10 Worst and Most Inefficient Exercises You Should Avoid

You may have heard me use the term exercise efficiency in previous postings here on the site. But what exactly does the term mean?

To me exercise efficiency is how much bang for your buck an exercise gives you – in other words – what’s the benefit versus time spent?

When I write workouts, I almost always include many multi-dimensional movements that work more than one muscle group, to get the most done in the shortest amount of time.

But not all exercises are so efficient. So today’s Top 10 is a list of movements that trainees keep using even though they produce weak, slow results, and many times, don’t even effectively target the intended muscle.

Are you performing any of the list below…?

1. Lying Leg Curl  – I haven’t used this exercise machine in 15 years. The leg curl trains the hamstrings in a way that’s very poor, and not effective at all in mimicking how they actually function in day to day life. The hamstrings respond well by lowering weight as is the case with a negative portion of a lift so I’d ditch this 80’s relic and hit varied deadlifts, Swiss ball roll ins, and reverse hypers instead.

2. Butt Blaster You must have seen this machine. It makes an unmistakable sliding sound when in use due to the ball bearing design. Many women use it to target and plump up the glutes, but it’s ineffective because it doesn’t allow you to load the large gluteus muscles significantly. A much better choice, that also trains the legs, would be squats, step-ups, and lunges.

3. Dumbbell Front RaisesI don’t really understand why people keep using this exercise, as most trainees already have considerably overdeveloped front delts and weak side and rear shoulder areas. I suggest letting your chest pressing work take care of the front shoulder area, and use exercises like Y,T,W’s, side laterals, and rear flyes to work the rest of the shoulders.

4. Seated Calf Press This one truly mystifies me – when do you ever have a 90 degree bend in your leg AND need to rise up on your toes? Plus, the seated calf raise doesn’t work your calves at all, but rather the muscle beneath called the soleus. And truthfully, I think it can cause Achilles tendon issues through overstretching. I’d rather see a person performing standing calf raises and using minimal footwear like Vibrams Five Fingers in their training to work the intrinsic muscle of the lower leg.

5. Leg Press w/Ball I’m not sure who popularized this one, but basically you squeeze a ball between your legs while performing a leg press. By doing so, the exercise emphasizes the inner thigh adductor muscle and makes it stronger. The problem is most trainees need to train the exact opposite way, and have weak abductors, which contribute to knee instability.  So instead try forcing the knees out against a resistance band wrapped around your thighs while performing a leg press. This will give you extra glute medius strength. Try it!

6. Leg Extension Jack LaLanne had a great idea when he developed this iconic piece of equipment. But truthfully, I barely use it anymore. Bodybuilders will load up on this exercise trying to target the inner knee “teardrop” muscle. But I think its use can potentially cause injury. Nowadays I prefer to use a bike to warm-up my knee joint and focus on squats, lunges, step-ups and calisthenics for leg strength.

7. Stick TwistsThis exercise is truly a waste of time. It goes like this – you grab a broomstick and place it on your shoulders and twist from side to side – you know what I mean! Most people think this is a core and abs exercise, but really it’s an exercise in wasting time while looking silly. A resistance band or cable twist and pivot is a much more effective option.

8. Forearm CurlsI’ve seen guys train their forearms for hours with wrist curls, twists, and weird looking apparatus. The truth is if you want to develop your lower arms, you need to use exercises that demand a strong grip. I perform towel pull-ups, deadlifts, and of course I swing kettlebells. All of these movements have not only strengthened my grip strength, but also my forearms. Have you ever seen a trainee who performs pull-ups with small forearms? Exactly!

9. Barbell Bench Press I know I’m going to get raked over the coals for this, but I never liked the almighty bench press, even though I became very strong at it. The bench press is an exercise best suited to people with a specific body type, and while you may get stronger, it doesn’t work well for many people looking for muscular development. As I’ve said before, I saw the most improvement when I switched to a dumbbell only routine, which no matter which body type you have, allows for a range of motion best suited to you.

10. Side BendsThis one drives me nuts! You’ve seen this – a trainee grabs one or two weights, and begins bending at the waist side to side, thinking they’re shaping the waistline. For starters, use of two weights is NO WORK AT ALL, as equal weights in each hand totally negates any waist activity, and two, even with a single weight it’s mediocre at best. Stick with t-planks, Pallof presses, and medicine ball chops to work that waistline.

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