While you might think that any exercise is good exercise, that’s not always the case. Of course, getting up and moving, rather than sitting all day behind a computer screen or lounging on the couch is definitely a good idea, nevertheless, there are some rather common exercises that are a waste of your time, and sometimes rather unsafe.
The standard crunch
For what may be decades now, most people have been under the impression that by doing countless numbers of crunches every day, they’ll get that rock solid ab look they dream of achieving. But it simply doesn’t work – and, crunches are actually dangerous, too. They target only one small abdominal muscle group, in addition to placing undue stress on the neck and back.
Certified strength and conditioning coach and sports nutritionist Ben Greenfield explains:
“Imagine your spine is a credit card. In the same way that repeatedly flexing and extending a credit card will eventually lead to wearing out of the card, repeatedly performing the crunching motion can put a lifetime of damaging strain on your back.
You’ve probably been taught that if you’re going to pick a heavy object off the ground and you don’t want to hurt your spine, you should bend at the knees and not at the back. But anytime you do a crunch or a sit-up, you’re bending at the back — over and over and over again!”
Instead of crunches, consider adding some balance ball exercises to your routine, which can offer more variation and require more muscle action to stabilize the body with each movement. Another effective alternative is the “plank.”
To perform this exercise:
Start off on a yoga mat in the pushup position. Lower your forearms to the ground so that your elbows and fists lie flat on the mat. Curl up your toes with your heels in the air. Straighten your body, keeping your neck and spine neutral.
While holding this position, you’ll be flexing your abdominal muscles and your glutes until you can’t hold the position anymore, being careful not to go too long. Make sure to keep your eyes on the floor in front of you and avoid raising your back side.
Lingering leg lifts
This is a common move you may have learned in a fitness class or boot camp. It involves lying on your back with your head and shoulders either down on the ground or “crunched” up position as you lift your straight legs right off the ground, lingering just a few inches from the floor in order to work your abs.
While the exercise does work your abs, lifting your extended legs straight off the ground “puts an incredible amount of stress on the lower back and can lead to injury,” according Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, and exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym.
Instead, work your abs by doing bicycle crunches. To properly perform this exercise, lie face-up with your knees bent and then lift both feet until your lower legs are parallel with the ground. With fingertips positioned behind the ears and elbows wide, lift both shoulder blades off the ground.
Exhale as you angle your left shoulder toward your right knee, keeping the left shoulder aligned with your left inner thigh while the left leg extends. Inhale back to center and exhale to repeat the movement in the opposite direction.
The thigh machine
The inner- and outer-thigh machines are popular pieces of gym equipment designed to strengthen and tone the outer and inner thigh muscles, but performing this exercise in a seated position places you at risk of straining those muscles as well as aggravating your lower back and hips.
If you want to target those areas, use body weight instead of equipment, such as doing Pilates or similar movements using resistance bands.
For most of us, time is precious – why waste it doing an exercise that could cause harm in the long run?
-The Alternative Daily