When you exercise, you’re putting in hard work, time, and effort – and you want to be sure you’re reaping the benefits in return. You also want to ensure that you’re not causing more harm than good by doing activities that may leave you injured or in pain. These exercises to avoid will guide you in choosing the right workout.
Some people make it a point to rotate between virtually every piece of exercise equipment in their gym. But, contrary to popular belief, just because it’s in your gym doesn’t automatically make it the best choice for your workout.
In fact, there are several common exercises that may be taking up your valuable exercise time for very little benefit (or even injury) in return.
Exercises To Avoid #1. The Elliptical Machine
The elliptical is the go-to machine for many gym goers, and when used properly, it can be a useful exercise machine. However, the elliptical tends to limit your body movements to the gliding motion, which means you’re missing out on other ways your body moves in the real world – like bending and jumping. A simple remedy to this is to vary your workouts.
The elliptical also makes it easy to get too lax in your workout, allowing you to stay on for 45 minutes to an hour at a slow, steady pace. This is inefficient and will not give you the health-boosting, fat-burning effects you’re after.
A high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout will, however, which is why if you’re going to use an elliptical, you should combine it with HIIT (see below for details). When used in this manner, it’s a fine addition to your regular workouts. I use one twice a week and believe it is the best equipment to do high-intensity Peak Fitness exercises.
Exercises To Avoid #2. Ab Crunch Machine
The problem with the ab crunch machine is that it confines you to one limited movement, specifically one that may cause lower back issues, including herniated discs in your spine. In order to effectively train your abs, you’ll want exercises that work your core muscles. This may include:
- Traditional exercises, such as a standard crunch with rotation or a standing rotation with a light hand weight.
- Functional exercises, including work on a stability ball.
- Stabilizing exercises, such as lying on the floor and pulling your belly back toward your spine and holding that position while breathing deeply.
- Extension exercises, such as lying on your stomach with arms extended above your head. Then raising both arms and both legs, at the same time, off the floor. (Hold for a count of 5, or 5 breaths, and slowly return to the floor.)
Exercises To Avoid #3. Leg Extension Machine
The leg extension focuses on the four muscles on your upper leg and thigh — your quadriceps. Strong quadriceps are important for maintaining good leg, hip, and knee strength, but the leg extension machine has all of the resistance near your ankles, which puts a lot of torque on your knees. This can wear down cartilage and potentially damage your knee joints over time.
If you do use the leg extension machine, make sure to keep your muscles engaged the entire time, with only a quick pause at the top and no rest at the bottom.
You’ll notice that your stomach muscles work with your legs on this exercise, but be careful not to allow your back to do the work — not only will it NOT build up the muscles you’re targeting, but it could strain your back, causing problems that may need medical attention.
Alternatively, squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength (including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves) without the risks posed by the leg extension machine. Just make sure you have a knowledgeable trainer review your technique to make sure it is OK and your chest is straight.
Exercises to Avoid #4. Seated Hip Abductor Machine
This machine works out your thigh muscles and glutes using a motion that has little functional use. If you add too much weight, you may also put excess strain on your spine leading to injury. A single-leg box squat, demonstrated in the above below, is a safer alternative to work your inner and outer thighs along with your entire lower body.
Exercises to Avoid #5. Vertical Leg Press
This machine puts a heavy load and excessive flexion on your spine. Loaded flexion of your spine is one of the most common ways to injure your back. Squats will give you many of the same benefits without such a steep risk to your back.
Plus, when done properly, squats trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for your muscle growth and will also help to increase testosterone, and improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs. Squats actually promote body-wide muscle building by catalyzing an anabolic environment, which primes your muscles for growth.
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What To Do Instead
These machines may not be the best exercises but that doesn’t mean you should stop exercising all together. Exercise routines that allow you to use your full body and resist injury are optimal. Yoga, pilates, dance, swimming, walking, and hiking are some examples.
Dr. Joseph Mercola is an osteopathic physician, board-certified in family medicine. He has written two New York Times bestsellers and shared his expertise on ABC News, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN, CBS, Fox News, and in TIME and Forbes magazines.
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