Exercise machines are not the most popular tool for trainers, unless they are directly analogous to free-weight and natural cardio workouts. Many machines, though, are inefficient, limited in their muscle engagement, cumbersome to use and potentially dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are five to avoid according to metabolic training BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., as laid out in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Lying Leg Press
The leg press is the machine version of squats, without all the parts that make squats worthwhile. While the leg press will definitely work your quads, it doesn’t activate the hamstrings or hip flexors the way squats do, and because you’re only using a small portion of your legs, you have to load up on more weight to make up for it.
Not only that, but according to Gaddour, the machine puts a lot of pressure on your lower back due to the static, lying form, so you’re not only wasting your time but also putting yourself in harm’s way.
Instead, stick to regular squats, or if you’re allergic to the bar, go for goblet squats. Both of them are much superior to the leg press in engaging a variety of muscles and being safer.
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Seated Leg Extension
This is one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in the gym. Since the weight on this machine is so close to your ankles, it puts a ton of torque on the knee. This can wear down cartilage and cause even more serious damage, for little benefit.
Your old friend the squat is a much better exercise that will engage all the similar muscles, so again, avoid this and go for some old-fashioned body squats.
Seated Chest Press
Less dangerous than the seated leg extension, but equally bad for you, the chest press can cause lop-sided muscles due to the strange range of movement. And like the two leg machines we talked about, the lack of free weight means you lose out on the vastly important stabilizer muscles that are engaged when bench-pressing or using free weights.
Instead, do pushups or bench press. Not only will it strengthen your shoulders, chest and arms like a chest press, but they also engage all the stabilizer muscles, improving your balance.
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The hip machine not only puts a lot of stress on tight hips, but it also works very few muscles. According to Gaddour, one of these machines can strain the spine and make the IT band so tight it will disengage the knee cap.
Try doing single-leg exercises, like single-leg dead lifts or single-leg squats. It’ll work those hip muscles without putting them in danger and also engaging more muscles, reducing the amount of time you have to work.
Loaded Standing Calf Raises
This machine causes a lot of spinal pressure as the shoulder pads put all the weight onto your spine before going anywhere near your calf. Not only is that dangerous, but it’s wildly inefficient.
Try doing one-legged calf raises. Not only does it avoid the injury risks that the machine brings, it also makes it more efficient as you put more weight on your calf, causing it to be the sole muscle that raises you up and down.