Stop wasting time on ineffective workouts
A useless exercise is like clutter in your fitness toolbox. An exercise that is not getting you where you want is a waste of time and space, and sometimes their potential benefit isn’t worth their risk.
How can you tell a move is useless? It tends not to look like anything we’d ever do in real life. Some moves, like crunches and fire hydrants (which I hate), might be important finishing exercises to help fitness competitors and body builders make certain muscles pop. Some weight machines are designed for isolating muscles for rehabilitation, especially for folks who aren’t strong enough to do a similar move while standing. But the most efficient and functional moves use multiple muscles and look like stuff we do every day.
But the moves below are not the best choices for most of us who want to burn fat, tone muscle, pull a big bag of dog food out of the trunk or look cuter in our swimsuits. They are not the best choices for those of us who don’t have a couple hours a day to devote to exercise.
Ditch these time-consuming moves out of your workout:
1. Ditch It: Crunches
They’re overrated and useless because we have four sets of abdominal muscles and crunches work only one set, and not through full range of motion. You’ll need to do tens of thousands of them to even begin to burn some of the fat that covers them.
Switch It: Planks
For a more effective ab exercise, face down on a mat, prop up onto your elbows and knees, if you are beginner, or on your toes for more of a challenge. Keep your neck, back and legs straight and hover for 10 to 60 seconds, 1 to 3 times.
2. Ditch It: Inner-Thigh Squeezes
In addition to looking and feeling like stirrups in an OB/GYN’s office, the thigh adduction machine really serves no purpose. Yeah, we hate inner thigh fat, but thigh squeezes won’t help. They isolate little muscles. To save time, work big and small leg muscles together.
Switch It: Walking Lunges
Do your inner-thigh work while standing. Why? Exercises that connect you to the ground help build better bones and allow your stabilizers to do what they do in concert with your heavy-hitting quads and hamstrings. So start off standing with your feet about hip-width apart with your back straight, navel pulled in gently toward your spine and eyes gazing straight ahead. Take a big step forward, avoiding a tight-rope balance. Dip your back knee toward the floor, touching it lightly if you can. Your back heel will come off the floor. Keep your back straight. Press through your front heel to straighten your front leg and return to standing. Alternate as you walk across a room, repeating 10 to 20 times on each leg. Do 1 to 5 sets.
3. Ditch It: Walking With Hand Weights
Stop it. You may get negligible caloric burn gains, but you risk jacking up your gait, your shoulders and your back. Not worth it.
Switch It: Walk Faster, Farther or on Hills
Or include some stairs on your route. If you want to carry weight, get a backpack or a weight vest. Carrying weight closer to your center of gravity is safer, but you should carry weight with care, especially if you have back problems.
4. Ditch It: Biceps Curls
Another little muscle working in isolation.
Switch It: Ease Downs
It’s half a pushup, and it’ll help get your arms into better shape if your form is tight. Face down on a mat, place your hands directly under your shoulders and straighten your arms. Extend your legs and plant your feet about hip-width behind you. Keep your back straight as you hold in the “up” position. Then, slowly lower your chest toward the mat. The slower the better. Do 3 to 10 times.
5. Ditch It: Stretching Before a Workout or When You’re Sore
Stretching isn’t a warm up. Stretching before exercise has been the standard for years, but better research shows that stretching a cold muscle can be ineffective, at best, and dangerous at worst. Stretchers’ muscles can get too slack and be weaker than unstretched muscles
Switch It: Stretching After a Workout, Maybe….
Warm up with a slow walk or a slow jog. Do active stretches rather than static stretches before your walk or run. Those can include high-kneed marches, side-to-side lunges and arm circles. Save your stretches for after your workout. Stretching sore muscles may feel good, but you may exacerbate the microtears in muscles. If you’re sore, the better tack is often to take a leisurely walk to improve circulation to help the muscles repair themselves.