but there is often a point where only isolated movements can further develop a muscle that wasn't responding enough to a compound exercise.  If you want to be a bodybuilder, an isolation movement will help.  

Elliptical machine

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Although it’s very easy on the joints and it improves mobility, the elliptical is not a great weight bearing machine because the pedals are off the ground so it isn't contributing to strengthening the bones,” McGhie says.

StairMaster

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The stair climber provides a good cardio workout and is beneficial to bone strength, but it can promote some wear and tear on the knees, according to McGhie. There are many other effective high-intensity cardio routines you can do in fewer than 20 minutes.

Smith machine

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“I never use the Smith Machine for myself or for any of my clients,” McGhie says. “I'm not a proponent of anything that locks you into a fixed position especially involving the shoulders.” A functional movement that requires core activation is preferable to one where the machine does the balancing for you.  A seated hip thrust is a good alternative, she adds.

Russian twist

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“Honestly, I'm not a fan of this exercise,” McGhie says. There are easier and safer moves for a killer core.  The Russian twist can be difficult to master. “I have seen people do this exercise with rounded shoulders and a forward head position with the spine in a C curve,” she adds. To start, sit with your back in a V position where the core is braced, knees are bent, and the feet are on the floor. Maintain the V position, rotate as far as possible to the right and to the left. 

Bench presses

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Though research has shown this staple gym exercise is excellent for building chest and triceps strength, some bench press-related shoulder injuries are common enough to have earned the nickname “bench-presser’s shoulder.” Also, the bench itself limits natural movement in the shoulder blades, putting tremendous stress on rotator cuffs. As such, some fitness experts have deemed bench press unsafe.

Overhead military press

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You are putting a lot of force on your neck and shoulders. The exercise can lead to shoulder problems because it strains your joints when you’re reaching overhead. Imbalances where one arm works harder than the other are common. Simple chest presses are much safer. Don’t bring your hands behind your chest because you can damage the front of your shoulder.

Side bends

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Many people do side bends, but Shane McLean, certified personal trainer at Balance Guy Training, says he is not a fan. Many trainers do not and won’t ever recommend them to clients. Side bends won’t help you build muscle mass. The body moves in an awkward angle, putting your spine in a weakened position. Lift weight with one arm instead. “When you work one hand, arm or a leg at a time, the opposite side has to stabilize so you don’t bend, which means your side muscles are hard at work, he adds.  

Upright rows

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Upright rows expose your shoulder weakness – you are holding weights or a bar while in an internally rotated shoulder position. This is putting too much pressure too close to the joints. Forming a straight line with the shoulders and hands is very stressful for the muscles. That can lead to bursitis. The rotator cuff can tear from the many repetitions, restricting your movements.

Calf raises

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This is not a functional exercise and it won’t help increase the mass of your calf muscles (they are stubborn when it comes to growth). Do exercises that will naturally strengthen the calves such as squats, box jumps or lunges. These exercises are at least functional that have more benefits than simply working the calves.

Overhyped Exercises That Are Actually Wasting Your Time