It would be disappointing to spend hours of your week working out and never seeing any results, right?
If you make the effort to carve out time and motivation to hit the gym or workout at home, it would be terrible to realize your exercises are not working like you expect.
Surprisingly, not all exercises are good for you. You can do hundreds of reps, but if the exercise is ineffective, not only you’ll never see any results, but you can get hurt as well.
How can you know which exercises are working and which aren’t?
I’ll tell you about 5 ineffective exercises you need to quit right now.
I’ll also give you better exercise alternatives!
The superman exercise is widely used in many fitness programs, videos, and can even be recommended by your trainer. It works like this:
How it’s done: Lying face down on the ground with your arms extended forward (just like how Superman looks like when he flies), lift your arms and legs off the ground as high as you can, creating an arch on your back.
Targeted Muscles: Erector spinal muscles (low back), glutes and hamstrings.
However, the superman exercise is not as super as it sounds.
What it claims it does: This exercise supposedly strengthens your back and tones your butt and legs.
What it does: The truth is the exercise can be straining your back instead of strengthening it. The small range of motion can hurt your low back.
Why you should avoid the Superman exercise:
- It can compress your nerves: When you lift your arms and legs and arch your back, the nerve roots located in space between your spinal joints can compress because the spinal joints will move closer together. This can cause back pain.
- You can hurt your low back instead of toning your legs: When you move your legs up in the superman position, it wouldn’t be unusual to use the muscles in your low back to help prop your legs up. It’s extremely common for people to rely on their backs to lift their legs up because it’s hard to isolate the leg muscles in this position.
- In other words, to keep your back safe you need perfect form and absolute control over your leg muscles. Using your back to lift your legs can cause straining and injuries.If you are a beginner or don’t have a lot of strength in your legs, it will be extremely difficult to achieve perfect form and keep your back safe.
- It has a very limited range of motion: The small range of motion of the exercise will limit the amount of strength you can get from the movement. There are other alternatives that work your back in a better way.
- You can’t upgrade it: Unlike other exercises, you can’t keep on increasing the amount of weight you lift. If you reach a point in which you completely dominate the exercise with your body weight, you can’t add weights to make it challenging.
What to do instead: Bird Dog Exercise
The bird dog exercise targets the low back, your core, and improves your balance in a safe way.
It’s better than Superman reps because it doesn’t put your back at risk and you can add weights to make it challenging.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start on the floor on all fours. Wrists in line with shoulders and knees in line with your hips.
- Tighten your core.
- Raise your left leg off the floor and straighten it behind you. Then raise your right arm straight in front of you.
- Hold for 6-10 seconds.
- Release and switch sides, alternating the leg and arm you lift off the floor every rep.
- Repeat 8 times on each side.
Abductor and Adductor Machines
Machines that work your inner and outer thighs can seem like a good way to strengthen those muscles you rarely focus on. The abductor and adductor machines work this way:Mechanics: The machines work your inner and outer thighs by isolating your abductors and adductors, like this:
What it claims it does: Strengthens your abductors and adductors by focusing exclusively on those areas.
What it does: The machines don’t help you get real life benefits from the exercise. Isolating your inner and outer thighs is inefficient because these muscles are meant to work along with larger muscles in your legs and therefore should be exercised together to reap real life benefits, like better balance and strength.
Why you should avoid the Abductor and Adductor Machines:
- They put your body in an unnatural position.
- They isolate muscles that are meant to work along with larger muscles.
- They waste your workout time by focusing only on your abductors and adductors when you could be doing exercises that work several leg muscles at the same time.
What to do instead: Single Leg Squats
Instead of wasting your time with a machine that will give you little to no benefits, do body weight or weighted single leg squats.
Single leg squats will target your hips, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, inner and outer thighs, and calves. They will also help to tone your core and improve your balance, all in one exercise!
It seems pretty silly to spend your time at the machine now, doesn’t it?
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your arms straight in front of you.
- Balance on one leg and extend your other leg in front of you as high as possible.
- Squat starting with your hips, not your knees. You want the majority of your weight to remain on your heels.
- Squat down as low as possible while you keep your other leg lifted.
- Keep a straight back.
- Come back up from the squat until you’re standing again.
- Switch legs and repeat the squat.
- Do 8 reps on each leg.
BOSU Ball Squats
BOSU balls may seem like a nice prop to upgrade your workout, but doing squats or any other kind of strength training over unstable surfaces is a bad idea, and you’ll soon learn why. BOSU ball squats work this way:
How it’s done: You step over the BOSU ball on either the flat or the curved side. You do a normal squat starting from your hips, going as low as you can and then coming back up. You can do it with just bodyweight or with dumbbells.
Targeted muscles: The same as a regular squat: hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calves, and adductors.
What it claims it does: Doing a squat on a BOSU ball will supposedly engage your core, give your muscles an extra challenge, and improve your balance.
What it really does: Doing a squat on an unstable surface is completely ineffective. The BOSU ball won’t let your muscles activate completely and focus on lifting the weight because they will be too busy trying to keep you balanced.
In fact, studies have shown that power output and range of motion decrease when you do strength exercises over unstable surfaces.
A clinical commentary published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found the following:
“In addition to instability-induced force and power deficits, instability exercises have been shown to affect adversely movement velocity and range of motion when performing a squat. Hence the ability to exert force, power or move at high velocity is strongly related to an individual’s balance and stability when performing the task.”
That means that your squats over the BOSU ball will be less effective.
Why you should avoid BOSU Ball Squats:
- The targeted muscles work less on building strength because they need to keep you stable.
- You get less range of motion.
- You increase your risk of injuries.
- You can’t lift as much weight as you could in a flat surface.
- Your reps will be different because your balance will shift.
- You burn fewer calories because you need to lift a lower weight to remain balanced.
What to do instead: Weighted Squats
To avoid all the side effects of squatting on an unstable surface, stick to squatting on the floor. You don’t need a fancy ball to make your strength training exercises more effective.
A flat surface will allow you to lift more weight, your muscles will focus completely on lifting that weight, you’ll have afull range of motion, your knees will be stable, and you’ll be able to keep a good form more easily. That way you’ll reap all the butt-lifting and leg-toning benefits of the squats!
Here’s how to do a perfect squat:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing forward.
- Keep your back flat and gaze forward.
- If you’re using weight, hold the dumbbells over your shoulders or hold a kettlebell near your chest.
- Start by pushing your hips back and bend your knees.
- Place the majority of your weight on the heels, not your toes.
- Go down at least until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
- Come back up.
- Repeat for 45 seconds.
Doing tricep dips on a bench can put your shoulders at risk. It may seem challenging, but there are far safer and more effective alternatives to tone your arms. Here’s why you need to skip bench dips:
How it’s done: Sit on a bench and hold it with both handsright beside you and the back of your hands facing forward. Move your butt away from the bench and hover on the edge. Extend your legs for the harder version; otherwise remain with your knees bent. Lower yourself toward the floor as low as you can using your arms. Pull yourself back up. Repeat.
Targeted muscles: Triceps.
What it claims it does: The bench dips are meant to strengthen your triceps and tone your arms.
What it really does: The movement of the dip is very strenuous for your rotator cuff. It puts your shoulder joints at risk because the range of motion is quite wide.
Why you should avoid Bench Dips:
- It puts your shoulders in an unstable and unnatural position.
- Your rotator cuff works extra hard to allow the range of motion of the dip.
- It puts your shoulder joint in a vulnerable position if you’re not flexible enough in that area.
What to do instead: Standing Triceps Extension
A standing triceps extension is far more effective at toning your arms and increasing strength without putting your shoulders at risk.
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees.
- Hold a weight with both hands over your head.
- Lower it behind your head, keeping your elbows close to your ears.
- Press it back up.
- Repeat for 45 seconds.
Shoulder Press Machine
The shoulder press machine is another one you should stay away from at the gym; head to the free weight section instead. Here’s how the shoulder press machine works:
Mechanics: The machine lets you lift theheavy weight on each arm. It limits your range of motion to prevent injuries.
Targeted muscles: Deltoids, triceps, and biceps.
What it claims it does: A shoulder press machine is supposed to help you build stronger and leaner arms without the risk of injury by controlling the range of motion.
What it actually does: The limited range of motion of the machine doesn’t allow your rotator cuffs to get stronger. It also burns fewer calories because the exercise is isolating the arm completely.
Why you should avoid the Shoulder Press Machine:
- It blocks your range of movement.
- It allows a smaller range of motion than free weight presses.
- It doesn’t strengthen your rotator cuff.
- It burns fewer calories.
- It takes you more time to build strength than with free weight presses.
What to do instead: Overhead Press
Free weight presses are far better at engaging and toning more muscles in the movement. It frees up your range of motion, and it helps you burn more calories.
Here’s how you do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
- Hold your weights close to your shoulders.
- Lift your weights over your head.
- Bring the weights back down until your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
- Press back up and repeat for 45 seconds.
Not all exercises will be effective. Some can put you at risk, so always do your research.
As a rule of thumb, most machine exercises are less effective than the free weight versions of them.
On your next workout, skip the superman exercises, the bench dip, and the BOSU ball squat.
If you’re hitting the gym, stay away from the abductor and adductor machine and the shoulder press machine.
Trying out the alternative exercises won’t harm. Taking precaution when trying to build your body is a good way to keep it fit and free from any injuries in the long run.
To stay safe and increase your results, grab free weights and lift!