When you walk into the weight room at the gym, there is a myriad of workout machines that promise to tone your deltoids or sculpt your abs. While many of these machines are a safe and effective option to exercise certain muscle groups, some just don’t work. Here are the ones to skip next time you’re at the gym.
Seated leg extension machine. This is that machine you sit in like a chair, then lift a weight with your ankles or calves to work your quadriceps. However, it is an unnatural motion for your body and can put stress on the ligaments and tendons around your knees.
• Do this instead: The good ol’ squat is a much more natural action for your body that will also work your quads. For an even more intense workout, squat with one leg while extending the other straight out in front of you. You can use a rail to balance at first, or extend your arms straight out in front of you for balance.
Seated shoulder press machine. This is one of many seated machines that involve grasping handles and pushing them out in front of you or above you. It is designed to train the shoulders and triceps, but can put unnecessary strain on your shoulders. When you push something overhead naturally, your hips help your shoulders, and this machine makes that impossible.
• Do this instead: Throw a medicine ball against a wall or to a gym buddy for a better workout. Squat when you catch the ball, and rise when you throw it, blending your movements into one continuous motion.
Seated chest fly machine. This machine is common in gyms – you sit down, place your arms on pads on either side and flex them toward the center, working your pectoral and shoulder muscles. This can put your shoulders in an unstable position, putting strain on the shoulder joint and its connective tissue.
• Do this instead: Nothing wrong with a classic pushup! In fact, there are a lot of things right about this move. While toning your chest, back and shoulder muscles, this exercise also forces you to stabilize your core, building muscle there, too. You can start with incline pushups on a ball or a bench, then progress to regular pushups if this is too easy.
Gym machines can be effective when they are used correctly. But many times, using your own weight to challenge yourself is a better, safer option – and you don’t even need to be at the gym.