How many times have you got your gym kit ready, found a gym, got there and thought “Okay, what do I do now?”
In this situation, we think about a few movements we have seen others do in the gym or some random exercises we saw in a magazine.
We will break down 3 exercises people perform, a reason why they are inefficient and a better alternative.
1) The sit up: “Working my ‘core’ harder will help me get 6 pack abs.”
MYTH, abs are ‘made in the kitchen’ through consistent nutrition planning, creating an energy deficit. This allows you to lose body fat which will make your stomach muscles more visible. Why is the sit up an ineffective movement? Most people who are sitting down for most of the day create a lot of pressure on their lower back. The sit-up is repetitive flexion on the spine which can aggravate the discs and become problematic over time.
An alternative – The side plank
A safer and more efficient movement is the side plank. It is one of the best exercises to create a stronger ‘core’ to help support the spine. Anecdotally most people who have an inactive lifestyle are weak in this position. This is often is a tell-tale sign they will be susceptible to lower back pain. Having stronger muscles on the sides of the body which the side plank works, helps create a stronger frame for the body to twist and turn. This will help with daily life from picking up things or twisting around with putting a suitcase in the overhead cabin or even just going for a run.
2) Machine leg extension:
Yes, there is some merit to these machines: particularly for rehabilitation purposes, and bodybuilding. Why is the leg extension machine an ineffective movement for most of us? This machine takes the legs in isolation through a fixed range of movements, without the muscles around the hip having to work. For someone who is sedentary day to day, plays a sport a couple of times a week, the best bang for buck exercises are going to be compound movements (multi-joint movements) which work several muscles at a time.
An alternative – The split squat
The split squat is a single leg compound movement that strengthens the bum, hamstrings, and quads. For someone who is fairly inactive during the day, this is a fantastic exercise. It will not only get your heart rate up, but it is also strengthening your body through a free range of movement where your muscles will have to stabilize, which in turn will get you stronger faster especially if you play a sport or are into running.
3) Smith machine bench press:
This is another machine that locks you into a fixed position which creates little movement awareness and stability over time. What’s a better alternative?
An alternative – push-ups
Learning how to perform push-ups. If you struggle to perform chest to floor push-ups, then elevate where you place your hands. You can set a height on the Smith machine to push up to or use a bench. The push up will make your body use more muscle groups than the smith machine bench press. It gives you a better opportunity to increase upper body strength. The push up is a compound exercise which elevates your heart rate more which will also burn more calories.
To conclude, before you go to the gym take a few minutes and set up a plan of what you want to do. Having a plan will make you much more confident and efficient and you’ll surprise yourself by how much more you get done. If you are unsure of what exercises to perform or how to perform them correctly then perhaps it’s worth getting a personal training coach or some help you.
Our mission is to help people live their best lives outside of the gym by providing the best possible standards of personal gym training.