Update Your Exercise

A lot of popular exercises are not as effective as you might think.

In fact, many techniques and tools can cause you more harm than good if done or used incorrectly, which they often are.

Today we tackle 5 exercises you should stop doing and offer you some more effective alternatives.

Leg extensions

If you’re a gym goer you’ve probably seen the leg extension machines in frequent use. The trouble is, outside of specific uses for rehabilitation, these machines are not very effective.

To use it, you sit up in the chair part of the machine, keeping your back straight, and you tuck your lower legs behind the bar. You then lift your legs, fully extending them, thus lifting the weights attached to the machine.

TheFatherLife.com explains the issue with this: “Despite the “burn” you may feel from your upper thighs when performing this exercise, it is not a very efficient leg exercise as it only isolates the muscles above the knee.

What’s the alternative?

Stick with squats…

Squats are great for your legs but they can have other benefits too.

When you do a squat you work many different muscle groups, including your core. In addition to strengthening your quads, hamstrings and glutes, you’re working smaller muscles around your knees and toning your pelvic floor as well.

When you squat you want to bend at the knees and stick your butt out while engaging your core. Only go as low as you can while keeping your heels on the floor. Gradually work up to going lower and lower.

This is an exercise that you can easily change up to make your workout more interesting. You can do squats on the spot, or you can add a lunge and make your way around a room or a track. Any variation like this will bring in additional muscle groups.

You can also use free weights to increase the resistance and even work your arms at the same time. Just make sure you don’t get distracted, keep your core engaged and maintain good posture.

Quit the crunches…

Still doing crunches or sit-ups? 

While a perfectly executed crunch can have benefits for your abs, especially when combined with other core strengthening exercises, they are easy to do incorrectly and can lead to injury. On top of that, they’re just not all that effective.

Plank it...

Rather than risk hurting your back with crunches that won’t help you reach your goals anyway, try a plank challenge.

This is where you make time to plank every day and increase the amount of time by a little bit each day. Once you get to be a pro you can add variations that up the challenge even more, like leg lifts or putting a yoga ball under your feet.

For a clear description of how to achieve a plank, download our free core strengtheners guide.

Chest Press

You’ve probably seen a chest press machine at the gym. You adjust the weight, sit down with your knees apart, put your arms and hands behind bars with hand grips and you push the weight forward.

This is supposed to be great for your pecs and it seems to give your arms a workout too.

TheActiveTimes.com explains why this isn’t all that effective:

Any machine where you have to adjust the weight is not recommended… because people don’t get the benefits of full range of motion. Studies have shown that the load on the muscle in the longer range of motion is actually greater even though people are lifting less weight. “On a chest press machine, you just push but don’t control anything,” Ross adds.

Push it…

Push-ups will also work your pecs but you’re using your own body weight as the resistance. As you get stronger, you can just add more reps. 

Be sure to position your hands beneath your shoulders and keep your back rigid. You need to engage your core, your glutes and your legs to maintain proper form. Go as low as you can while maintaining form.

If full push-ups are too much for you, you can start with your knees on the ground. Just be sure to keep your butt in line with your back and your legs.

Skip the Smith Machine…

The Smith Machine is a popular gym machine. Many people use it for squats, but it can also be used for shoulder presses. You stand for this exercise, and you lift a weight bar that is held by the machine, so you don’t need a spotter.

This is meant to improve your shoulders, but it’s not working your body the way you want it to.

FitandHealthyEveryday.com explains: “The Smith Machine fixes your weight’s path so that you only need to push it up and down. You don’t need to work to keep the weight stable, meaning fewer muscles in your shoulders work during every rep.

Use free weights instead

It might not seem like you would get as great a workout using lighter weights, but free weights will force you to control the movement of your muscles in addition to pushing the weight up and down.

Doing shoulder presses this way you will get a better burn and much better results.

Running to stand still

Running is a very popular starting point for a lot of people because it seems like it doesn’t involve a lot of skill or equipment. Unfortunately, it’s not actually that effect a way to lose weight. Plus, it’s really easy to hurt yourself if you don’t have both good shoes and good form.

While running is great for cardiovascular health, it doesn’t involve that much muscle building. Because muscle burns fat, even when you’re at rest, you’re better off with something that includes more resistance.

If you are still interested in starting a running regimen, we recommend taking a ‘learn to run’ course and investing in a very good pair of shoes.

Ride a bike

Riding a bike is something that most people already know how to do and you probably even have a usable bike hanging around. A quick tune-up may be all you need to get started.

If your bike has multiple gears, you can adjust them to increase resistance so that you’re building more muscle in your legs and core or reduce it for a straight cardio workout. Even without a wide range of gears, you can plan your route around hills and flat areas to get the same effect.

If you live in a snowy climate and don’t want to brave the cold and ice, a stationary bike at the gym will get you the same results (although it might be a little less exciting). You can also buy bike trainers that allow you to bring your street bike indoors to use as a stationary bike. These are much less expensive than buying a stationary bike or getting a gym membership for a year.

If you are riding outdoors be sure that you have proper safety gear and know the laws that apply to cyclists in your area.

Related Links:

http://thefatherlife.com/mag/2011/01/14/5-old-exercises-you-shouldnt-be-doing-in-the-new-year/
http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/list/201402/trainer-confessions-5-exercises-dont-do-what-you-think-they-do
http://overachievefitness.blogspot.ca/2013/03/new-core-exercises-and-why-crunches-are.html
http://www.theactivetimes.com/moreslideshows/content/16-ineffective-exercises-you-should-never-do
http://fitandhealthyeveryday.com/8-exercises-that-you-should-pass-at-the-gym/
http://howtofightobesity.com/ineffective-exercises-at-the-gym/

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These 3 exercises are great for your core and easy to do at home.
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