Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gym Machines You Should Probably Avoid

This is going to sound a little contradictory, but going to the gym shouldn’t mean you frequently use all the machines there. Let me explain. Every manufacturer wants you to believe his latest creation will change your workout forever. Strength training machines were created to make your life easier as you work out so you wouldn’t have to build your own exercises. And who doesn’t like that? However, some of them are not necessarily good for our bones, joints, and in some cases, even the other muscles in our bodies. It doesn’t mean they won’t work, it just means if you keep using them long term, you could actually hurt yourself. What are some of these machines?

Seated Leg Extension: If you Google “Gym Machines to Avoid”, this would almost come flashing on your screen like a siren. Seated leg extension machines can vary from one to the next. However, the basic idea is that if you lock your thighs in place, and hold your ankles behind a roller, you can build your quads (your thigh muscles) by lifting your legs from your knees down. It’s a little hard to describe so see the picture above for an idea. The positive is that it does work on your thighs. The negative is that a lot of pressure is applied to your knees because of the range of motion. So what can you do instead? I say you can’t go wrong with some squats!

Seated Rotation Machine: I know, I know, this machine looks like it will give you a cinched waist. But in reality, it can put a lot of pressure on the spine as you are rotating quickly. Some seated rotation machines even go the opposite way allowing you to rotate your lower body, but not your upper body. Doing this speedily can also put too much pressure on your spine. To strengthen the sides of your waist, do some exercises like the bicycle or any kind of side crunch.

Leg Press Machine: This is a favorite in gyms because people feel like they are working hard on their legs without actually exerting too much energy. Simply straighten your legs? Sounds great! But this machine has the same issue as the leg extension machine: you put undue pressure on your knees because you’re not allowing your upper body to help you at all. What’s a good alternative? Need I say it? The squat! For some good extensions, you can also try the lunge.

Ab Rocker: You know that machine that looks like a mini-rocking chair that you put on the ground, hold the bars, and do crunches? No? See the picture above. It was the infomercial craze back in the day. But recent studies have shown that this machine just puts pressure on your spine and your neck, and what’s worse is that it really doesn’t work your abs as well as a regular crunch. Ouch. What’s the alternative? Just do some crunches or sit-ups.

Behind-the-neck Lat Pull-Down: This is the lat pull-down machine that forces your chest forward as you pull the weight down towards your upper back. The problem with this machine is that it forces your chest into a position that is not very helpful in building muscle. Because the position is unnatural, it can leave you without the benefit of the exercise because you didn’t do it correctly, or it can cause shoulder pain if you did do it correctly. There’s hardly a winning scenario here. What are some alternatives? Do lat pull-downs, but on the front not the back. Or use dumbbells behind you and lift them up in a straight line behind your lower back.

The more I exercise, the more I realize that we can rarely go wrong with using our own body weight or using free weights like dumbbells. The trick is just learning how to use them right. Machines aren’t bad, but they do add a little complication, and it’s sometimes difficult to figure out which ones are the most beneficial because everyone is singing that they are the best and will give you a rocker bod. They even use those fitness models in the ads that make you run straight to the gym. But pay attention to how your body feels as you use these. Does something not feel right? Does it feel like your body was not meant to move that way? Then stop and try to do something else.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,,,,


  1. Hmmmm good one on the leg press, i always thought that would affect my knees, and the leg curl , whoa i knew something was off when i was in pain sometimes, just thought it was sore! Thanks for the heads up, good stuff

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