Image by: CherryPoint
By Jake Bradshaw
Not all gym exercises are good, in fact most of them are a downright waste of time. Just because you see countless of people in line to use these machines don’t make them a good choice for you. To find a good machine requires some thought. If it doesn’t work your muscles in a natural motion like you would normally do in your every day chores, chances are, it’s time to pass it by.
Many of us go by word of mouth when deciding the best machines for us instead of looking at the facts. Let’s look at some of the most popular machines that you should start giving the cold shoulder to at your next gym visit.
#1) Bosu Ball Exercises
This has gained popularity because of its new take on weight-balance. By performing lifts on an unstable surface, the theory states, you will build more muscle than lifting with your feet flat on the ground due to the constant shifting. This is anything but true.
Though it might be fun to try every so often, it should never be depended on when trying to build muscle and strength. You will never be able to support much weight since the ball makes the body unstable, which makes you burn far less calories for twice the amount of work.
- Alternative: If you’re going to use the Bosu Ball for anything, turn it into a solid push up. Flip the flat surface over so that the “ball” side is facing the ground. Use the shifting feeling as a resistance for each push up.
#2) Leg Curls
There’s really no reason to do this exercise. In your walking life, it is highly unlikely that your hamstrings will ever work in isolation. They are meant to act in unison with the ass and lower back, so working them alone will only create imbalances in the body, which will ultimately affect your posture or the way you walk.
- Alternative: 45-degree back extension on an apparatus. Keep your feet firm underneath the padlock and make sure the angle is at 45-degrees (the machine should display it). Bring a weight to your chest and bend towards the ground, then back up again. This move works your hams, ass, and lower back together in ways you would normally do in your daily life, i.e. picking up things off the floor. This will enhance the training.
#3) Ab Machine Crunches
This is always going to be unnatural since nearly every machine will go against your natural alignment. They also put way less strain on the lower back, which is something the abs aren’t designed to contract without. A likely result will be a noticeable muscle imbalance.
- Alternative: Ab lifts on an arm lift. This requires no weights at all, only resistance. It also combines your lower back and your abs, in unison, to perform a single task. By lifting your body up by your arms and elbows, your feet dangling underneath, lift your legs up to a 90-degree angle if you can, then back down again. Repeat until failure.
#4) Behind-The-Neck Pulldown & Press
No one truly has the shoulder flexibility that allows them to do behind-the-neck exercises properly. To get the full extent of it, you need to have full range of motion in your shoulders and arms. Most of us don’t, yet we still think we can do. Often times it leads to serious injury later on in life.
- Alternative: There is nothing wrong with the traditional pulldowns and presses, i.e. in front of the chest instead of behind the neck. There’s nothing serious you are missing out on, except the risk of injury and strain.
#5) The Smith Machine
A lot of hardcore bodybuilders love to get on this machine. Why? Because it allows you to load much more weight than you can actually handle, leaving the other guys feeling jealous. The truth is this machine is pretty much bad for everything, squatting and benching being the worst.
The machine totally removes the stabilizer muscles from lifts and forces an unnatural range of motion, the result being what weight trainers call “sub-par” gains in both size and strength, which becomes super obvious when you switch over to free weights. You will quickly find that your muscles grew used to this kind of unnatural extension and molded themselves around it.
- Alternative: Free weights are always the better option. It works around your body’s own flexibility and doesn’t make the effort counterproductive. Bring out a bench and you can basically mimic whatever machine in the gym you want to do, however, your muscles will be much more ripped since they’re working their natural motion.