There are a few exercises out there that I would never recommend anyone doing, either because they aren’t very effective in the first place, or they have the potential to cause harm. Some of these exercises utilize machines as well, ones I’d also never recommend anyone using.
What I want to first stress is that I’m not putting an outright ban on these moves. If you do them and they work for you, then keep doing them. All I’m going to be suggesting are alternatives that I think are more superior than the original.
- Crunches. The issue with crunches is that they can cause injury to the spine because this exercise requires that you flatten your back against the floor while you crunch forward. This is an unnatural movement of the spine. By forcibly flatting your back and rounding your upper shoulders, this can lead to irritation, pain, or just a full-blown injury. Another issue with crunches is that they only target the rectus abdominis. Due to this, many people believe that if they do enough crunches, they can bring out that ever-desirable six pack. A better exercise to do in place of crunches would be the plank. The great thing about the plank is that it calls for your obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis muscles to be used. The muscles in your spine are also utilized, which is extremely important for back health.
- Sit-ups. Like with crunches, I’d advise using the plank instead. The issue with sit-ups is that many people who do them often have weak cores to begin with. Thus, these people end up using their hip flexors instead of abdominal muscles. The muscles in the hip flexors are small and so can be easily injured by this.
- Incline leg press. I ended up injuring my hip using the incline leg press for the first time, so I moved back to the regular leg press machine. However, the problem with the incline leg press is, like with the crunches, that at the end range of motion your back flattens out. If you want to continue using the incline leg press, I suggest moving to single legs, working one leg at a time. What this does is it locks the pelvis so that your back doesn’t flatten out at the end range of motion. This can also work on stability in your hip.
- Seated-leg extensions. Seated-leg extensions are meant to work your quadriceps. What happens, however, is that you can set your knees up for injury using this machine. The resistance is focused on your ankles, and your knees aren’t designed to do this. So the knee is worked more than the quads are. What you can do instead is lunges with a pulse. You go out into a regular lunge, but instead of getting right back up, you stay in that lunged position and pulse a few times before switching legs. Your knee should hover above the ground as you do these. This works the knees in a natural position while also working multiple muscle groups.
- Double-leg raises. Double leg raises generally involve hanging from a bar and lifting both legs up to a ninety degree angle. Like with sit-ups, however, these aren’t that great for the core as they more often than not activate the hip flexors. What you can do instead is a birddog with a knee lift, where you bring your opposite knee and elbow together.