7 Common Exercise Moves That Actually Work Against You
Did you know that you’re better off skipping crunches, plank rows and more? Here’s the right moves to tone your abs, arms and thighs.
Squats on a BOSU ball
The BOSU ball – half exercise ball, half flat platform – can add an element of instability to your workout. But doing squats or other moves while standing on the rounded side of the ball may actually set you up for injury.
“Unless you’re a top athlete you’ll likely have worse form,” says Lindsey Wismer, a personal trainer and nurse practitioner at Merritt Health and Wellness in Portland, Oregon. Your knees and ankles may roll in or out, causing a breakdown in alignment all the way through your body. Stick with traditional squats or wall squats, where you have your back against a wall and your knees directly over your ankles, until you are ready to advance the move.
You know that head forward, rounded shoulders posture that you get from reading your phone or sitting at your computer? That’s the same body position as a crunch, says Wismer.
“Because most people do a crunch by pulling up on the head, not by using the abs, all this move does is reinforce that bad posture.”
Until you are strong enough to do a crunch using your abs and not pulling, try to use your legs instead. Lying on your back, lift your legs to the sky, and lower them part way down – until you feel your core really tighten – then lift them back up.
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This move isn’t confusing: It looks exactly how it sounds. You hold dumbbells then punch forward into the air. What is confusing is why anyone would do it, says Alain Aguilar, a lecturer in exercise and sport science and staff athletic trainer for men’s soccer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“If you have limited time or energy, this exercise isn’t going to give you the most bang for your buck,” says Aguilar.
The move doesn’t really target the shoulders or arms, although it might count as a conditioning exercise if done fast enough and long enough. To tone your arms, stick with tried-and-true biceps curls and triceps extensions.
For stronger shoulders, says Wismer, shoulder shrugs are mostly for professional bodybuilders. Most other people should skip these and focus on arm and back moves.
Shoulder shrugs target only the trapezius muscles that run along the top of the shoulders and the neck, reinforcing postural problems and contributing to shoulder tension. To tone the top of the arms, work the deltoids, such as with straight arm lifts to the sides.
If you want to primarily strengthen your core, this move works wonders. But to strengthen your back and arms, traditional rows are more effective.
“This move works stability,” says Aguilar. “But the position minimizes the force producing capability of the rowing muscles.”
In layman’s terms: The balance challenge that comes from holding a one-armed plank will limit your ability to row a heavy weight with proper fitness form and adequate force.
Inner and outer thigh machine
Not only is this possibly the most unflattering machine at the gym, it’s might not be the most effective.
“When you use this, you’re probably sitting with bad posture and not using your abs,” says Wismer. “You can strengthen the same muscles leg by doing a squat, dead lift, or lunge. Plus you’ll target several more which will be better for overall strength and weight loss.”
Lat pull-downs behind the neck
The lat pull-down machine allows you to build arm, torso, and back strength by pulling a weighted bar down in front of your chest. But when you switch to pulling the bar behind your neck, your alignment is off and the shoulder is impinged, says Aguilar. Prevent debilitating shoulder injuries – or any injuries really – by stretching.