Top 5 Gym Machines to Avoid
Movement Monday is Back and this week I'm covering the top 5 gym machines to avoid(meaning your risk versus reward is greater with these machines). I know this is probably going to be a controversial post but this comes from my experience as a trainer for 16 years, working as a chiropractic assistant, and as a Physio for the last 3 years.
#1 Weighted Low Back Machine
So-what's the problem with making your back stronger right? And if a little is good, more is better too? First lets break this down from a purely practical perspective. The purpose of our core is to stabilize us. Machines do that stabilization for us. So, if our goal is stabilization for a stronger core and machines don't work towards that goal-it kinda means that they aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. Even more, because of the way that they're set up-we get a ton of movement from the hips(taking the low back muscles somewhat out of the equation). Go ahead and watch most people on one of these machines and see what they're using to push that weight stack around. Lastly, this machine takes you into a position that makes many people with low back pain worse...yup you guessed it, rounding your spine forward. So-it really doesn't do what it says it is going to do, it's hard to keep even halfway decent form on it and it can make things worse...3 strikes(though there are more strikes against it).
#2 Ab Coaster
We've got another "core" machine not delivering on the job of the core. But what's more, this doesn't even deliver on the "rock hard abs" that many are going after(at least not with how most people are doing it). Let's take this back to basics. If I have a 40" waist-and my goal is a flat stomach and to be able to see definition-then I'm better off doing higher intensity conditioning and strength training in order to burn more calories overall-a few hundred crunches a day ain't gonna cut it. Next, if your gym has one of these-just sit back and listen. If you can hear the person from across the gym on it-they are using the second part of the name, "Coaster" as in roller coaster with their abs only doing a little bit of the work and gravity + ego doing the rest.
#3 45º Leg Press
The 45º leg press is one of the better ego boosters the gym has to offer. It allows you to stack more weight on it than you could ever hope to dead lift or squat and just when you are at the hardest part of the lift, your back is in its most vulnerable. No doubt this has some use for monster quads but again, having watched many back sides lift off the pad as somebody's knees went by their ears just to get a bit more out of their lift(begging for a low back herniation),it goes into my books as a higher risk with lower reward . You're better off with Bulgarian Split Squats, Goblet or Front Squats, and Single Leg Romanian Dead Lifts which all work for a stronger core as well as build monster quads, glutes, and hammies.
#4 Rotary Abs/Oblique Machine
Yes, I'm beating up on core machines again...see #1 and 2 for most of the reasons. The reason I'm not a fan of the oblique machine is that it tries to get most of your turning out of your low back(which it wasn't made for, that's for your mid-back). Second-most are set up to use momentum to do most of the work(see ab coaster formula of ego + gravity). If your goal is to add distance to your drive, strength to your volley, or your sport just needs some strong rotation(jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, and most martial arts), then your cable loaded chops in half kneel, medicine ball toss, or anti-rotation drills are the better alternative of strength improvement with reduced risk.
#5 Recumbent Bicycle
We sit most of the day-must we go to the gym and sit some more?
This is only really useful if you are either after a surgery or your balance is such that getting on an elliptical trainer or treadmill is unsafe for you. Also-if you are trying to be more active to improve bone health-the recumbent bicycle is really just spinning in circles when it comes to that as it is not loading your bones the way walking, running, or lifting does.
Bottom line, unless it is unsafe for you to do so, body weight, free weight, and upright machines usually are the better option as they tend to engage your muscles in the way they were meant to be used and it will force you to unplug while you focus on your form which we all could use!