The first time I ever joined a gym, I went on a walkabout to familiarise myself with the facilities. I remember seeing all the weird and wacky-looking machines there and wanting to try out every one of them. As a beginner, gym machines served a purpose—they helped me get comfortable with moving weight and taught me some of the movements involved. But now I hardly touch them. Why? Because most gym machines aren’t worth using. Here are seven that are either a waste of time or downright dangerous, and what to do instead:
1. Seated Shoulder Press Machine
This machine forces your arms to travel along a straight path as you push the weight over your head and it prevents you from pushing through the hips, all of which can put excess strain on your shoulder joints. Under free weights, your arms can twist and drift forward and backwards as they’re designed to.
Alternatives: Dumbbell overhead press, jackknife pushup.
2. Smith Machine
Again, the problem with the Smith machine is that it locks you into a set path of motion. Because the bar is fixed into a sliding plane, it forces you to adapt your movement to the bar rather than the other way around, leading to possible muscle imbalances or even injury.
Alternatives: Free weight squat, bench press and overhead press.
3. Hip Abduction/Adduction Machine
This is definitely one of the most pointless gym machines you’ll ever come across, because it isolates muscles that are never used in isolation in the real world. Your abductors and adductors exist to help stabilise your legs, and they always work in coordination with your core and other major muscles in your lower body.
Alternatives: Step-up or lunge with dumbbells.
4. Seated Crunch Machine
Crunches with added weight might seem like the fastest path to six pack abs, but they’re actually quite dangerous. Many of us spend a good amount of time hunched over in a chair working at our desks, and this movement will only reinforce your bad posture and round out your upper back more.
5. Chest Fly Machine
There are a couple of problems with the chest fly (or pec deck) machine. First of all, it reinforces the same bad posture we get from working hunched over at our computers. Secondly, it can jerk your arms back and strain your shoulder joints, especially when you’re fatigued at the end of a set.
Alternatives: Dumbbell fly.
6. Leg Extension Machine
Leg extensions are one of those exercises that everyone loves because they give you a great pump and bulging quads, but it’s not a natural movement. Having the weight on your lower shins places a huge strain on your knees, and you often end up twisting and contorting your pelvis to push out more reps.
Alternatives: Barbell squat, dumbbell lunge.
7. Seated Rotation Machine
This is a strong contender for most dangerous machine on the list. When you twist your upper body around, your hips also move to facilitate the rotation. The seated rotation machine locks your hips in place, and you can end up twisting your lower back far beyond a safe range of motion.
Alternatives: Side plank, cable chop.
Q: Which gym machines do you use most frequently? Let us know in the comments below.