Sculpt your body without clunky gym equipmentYou probably spend a lot of time sitting each day – but in the weights room? That’s the last place you should be parking your bum.
Still, many of us go from one machine to the next. The problem: “you’re following a fixed path that’s not natural to your body,” says Aaron Mckenzie, director of Origin of Energy health club in Sydney.
It can also be tough to achieve proper alignment, since many machines are designed primarily for men.
So next time you hit the gym, steer clear of these machines and sub in our exercises instead.
The machine: Seated leg extensionSure, you’ll strengthen your quads – at a cost. “It creates a shearing force between your tibia, femur and knee cap,” says health and fitness expert Amelia Burton. The result? Knee pain.
“Plus, it’s non-functional. How many times will you need to push something heavy with your shins?”
The replacement: Backward lungeThis works multiple joints, so you’ll strengthen more muscles and also improve technique, says Burton.
Stand on a 30cm step, feet shoulder-width apart. Lunge backwards with your right leg so that in the flexed position your left knee is at a right angle.
Lower until your back knee almost touches the ground, not letting your knees collapse. Step your right leg back and repeat with your left.
Do three sets of 12 on each leg and hold two 5kg dumbbells for the final two sets.
The machine: Seated abs crunchSimply put, it’s putting your spine in a flexed position. “Most postural imbalances come from sitting badly in a chair, which is exactly what you’re doing here,” says Mckenzie. By adding weight, even more pressure is placed on your spinal discs, upping your risk of injury.
The replacement: Fitness ball rolloutYour core is meant to stabilise your spine, not move it, and this exercise engages your entire core to keep your spine neutral.
Kneel on the ground and place your forearms on a fitness ball, palms together. Brace your core and slowly roll the ball away from you, keeping your back flat. Then slowly pull the ball back. That’s one rep. Work up to 20.
The machine: Hip abductorSitting down and squeezing your legs together or pushing them apart won’t shrink your thighs no matter how many reps you bang out.
“They work one joint without training the other muscles of the body,” says Burton.
On top of that, it places strain on your iliotibial band – on the outside of your thigh, extending between pelvis and knee.
“It’s notoriously tight on women and one of the main culprits of knee pain.”
The replacement: Sumo squatStand in a squat position, with feet wider than hips and toes turned out slightly. Lower into a squat and feel the stretch through your inner thighs.
“This works your bum at the same time,” says Burton. “Try 10 pulses at the bottom of the move, then 10 full sumo squats.”
Repeat three to four sets of 20 reps.
The machine: Biceps curl“This machine gives you a false sense of strength,” says Mckenzie. “You’re strong on the machine but nowhere else in life do you have a machine guiding you through this move.”
Plus, people often rely on gravity to lower (read: drop) the bar. Cutting your range of motion short not only makes the exercise less effective but also causes tightness and can strain the elbows and wrists.