One of the reasons going to the gym can be so intimidating is that there are so many ways in which to injure yourself, or simply waste your time. A particular exercise may look like a great way to get a good workout, but in practice, might not be doing anything beneficial for your body at all, and could even be harming it. With an influx of new workout routines and popular fitness regimens, what’s beneficial and what’s not is quickly becoming even harder to discern.
Here are six exercises to avoid the next time you hit the gym.
1. Behind-the-head lat pull-down
One way to develop a killer set of arms is to incorporate the lat pull-down into your routine, but making sure you’re performing the exercise correctly is key. One way to completely screw it up and put your body at risk is to bring the bar down behind your head, rather than in front of you — much like a pull-up. There’s risk of shoulder and back injury when you bring the bar down behind you, so be sure to always pull it straight down. Trainer Sean Nalewanyj discusses the differences in the video above.
2. The Smith machine
Sean Nalewanyj again discusses the pros and cons of the squatter’s favorite helper — the Smith machine. While a Smith machine is a great way to start squatting, doing so with traditional free weights and a barbell is probably a better and safer bet. Basically, the Smith machine limits your range of motion and allows you to perform squats with improper form, which can lead to injury. As Nalewanyj discusses above, it can be a good tool, but you’re better off just hitting the squat rack.
3. Kipping pull-up
If you know any CrossFitters, you may be familiar with the kipping pull-up. In the video above, trainer Jason Khalipa does an excellent job of explaining the mechanics of the exercise, and how to put all the moves together. The problem is that it’s a dangerous move that can result in injury. The whipping of your body on the bar can put heavy stress on your muscles and tendons, and it is recommended that you instead opt for traditional dead-hang pull-ups. There is still some debate, but outside of the CrossFit community, kipping pull-ups are not often recommended.
4. Leg press
The leg press is a fixture in many gyms and can be beneficial for many people. But it does have some problems, and when used incorrectly or without proper form, you can end up hurting yourself. And that’s the key — you have to make sure you’re using the machine properly. The whole point of the leg press is to alleviate pressure on your back, and if you’re not on the machine in the correct position, it’s a bust. Researchers suggest you just do squats instead.
5. Ab machines
You’ve seen all of those ab machines at your gym, with people twisting, turning, and contorting themselves in an effort to build a six pack. Yeah — avoid those. Using them can lead to poor posture and muscle imbalances. These machines don’t provide much benefit, truthfully, and are typically used by people who think if they target their stomach muscles during the workout, they’ll develop washboard abs. Well, you can’t spot-burn fat, so you’re better off getting a balanced workout if you want those abs to show up. Keep clear of these machines.
6. Jumping jack press
Jumping jack presses are not something you see a lot of people doing, and with good reason. On the surface, it looks like a great way to get in some cardio, while doing a bit of weight training simultaneously. It can be, but the move also puts a lot of undue pressure on your body, and many experts suggest you avoid them. Jumping jacks can lead to joint and tendon problems, particularly in your legs. Some trainers say there’s absolutely no benefit to doing them at all — so you’re better off just going for a run, or doing some military presses instead.