5 Terrible Exercise Machines You Shouldn’t Be Using

For most people, going to the gym means exercise machines galore. And while some may prove beneficial, others are anything but. Whether you’re just getting started as a beginner or you’re in search of the perfect leg-toning machine, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a piece of equipment promising to help you achieve your goal. But, it’s not always as simple, or safe, as it seems. The next time you’re working your way through the gym’s maze of machines, avoid these ones, which may cause you more angst than anything else.

1. Leg press machine

Athletic girl doing the leg press at the gym

Skip the leg press. | iStock.com/Creative-Family

Strengthening your legs will likely improve the quality of your everyday life, seeing as they’re meant to carry your body around, but you don’t want to do it with one of the machines that has you lie down with your legs above your head. Metabolic training expert BJ Gaddour, owner of StreamFIT.com, told Details (the article is now on The Huffington Post) you won’t actually feel resistance until you’ve added more than what your body weighs. This can be dangerous because all that weight causes your lower back to flex under the pressure, which could result in a herniated disc. The move also neglects to work stabilization muscles in the hips, glutes, or shoulders. You’re better off skipping this machine.

2. Smith machine

Man sitting on bars

The Smith machine also isn’t worth it. | iStock.com

The Smith machine is most commonly recognized for its fixed barbell design, which helps prevent a person from dropping the bar or getting pinned under it. The attached bar, which slides along the steel rails, allows a person to perform vertical motions. But the machine itself doesn’t come without its flaws. One potential danger when using the machine, Prevention says, occurs when the bar is being pulled up and under the chin. During this movement, the nerves in the shoulder area compress, which can lead to inflammation. Additionally, your range of motion is limited when using the Smith machine for squats, and performing the move without proper technique could lead to injury.

3. Pec deck

young man building muscle at the gym

This machine messes with your shoulder joints. | iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

You might think the pec dec a great (and safe) alternative to other dumbbell exercises, but think again. While this machine aims to add bulk to your upper body, it also does a pretty good job at messing with proper alignment. According to Men’s Fitness, “The pec deck yanks your arms backward as you approach the end of the range of motion, and when you relax at the end of the set, which can harm your shoulder joints.”

When a move feels wildly unusual, it’s probably because it is. Forcing your body out of its natural positioning is never wise, so don’t let the presence of a machine make you think otherwise. Besides, you probably don’t need another bad habit pulling your shoulders forward — sitting hunched over at your computer all day takes care of that just fine.

4. Hip abduction

Woman at gym using hip abduction exercise machine

You won’t be helping your muscles with this machine. | iStock.com/LunaMarina

Everyone wants toned legs, and the hip abduction machine aims to work the inner and outer muscles of the thigh with a weight-resisting motion. Building strength is highly beneficial to both stability and injury prevention, but there are better ways to achieve enviable thigh results. So, what exactly are the machine’s flaws? Well, for starters, it’s just logical: the muscles you’re engaging while using the machine don’t come into play when you’re sitting. Therefore, being in a seated position while working them doesn’t serve much purpose. Furthermore, Men’s Journal says these muscles are being trained as isolated movers rather than a stabilizing group working with the whole leg. You don’t use only your calf muscle to run, so why would you want to engage only your thigh muscles when working out your legs?

5. Seated rotation machine

Man doing leg machine

This machine can really hurt your spine. | iStock.com

As a machine targeting abs and obliques, the seated rotation machine attracts a slew of people looking to tone their midsection and kiss muffin tops goodbye. But heed caution before plopping down, as the machine’s twisting motion could be causing more harm than good. Because the pelvis doesn’t move with the chest, Women’s Health says, this motion puts excessive twisting forces on the spine. Mighty as it is, the spine can be fragile, so maintaining proper posture, technique, and alignment is crucial. It’s too hard to do with this piece of equipment, so stay away.