Make the most of your workout!
Some exercises are more effective than others, and there are very few exercises that are down right stupid – or worse – could cause injury. Now “dumb” is a relative word and can mean different things to different people. For me it means a waste of time. Your time is precious and you don’t want to waste it doing things that give you relatively little gain for the effort you’re putting in – right? The same is true in the gym. Take these exercises off your roster of “go-to” moves and instead focus on the alternatives I’ll give you – to maximize your time in the gym and (say it with me!): Make the Most of your Workout.
1. Superman– I recently had a myofacial massage with an extremely experienced practitioner, who gave me a tip that the ‘superman’ – done by yogis and strength exercisers alike, was a big no-no… This move asks you to lie tummy down, stretch arms and legs out, then lift your arms and legs off the floor. Even when done properly (eyes down, with a straight line from spine to neck) the compression created in your spine by lifting both the legs and arms could cause serious lower back injury. What’s worse, when done improperly (as many people do) pulling the neck back (eyes upward) can cause compression in the top of the spine and cause a pinched nerve.
DO IT RIGHT: There is merit to this exercise with a goal of strengthening the lower back, but you need to leave either your arms or your legs (or one of each) on the floor as an anchor, thus reducing the pressure on your spine – as in this image here:Again, remember to keep your forehead on the floor, or you can lift your chest but keep your eyes pointed to the floor. This great video from Strong Runner shows a great perfectly safe variation of the Superman exercise.
2. Tricep Kickback. Okay okay, I’m guilty of promoting this “dumb” exercise in my own programs. That’s before I really thought about it in this way: When would you EVER be in this position in real life? Never. And I can admit when I’m WRONG.
But seriously.. this exercise doesn’t do much harmful – in fact it just doesn’t do much at all. The angle of the movement is so awkward that not only can you not get a full contraction (or squeeze) in your muscle. This means the exercise is really working your joints more than it is your muscle. Useless!
DO IT RIGHT: To maximize your efforts in working the triceps, here are some other super effective alternatives:
3) Lying Triceps extension, supine on bench
3. Crunches (and any variation of a Situp): This is where most people are going to say “Say What?! Those are the only kind of abs I do! How else do I tone my tummy!?” I know I know.. change is hard. The biggest issue with crunches and situps is that most people do the exercise incorrectly. In order to safely raise your chest off the floor, you have to have very strong abdominals – which seems backwards as the point of the exercise is to strengthen your abs! And those with strong abs are going to get more out of other ab exercises which I’ll note later.
One potential danger of doing this exercise incorrectly are pulling too hard on your neck and causing neck strain. But more likely – you are just doing this exercise too fast, which makes it totally ineffective and a waste of time.
If you just can’t get off the floor, I find exercises such as the Pilates “boat” (isometric), or very slow “V-Ups” or Bicycles to be pretty effective. If you go slow, and because your chest is already off the ground, you can really focus on contracting the abs, not just moving your chest off the ground as fast as possible – and definitely not pulling on your neck.
Have a thought on stupid exercises? Leave me a comment, or tweet me @thegymcoach.