Is your workout not working? You’re working hard in the gym or at home, but the exercises you are doing might not be doing anything for you.
Studio 5 Health and Fitness Contributor, Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM, shows some of the exercises that may be wasting your time.
Finding the time to exercise is not easy these days. Even though we all need it – and know how much we need it – it’s still a major sacrifice in a time-starved society. Exercise has huge payoffs and the bottom line is that any movement of our muscles is better than no movement at all. BUT – some exercises are more efficient than others. I’m pretty sure we all want the most bang for our buck in this arena. So if you are looking to burn more calories and see better results from your workouts, then don’t do these inefficient exercises:
1) Full Bicep Curls
That’s right! There are better ways to work your biceps than a plain old bicep curl. The problem is that once you curl past a 45-degree angle, the shoulder takes over. Try it. Put your left hand on the front of your right shoulder and do a curl with your right arm… you’ll feel the front of your elbow slip forward and your shoulder take over the movement after passing that 45-degree mark.
· Instead, try ¾ curls, serving curls or preacher curls.
You can do a plain bicep curl only going ¾ of the way up and down, or a serving curl where you are arms extend out in front with your palms facing up. A preacher curl places your arm in the optimal position to target the bicep muscles and disengage the shoulders. You can use a preacher machine at the gym, or the edge of a couch to prop your elbows forward… then curl away!
2) Side Bends
This is a classic at the gym – hold light weights while happily rocking side to side to target the obliques, right? Nice in theory… the problem is that the movement is too fast (so momentum takes over) and the weight load works with gravity instead of against it. This movement can also hurt the low back.
· Instead, do an oblique crunch on a stability ball.
The stability ball puts your body in a position to work against gravity better, and allows you to drop a bit lower (vs. on the floor) which increases the range of motion. Additionally, the instability recruits more muscles to counter-stabilize and add intensity to the movement.
3) Upright Rows
This exercise is typically down to strengthen the upper back. The problem is that the narrow grip and elevation of the shoulders can impinge the shoulders and/or the neck.
· Instead, don’t bring the weights as high and narrow, or do a lateral raise.
You can still work the back in with a modified upright row. Keep your shoulders down, only bring the weight to shoulder lever and retract your shoulder blades at the top of the movement. Or try a lateral raise where you bring your arms straight out the sides, at shoulder level.
4) Donkey Kicks
As an exercise intending to work the glutes and thighs, it commonly ends up stressing the low back. People tend to lift the leg to high and let the back slip down to compensate.
· Instead, try a single leg glute bridge.
Lie on your back and push your hips upward, pushing your weight through your heels. Shift your weight to the left heel, then extend the right leg straight up in the air. Once in the position, lower your hips down toward the floor and then push back up while digging your weight through your left heel. This will target the left glute. Then switch sides.
5) Double Leg Lifts
This exercise stresses the low back and most people don’t have the abdominal strength to do it correctly. The back takes over and the abs take on a secondary roll.
· Instead, try leg scissors.
Lie on your back and put your legs straight upward, right above your hips. Lower your legs slowly down until you feel your low back arch upward (a natural reaction to lowering the legs), stop there… then raise the legs about 1 – 3″. The point is to lower the legs as far as you can without letting your back arch. You have to find your spot. Once there, scissor the legs and contract your abs, pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
This is it – the most commonly messed up exercise! I see this everyday at the gym and constantly try to correct it with clients and classes. Crunches should be great; the problem is that if often turns into a neck workout. If your chin is touching your chest when you crunch, you’re pulling too hard on your cervical spine and missing your abs.
· Instead, try stability ball crunches or V crunches.
The stability ball allows you to raise higher and drop lower, which increases the range of motion and provides a better challenge for your abs. Also, keep your chin up, elbows wide and neck relaxed. If you don’t have a stability ball, try a V crunch. Balance on your sit bones, lean back slightly and keep your back straight and abs pulled in. Lift up a few inches and drop back a few inches. Increase your range of motion as you get stronger.
7) “Touching Your Toes”
This is the classic flexibility test/exercise. The problem is that most people bend from the back (instead of the hips) and “bounce”. The bouncing actually triggers a counteracting muscular response that tightens the muscles instead of allowing them to relax and lengthen.
· Instead, do a single-leg hamstring stretch.
Bring your right leg about 12″ in front of you, resting on the heel. Flex your foot, lift your hips up and back, then bend forward from your hips and stretch one leg at a time.
For more info: Melanie@tonicfit.com
You can find Melanie’s TONIC workout DVDs on Amazon or www.tonicfit.com