My younger self could spend hours in the gym focusing on this and that muscle group, thoroughly warming up and hitting multiple body parts over the course of a two to three-hour window. The gym was and still is my therapy, don’t get me wrong, but my priorities and responsibilities have changed and I just don’t have the time to spend in the gym like I used to.
In my older (and as I like to call them) wiser years, I’ve adapted more of a “train smarter, not harder” mentality. Aiming to do the least amount of work that yields the highest results has become my method of training not only for myself but for all my clients as well.
Below I highlight five exercises that you should skip over in the gym. If your priority is to save time and still be efficient, these movements are the ones you can easily omit without suffering any negative consequences. In fact, you may even save yourself an injury! I also share alternative exercises you should try.
1. Behind the neck Lat-pulldowns
Due to lack of flexibility most people have in their shoulders, this exercise can be dangerous because of the risk of shoulder impingement. It can also lead to other cervical spine injuries.
The Alternative: do the same exercise, a lat pulldown, only pull the bar down to the top of your clavicle in the front. Keep your wrist aligned with the elbows as you pull down to ensure you are hitting your lats.
2. Full sit-ups
Full sit-ups put a lot of strain on the spine. Period. Your back is not meant to go into flexion and extension to that degree-which is exactly what full sit-ups do. The truth of the matter is core stabilization exercises are proven to be much more effective and safer for us.
The Alternative: planks, side planks, ab-wheel, cable chops, farmers walks, v-ups, hanging leg raises.
3. Squats on a smith machine
A fixed bar your body needs to conform to… sounds like trouble because it is! When you’re attempting to squat on a smith machine and your hip flexors or lower back are tight, since the bar on the machine isn’t moving, something in your body will have to. If your form is off, your body will wind up compensating for your lack of. The squat is an in-depth, intricate movement that’s beneficial for everyone. There’s no reason to waste time doing it on a smith machine AND risk injury.
The Alternative: squatting in a squat rack, with kettlebells/dumbbells, or hex bar. Here are five of my personal favorite safe and effective squat variations.
4. The seated torso rotation machine
This might be the one exercise that’s worse for your back than crunches. Any machine at the gym you see people hunched over while doing with lots of rounding in the spine is one you should skip over and save time NOT doing. This machine puts your body at a full disadvantage- rounding your upper back, asking it to rotate and then loading it with weight. Check, please!
The Alternative: Try side planks, farmers walk (suitcase carry), cable chops, windmills, and hanging leg raises.
5. The seated abdominal crunch
This exercise has a similar look to the torso rotation machine. In fact, you can most likely spot them right next to each other in your gym. My advice? Save your time and energy and skip it. Any machine that forces a person to sit into and then repeatedly flex and extend the spine is a recipe for disaster.
The Alternative: Check out planks, cable chops, farmers walks, ab-wheel, body-saw, hanging knee/leg raises.