THE BLOG
11/16/2014 10:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Popular Exercises You're Wasting Your Time On

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When is the last time you did something just because you saw everyone else doing it? Like many things in life, just because something is popular, doesn't make it the best choice.

This is also true of the exercises we perform at the gym. Chances are, you've done (or still do) some of the exercises that I'm about to share with you. There is nothing "wrong" with them per say, other than not being the best use of your time.

Just because you see people using a machine at the gym (or you've read about it in a fitness magazine) doesn't mean it's the best choice for your body and personal goals. With everyone's crazy schedule these days, you need to be selective with your gym time and make sure that each and every exercise gets you the biggest bang for your buck.

I don't know about you, but I prefer my time at the gym short, sweet and effective! I want results, and I make sure to select exercises that will be more efficient, with the least risk of injury.

Below, I've highlighted a few exercises that I believe can be eliminated from your daily workout. With the craziness of today's modern schedule, nobody has time to waste.

1. Smith Machine Squats (SMS):

Squats are one of the best compound movements you can do for the lower body; Smith Machine Squats however, are not.

Traditional squats require the core and lower back for stabilization, the entire body working in unison to perform the movement. SMS, on the other hand, isolate the legs and put greater stress on the knees.

Typically, when I see people using this machine they have their legs placed too far forward and are leaning back on the bar for support. In addition to being completely unbalanced, this position is just plain ineffective.

Still think SMS are "safer" than your traditional squat? I think not. Sure, you may feel more confident as they are easier to perform, but you'd be much better off having someone qualified teach you how to squat with the proper form and weight. Plus, your legs and bum will never look better (just an added bonus)!

2. Abduction/Adduction Machines:

Women especially seem to gravitate towards these machines, believing they can "spot reduce" those trouble thigh areas. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as spot reduction. You cannot eliminate fat from a targeted area of the body; only overall fat loss is possible.

The paper towel analogy is the perfect way to describe this. Imagine your body is a roll of paper towels (each sheet representing a layer of fat). As we lower our body fat percentage, sheets are torn off the roll. As this process continues, the roll becomes thinner and thinner overall, much like our bodies as we lose weight. Like a roll of paper towels, we cannot choose which parts of our body become thinner. Your body will only change as you reduce its overall fat level.

In addition to not reducing the fat on your thighs, this exercise is considered an "isolation movement," making it less effective for an overall body workout. Stick to compound movements (such as squats and lunges) if you want to improve your legs. Compound movements target additional muscular groups and are more effective overall.

3. Abdominal Crunch Machines:

Let's first talk briefly about how these abdominal crunch machines work vs. other exercises. When using them you are isolating the abs, which may sound good in theory, but in the real world the abdominal muscles never work in isolation. By nature, our abs contract as way to protect our spine, using the hip flexors to do so.

Abdominal machines are specifically designed to take the hip flexors out of the movement, allowing the arms, shoulders and legs to assist (vs. relying on the core for strength). You're much better off letting the core do its own work and sticking to some solid exercises such as V-ups, Reverse Crunches and Hanging Leg Raises.

4. Lat Pull-Downs, Behind the Head:

While you probably see a lot of people performing this exercise in the gym, the reality is that very few have shoulder joints mobile enough to keep their spine straight during this exercise.

The movement required of this lat pull-down variation can cause stress to the rotator cuff muscles and lead to shoulder injury. Stick with traditional lat pull downs, keeping the bar in front of your collarbone.

5. And Finally, Stop Leaning on the Cardio Machines!

Okay, so this isn't really an "exercise," but it definitely warrants a mention. I know some of you are guilty!

Leaning (or clinging for dear life) to the treadmill and Stairmaster railing is NOT beneficial; it does not increase your caloric burn. You're much better off decreasing the speed or incline and letting your legs do the work. Putting unneeded stress on the wrists and shoulders doesn't help matters.

Think about it, the reason you're leaning/holding yourself up in the first place is to "make it easier." You work hard to use proper form when lifting and cardio shouldn't be any different! So for the love of your poor little wrists, just let go and turn down the speed a bit.

And there you have it. Five exercises that can be eliminated from your workouts! If you found this article informative and would love to hear more, I invite you to check out my bio and download a free copy of my complete fitness tracker here!

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