Walking into the gym and expecting a great workout is like walking into the grocery store and expecting a fancy gourmet meal. Sure, the basics you need are there, but you also need a little knowledge and dedication to enjoy a perfect entree.
To help you make the most of every workout, we’re “weighing in” on what you shouldn’t bother with at the gym…as well as more reliable exercise alternatives.
1. Leg-Curl Machine
What it should do: Train the quadriceps.
What it actually does: Your hamstrings move in two ways – knee flexion and hip extension. The leg curl machine works knee flexion, it strengthens a motion your legs aren’t actually designed to do, and can put undue strain on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the kneecaps.
A better way: One-legged body-weight squats. Lift one leg up and bend the opposite knee, dipping as far as you can, with control, while flexing at the hip, knee, and ankle. Use a rail for support until you develop requisite leg strength and balance. Aim for five to 10 reps on each leg. (If you are susceptible to knee pain, do the Bulgarian split squat instead, resting the top of one foot on a bench positioned two to three feet behind you. Descend until your thigh is parallel to the ground and then stand back up. Do five to 10 reps per leg.)
2. Seated Inner & Outer Thigh Machine
What it should do: Train inner and outer thigh muscles.
What it actually does: While this machine should work the inner and outer thigh muscles, it only works the small, stabilizer muscles, and strengthens a movement that has no functional use. If done with excessive weight and jerky technique, it can put undue pressure on the spine.
A better way: Place a heavy, short, looped resistance band around your legs (at your ankles); sidestep out 20 paces and back with control. This is much harder than it sounds.
3. Seated Leg Press
What it should do: Train quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
What it actually does: It often forces the spine to flex without engaging any of the necessary stabilization muscles of the hips, glutes, shoulders, and lower back.
A better way: Body-weight squats. Focus on descending with control as far as you can without rounding your lower back. Aim for 15 to 20 for a set and increase sets as you develop strength.
4. Smith Machine For Rows
What it should do: This is a multi-purpose machine using a bar attached to a sliding sled, is used for upright rows.
What it actually does: Pulling the bar up and under the chin in this way compresses nerves in the shoulder area and can lead to inflammation.
A better way: Strengthen the same muscles without the injury risk with dumbbell front raises.
5. Smith Machine For Squats