Take a look around your gym: You’ll probably see some fellow gym-goers hammering out these exercises. But that doesn’t mean you should too. These crazy common moves are, at best, ineffective—at worst, dangerous. Here, the moves—and exercise machines—you should ditch from your workout routine, according to trainers.
Smith Machine Squats
Squatting on a Smith machine might look like a safe alternative to the squat rack. In reality, it’s anything but. When you lower into a squat using a Smith machine, your back stays straight and almost perfectly perpendicular to the ground, which compresses and stresses the vertebrae, says Lou Schuler, C.S.C.S., co-author of The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged. Also, since using the Smith machine requires leaning back into the bar, you overly stress your knees, never fully contract your glutes or hamstrings, and don’t train your core.
Machine Leg Extensions
How often do you just sit around and kick out your legs? Probably not often—if ever. So why do so in the gym? “There’s no functional benefit to leg extensions,” says strength coach and personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T. (Functional exercises use your body’s natural movement in ways that apply to real-world motions.) Plus, your knees aren’t designed to carry weight from that angle, which could cause injury. While your injury risk is low if you have otherwise healthy knees, why take the risk if the exercise isn’t even functional to begin with?
Sure, ab machines are a lot more comfortable than arms-behind-the-head sit-ups, but they can make it awkward to activate your ab muscles correctly, says Jessica Fox, a certified Starting Strength coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn.
Behind-the-Head Lat Pull-Downs
When performing lat pulldowns, the bar should always stay in front of your body. As in, always. “Otherwise it’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen,” says women’s strength expert Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S. Pulling the bar down and behind your head and neck places extreme stress and strain on the front of the shoulder joint.
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