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Have you ever been in the gym and watched someone use a machine and wonder, “What is the purpose of that machine?” Better yet, have you ever tried a machine and thought, “There has to be a better exercise than this machine, right?”
Fortunately, there are alternatives to those clunky machines at the gym. I will discuss common exercise equipment that can be avoided and more functional alternatives that you can do with or without a gym membership.
DON’T: Use the seated abduction leg machine
We all tend to sit way too much in our daily lives as it is. This machine will not only perpetuate this even further, but also not target the muscles you will want to isolate.
DO: Resistance band side steps
It is important as you step to the side to maintain a slight bend in the knees, engage your abs, and keep the band taught as you move to the side. Remember to go to the other side as well.
DON’T: Use the seated leg extension
Again, another exercise that has us in a seated position, which defeats the purpose of trying to engage as many of our muscles as possible. This can be especially irritating for those that have any knee issues.
DO: Body weight squats
This exercise forces you to use both upper and lower body muscles to make sure that you are maintaining proper form. Remember to start with feet slightly wider than shoulder width and weight through your heels. As you lower yourself, make sure that you do not bend forward at the waist (this can place additional stress on the knees). Make sure to avoid letting your knees collapse inward.
[For beginners: use a chair or a bench behind you and let your butt tap the seat and then raise up.]
DON’T: Do crunches where your feet are locked in
This variation of the abdominal crunch will place a lot of stress on your hip flexors and increases stress on the low back.
Some tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your abdominal workout with planks. Make sure your elbows are directly below your shoulders. You want a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Engage your abdominals by forcefully breathing out and squeeze your butt. When you feel your low back start to sag or other muscles starting to work, you need to stop and reset.
DON’T: Use the seated chest press
Here is another machine that will contribute to us sitting at the gym and not getting the most out of your workout. It can also place a lot of stress on the front of the shoulder.
When you break it down, a push up is a moving plank. You want your set up to be similar to a plank. One slight change is your arm position: Place your arms slightly wider than shoulder width and angle them in the shape of an “A” not a “T”. Maintain abdominal tension and as you lower your body, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
The alternatives to the gym equipment exercises are a starting point for your next trip to the gym or could come in handy if you are traveling and want to get a quick workout in. It is important to remember that any exercise that causes you pain should be stopped before an injury occurs.
It is also important to remember that everyone has different goals when it comes to working out, so be mindful not to judge or criticize your fellow workout companion as they may have an intentional use for the exercise equipment listed above. However, in my professional opinion, it is best to do exercises that do not require a machine in order to maximize the potential of your muscles.