Contents

Leg day is often skipped but do people skip upper body day?

I don’t skip it, but I have more lower body days than upper body days. I mainly work out to benefit my martial arts training. For my particular style and preference, I have to have the ability to jump high and kick powerfully, and deliver quick, darting hand strikes. I also need a lot of back flexibility and core stabilization.

Since my priority for my arms is mainly speed and endurance, I mainly use lighter weights and go for reps. This is also helpful to me because wrist problems run in my family and lifting heavy is quite hard on them. I’ll also hold light dumbbells while practicing punch combos and rhythm drills.

Since my martial art requires a lot of jumps, high kicks, chain kicks, and footwork, heavy leg workouts are typically my way to go. I don’t really have any problems with my legs or ankles, so I can go full-throttle without having to worry as much. My mobility is also quite good, so I can hit excellent depth on my leg exercises.

Because of these factors, I have a lean and toned upper body with massive legs (my quads bloom out past my waistline). The fact that my center of gravity is lower gives me uncanny balance when kicking and I can generate very powerful kicks from positions most martial artists wouldn’t expect. My body shape is a little unorthodox, but it’s well adapted for my needs and goals.

Finding pants, however, is terrible. My waistline measures 35 inches around and my legs are often 30 inches each, especially if I’ve been able to train as much as I like. I’ve baffled many, many clothing department workers and will hopefully do so for years to come!

Let These Guys Be The Reminder To Never Skip Leg Days

Ask a gym goer what their least favorite muscle to train is, and most probably they’ll point you to their legs. If you treat your legs fairly, your leg workouts should be the most brutal and taxing of all your workouts.

Look around your gyms and you’ll probably see a lot of people with CLS (chicken legs syndrome). It is because of not training their lower body adequately. If you’re into muscle aesthetics, you certainly wouldn’t want to look like a bulb (broad on the top and narrow on the bottom).

Don’t Skip Leg Days, Ever

It is true you can’t spell legendary without ‘leg’. If you have legs this tiny, you certainly wouldn’t want to expose them in public unless you want to become the subject of ridicule and mockery.

We’re sure these kids will be impressed with the guy’s strength and muscles. We just wish they don’t pick up the guy’s workout routine. We would love to watch this guy squat with these boys on his back.

The kid on the left is already picking up cues from the man and has some upper body strength. It is nice to see the kid do a pull-up on the guy’s bicep. We wish someone teaches him the importance of lower body training as well.

This campaign by Calvin Klein was a success – for all the wrong reasons, thanks to the model in the picture holding the banner. CK needs a better screening process for its models and the male model in the picture needs a better training program.

Some of you might be shocked to see Wolverine on the list, but we aren’t. Hugh Jackman’s legs don’t match up to his ripped upper body. Go, explore his Instagram and you’ll hardly see any video of him squatting.

Jackman’s Insta feed is full of videos of him deadlifting and performing other exercises. Hugh’s legs don’t receive the same love as his other muscles. Well, maybe his legs are made of adamantium.

Did you think Hugh’s previous picture was taken from a bad angle? We just wanted to confirm the size of Jackman’s legs with this photo. Let this picture be the motivation for your next leg workout.

This guy needs to replace the crate with dumbbells and walking with lunges. Or he could save himself all the hard work and replace his shorts with baggy sweatpants. This guy’s New Year’s resolution should be to train legs twice weekly.

It is funny how these people forget to train their legs completely. We hope this guy doesn’t tip over because of his big upper body and tiny legs. Legs are the building blocks of your body. A weak base can lead to problems in the future.

Welcome to the gym where training legs aren’t allowed. We think this photo was supposed to be taken from the waist up. It is commendable how both people in the picture are flexing their calves.

When did you last train your legs?

Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.

8 Reasons to Not Skip Leg Day

We all know that one person that has an enormous torso and twigs for legs. A person who skips leg day is easy to spot. Many people focus on their so-called “mirror muscles.” These muscles may look the best in your reflection but if you are only working out the upper half of your body, you’re making a mistake. Leg day helps you not only build muscle but offers many other health benefits. A leg workout can be difficult, but that is no reason to skip leg day. When it comes to fitness, you only get out what you are willing to put in. If you are serious about getting fit than a leg day is a must. Today we are going to look at the 8 reasons to not skip leg day workouts.

Reduced Risk of Injury

Functional exercises such as squats and lunges promote stability in the knee. According to the American Council on Exercise increased stability is the best way to avoid an ACL tear. Having strong legs means you are much less likely to seriously injure yourself. Reduced risk of injury is one of the biggest benefits of a leg workout.

Increased Athletic Preformance

Any sport requires leg strength. Whether you play basketball, soccer or baseball, leg strength can increase your performance. Increased leg strength allows you to run faster, jump higher, and generate explosive power when you need it most. So if your goal is to become a professional athlete or simply want to school your friends in a pickup basketball game, leg day is the way to do it.

Higher Calorie Burn

Whether or not your goal is weight loss, a leg workout offers you the most bang for your buck. Bigger muscles produce more significant returns in regards to increased heart rate and fat burn. Your legs have some of the largest muscles in your body. Because of this fact, a leg workout requires the greatest amount of work from your heart and brain. This increases your metabolism, therefore increasing your caloric burn both during and after the workout. So skipping leg day means you won’t get the returns you are looking for from your gym routine.

Run Faster and Longer

You may think that running is the only way to increase speed and endurance, but you would be wrong. Integrating strength training into to you endurance routine can help make you a better runner. Typically runners suffer injuries to their hips. Deadlifts have been shown to reduce the risk of hip injury. There is also the benefit of increasing your ability to sprint to the finish line. Studies show that runners that include strength training into their routines have more left in the tank for the final sprint.

Improved Balance

Large upper body muscles are no match for a patch of ice or a balance beam. Paired with strong core muscles(abs and lower back) strong leg muscles increase balance significantly. Not skipping leg days gives you the stability and balance you need for anything life throws at you.

Increased Range of Motion

You may think that weight training and larger muscles wouldn’t help with flexibility. Think again. Mobile joints are required for nearly all disciplines of pro athletics. Olympic weightlifters and elite Cross-fit athletes need mobile joints to maximize the power that they produce. Even if you’re not a pro athlete, exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges will improve your range of motion. Once you have safely mastered the movements, increasing the weight will improve flexibility and your muscle gains.

Reduce Lower Back Pain

Let’s face it, most American’s sit at a desk all day. Sitting at a desk has serious negative health effects. One common side effect of an office job is lower back pain. Increasing strength in your legs, hips, abs, and back can reduce the risk of back pain. Many people think that stretching alone will solve this problem. Unfortunately, while stretching helps, it isn’t the answer to your problems. Leg day can help you both in and out of the office, in regards to reduced back pain.

Extra Strength for Everyday Tasks

If you are not a pro athlete or avid sports enthusiast you can still benefit from not skipping leg day. Everyday tasks such as moving furniture, picking up boxes, and carrying in the groceries become easier with increased strength in your legs. If you want to feel like a superhero while accomplishing your everyday tasks, then a strong leg routine is the way to go.

A Leg Workout is Complex

A beginner may want to see help from a personal trainer to help them start their leg workouts. Leg exercises such as squats and deadlifts are difficult maneuvers to master. Having someone to guide you can be the difference between getting stronger and getting injured. Look for a Boca Raton personal trainer to help guide you in the right direction.

Jim’s Ultimate Smith Machine Exercise Guide

A lot of trainers hate the Smith machine. Their reasons include the fact that it locks you into a fixed movement of the bar that is less natural than a free-weight barbell, and that it lessens the involvement of important stabilizer muscles.

While these facts are true, I would argue that these negatives could be positives in certain circumstances—when used correctly.

For example, the fixed pattern of the bar is perfect for the upright row, which can put stress on the shoulder joint. I find the fixed path of the bar removes the stress on the actual joint, yet increases the focus on the deltoid. Lessening the involvement of the smaller, weaker stabilizers can help you take the target muscle to failure better because the stabilizers are not the limiting factor causing you to fatigue on a set before the target muscle is fatigued.

However, I really love the Smith machine because there is an endless amount of unique exercises that you can perform on it if you think outside the box. So the next time a trainer tells you that you should never use the Smith machine, they’re just demonstrating their ignorance and lack of ability to truly understand a training tool that could enhance results when used properly.

The Benefits of Smith Machine Training

I’m a firm believer in using all of the tools available in the gym. When it comes to the Smith machine, research shows one specific benefit of the Smith machine when training your chest.

California State University (Fullerton) researchers measured the muscle activity of subjects’ middle deltoids, front deltoids, and the pectoralis major (pecs or chest) muscles when subjects performed the bench press with a free-weight barbell or on the Smith machine. They reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that there was not much difference between the muscle activity of the pecs.

However, they did find that the muscle activity of the middle deltoid was significantly greater, and the muscle activity of the front deltoid was slightly greater (see graph below) on the barbell bench press as compared to the Smith Machine.

The reason that there is greater muscle activity of the middle and front deltoid muscles on the barbell bench press is due to the fact that this free-weight exercise requires greater stability to balance the barbell. That means that the shoulders have to assist more on the barbell bench press. Since the Smith machine moves in a fixed path along the guide rods, there is less need for the shoulder muscles to help stabilize the bar.

Jim’s Take-Home Message:

Other research studies have shown that you can lift more total weight on the barbell bench press than you can on the Smith machine bench press. So, you should definitely use the barbell bench press towards the beginning of your chest workouts to go heavier and place more overload on the pecs to stimulate greater muscle growth and strength gains.

Later on in the workout, however, after you become more fatigued, you should also consider doing Smith machine bench presses to place better focus specifically on the pecs. Because the pecs need less help from the deltoids to do the Smith machine bench press, you have greater emphasis placed on the pecs, which can also help to stimulate greater muscle growth.

Here’s a great chest workout that uses both versions of the bench press and really burns out the pecs.

Smith Machine Bench Press Throw

Building muscle power is important regardless of whether your goal is to develop more athleticism, increase muscle strength, build muscle mass, or even drop body fat. In other words, everyone should be incorporating power exercises into their workouts.

Power exercises can be any exercise done with light weight and fast reps. Although multi-joint exercises—such as the squat, row, or bench press—work best, single-joint exercises like the barbell curl are also effective, especially for muscle groups that do not have many multi-joint exercises, such as biceps and calves.

Doing the reps as quickly as possible utilizes more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers. These are the muscle fibers that grow the biggest, the strongest, and the fastest. These muscle fibers also burn the most calories, which is why doing power exercises are also effective for fat loss.

One of the best exercises for building upper body power is the Smith machine bench press throw. To do the Smith machine bench press throw, place a flat bench in the middle of a Smith machine. Load light weight onto the bar. I’ll get into precisely how much weight in a moment.

Position yourself on the flat bench so that the bar is above your lower chest when you bring the bar down to your chest. It will take some trial and error to figure out how far to put the bench in and how high to scoot up on the bench to find this sweet spot where the bar is just below your nipples in the bottom position.

Grab the bar with the same grip you normally use on the bench press. This should be a bit wider than shoulder width. Of course, you can also do this exercise to build more triceps power. In that case, you would use a shoulder-width grip to do a close-grip Smith machine bench press throw. Once you have your grip set, unlatch the safety hooks to free the bar and hold it over your chest with arms fully extended but elbows not locked out.

Lower the bar down to your chest and press the bar up as explosively as possible. You literally want to throw the bar as high as you can in the Smith machine as you press the bar up. Catch the bar as it comes back down lowering it to your chest again and proceed right into the next rep. Never catch the bar with straight arms and try to stop the downward momentum of the bar. This will put too much stress on the wrists and elbows, and can lead to an injury. Always absorb the energy of the bar by guiding it down to your chest.

You can see why you would never want to do this with a regular barbell. The guideposts of the Smith machine keep the bar on the same path so that you know precisely where it will be as it comes back down. Of course, it still may take you some time to get used to catching the bar, so start with a very light weight until you are comfortable throwing and catching the bar.

Once you are comfortable with the exercise and your hand-eye coordination, use a weight somewhere between 30-50% of your one-rep max on the bench press. Research shows that this is the best weight range for maximizing muscle power. Do 3-8 reps per set, which research also shows to be the best rep range for maximal power gains.

This exercise is great for building muscle power because the bar keeps accelerating throughout the entire positive portion of each rep. When you perform a normal bench press, where the bar stays in your hands, you actually have to slow the bar down toward the top of the movement. This impedes power development. By allowing the bar to leave your hands, you’re maximizing speed and power.

To further enhance power development with the Smith machine bench press throw, consider using the rest-pause technique where instead of doing each rep consecutively, you take a short rest between reps. Rest about 20-40 seconds between reps, which research shows to be the best time frame for rest-pause to build greater power.

For a workout that I designed to show you how to use the Smith machine bench press throw in your chest workouts click on the link below:

Standing Smith Machine Reverse-Grip Bench for Bigger Upper Pecs

Need to bring up a lagging pair of upper pecs and looking for something other than incline presses? I’ve got an exercise to offer up that doesn’t even require you to lie down: The Standing Smith Machine “Incline” Reverse-Grip Press.

I’ve been touting the effectiveness of targeting the upper pecs with reverse-grip barbell and dumbbell presses for a while now, as studies have shown that doing flat-bench barbell presses with a reverse grip increases upper pec muscle activity by over 30%. (Here are two videos you can check out on this topic: Reverse-Grip Bench Press Tips and Dumbbell Reverse-Grip Press.) Do reverse-grip presses on an incline bench and that further increases upper pec involvement by another 5-10%.

But maybe you don’t feel like doing incline presses because you don’t have a spotter, or because your gym’s crowded and all the incline benches are being used. Or, if you’re like me, you just want to shock the muscles with something new and different. That’s where standing Smith machine incline reverse-grip presses can come into play.

With this exercise, you get the same great focus on the upper pecs with a new movement you’ve probably never tried before. Since we’re talking about a new movement, watch this video for a demonstration of how to do it:

As I explain in the video, you can plug this exercise into any of my programs where incline barbell or dumbbell presses show up—but I also like this move as a finisher in a chest workout. That said, check out the below routine. The workout emphasizes the upper pecs, with three of the four exercises targeting that area—including the standing Smith machine incline reverse-grip press as the last exercise. Try the workout below and let me know how you like it.

Smith Machine Power Row

As I said above, it’s important to incorporate power training into your workouts for building explosive power. This isn’t just true for power athletes, but for anyone who is interested in building more strength and muscle mass. Using power moves like jump squats, Smith machine bench press throws, and power cleans target the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which grow the fastest, strongest, and biggest.

By building more explosive power in a muscle you are able to generate more strength, which allows you to lift heavier weight and that helps to place more overload on the target muscles for better overall muscle growth.

One of the best ways to train with ballistic power movements is to use the Smith machine.
Because the bar is on a guided track, it allows you to let the bar go for generating maximum power, yet easily catch the bar on the way down. This works great on exercises such as bench press throws and curl throws. Using the Smith machine also makes a great way to train your back explosively, with my exercise the Smith Machine Power Row.

To do this exercise, stand sideways in the Smith machine so that the outside of your left leg is almost touching the bar. Bend forward from the hips so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Grab the middle of the bar with your left hand.

Consider using an open grip with your thumb on the same side of the bar as your fingers, as opposed to wrapped under it. The open grip makes it easier for releasing and catching the bar.

Use your legs, hips and lower back to generate the initial power that will transfer to your lats and arm to pull the bar up as high as possible. Let go of the bar in the top position and then grab onto it as it starts its descent back to the start position. Repeat for reps, completing all reps on the left side and then switching your position to repeat on the right side.

It’s best to do the Smith machine power row at the very start of your back workout.
This is because you want your fast-twitch muscle fibers to be fresh and strong when trying to maximize power. Because these muscle fibers fatigue easily, you do not want to do explosive movements like this later in the workout when the fast-twitch muscle fibers are fatigued. This would limit power generation.

Do 2-3 sets of Smith machine power reps for about 3-8 reps per set using a weight that is somewhere between 30-80% of your one-rep max on this exercise. The goal is to not fatigue the muscles, but to maximize power development, so you stop the set long before muscle failure sets in. This makes the Smith machine power row a good warm-up exercises before the rest of your normal back training. Doing these sets will not fatigue the lats and can actually help them to be stronger on the following exercises.

Watch my video on how to do the Smith machine power row:

Click on the link below for a training program that shows you how to use the Smith machine power row in your workouts:

Smith Machine Squats: Pros and Cons

As you’ve seen, one way I like to use the Smith is to train explosively, such as with bench press throws, or curl throws (explained below). Plus, you can do novel exercises on the Smith, like my Smith machine lateral raise for the delts or weighted hip thrusts for the lower abs (explained below, as well). Research has even shown that you can squat heavier on the Smith machine than you can with free weights.

However, as great as the Smith machine can be, like any piece of equipment, it has its pros and cons. One con of the Smith machine is that it may not activate as many muscle fibers in the legs as free weight barbell squats do, according to research from the University of Saskatchewan.

The Canadian researchers measured muscle activity of the major leg muscles in trained men during free weight squats and Smith machine squats. They found that during the Smith machine squat, muscle activity of the quads and hamstrings were 50% and 25% less, respectively, than during the free weight squat. Less muscle activity can limit the amount of muscle growth you achieve.

Jim’s take-home point:

Use the Smith machine to squat with heavier weight from time to time—but don’t completely replace the free-weight barbell squat. This should still be your major leg mass builder, and for good reason. This study shows just one more reason why the squat is called the king of all leg exercises.

Smith-Forged Shoulders

I love this Smith machine shoulder workout for a number of reasons: First and foremost is the fact that it hits all three heads of the deltoids in a unique manner—and you know I love hitting muscles in a unique manner. That’s because each muscle is composed of hundreds of thousands of muscle fibers. You only involve a percentage of those when doing any one particular exercise, so doing a variety of exercises and doing variations of each exercise is the best way to make sure that you are hitting as many muscle fibers in a muscle as possible, and encouraging more of them to grow.

Another reason that I love this Smith machine shoulder workout is that it makes training in a crowded gym easy. On busy gym days, there’s nothing worse than stressing out over whether or not the bench, or machine, or dumbbells you need for the next exercise are going to be available. All you have to do is wait for the Smith machine to be free and you can set up camp for the entire workout.

Smith Machine Lateral Raise

The typical dumbbell lateral raise is one of the most effective single-joint exercises for building up the middle head of the deltoid. And remember, the middle head of the deltoid makes up the majority of the mass of the deltoids. It also provides your shoulders both width and roundness, giving them that cannonball appearance. But the Smith Machine Lateral raise can offer even better results than dumbbells.

That’s because it removes the forearms from the equation and places the focus more directly on the middle delts. This exercise is great for those with wrist or hand issues who can’t perform the dumbbell lateral raise without pain. It also makes a great replacement for the machine lateral raise in case your gym does not have one. Regardless of why you try it, once you feel it and see the results it provides, you’ll always keep this gem of an exercise in your shoulder routine.

To do the Smith machine lateral raise, place light weight on the bar of a Smith machine and set the bar just above waist height. Stand in the middle of the Smith machine with your left arm touching the bar. Bend your arm at the elbow 90 degrees so that your forearm is parallel with the bar.

Unlatch the bar with your right hand and support the weight with your left forearm. Maintaining the bend at your elbow, raise your arm up to lift the bar to about shoulder height. Hold this position for a second, contracting your deltoid as hard as possible, then slowly lower the bar back down to just above waist height, keeping the bar in contact with your forearm the entire time. Complete all reps with one arm and then repeat in the same manner with the other arm.

To really boost intensity and blast your delts, try supersetting the smith machine lateral raise with the one-arm dumbbell lateral raise.

Smith Machine One-Arm Shrug

Nothing sets off a set of wide, round shoulders like a pair of mountainous traps. But like calves and forearms, the traps are one of those bodyparts that are tough for most guys to develop. So how the heck do you get big traps? My answer to that question is… SHRUG!!

You can’t build big traps without shrugging, and while you can’t beat the barbell shrug for overall trap size, there are some problems with this exercise. The most critical is the fact that certain, ahem, “bodyparts” (guys, you know what I’m talking about) get in the way when you shrug the bar up to hip height. That’s why dumbbell shrugs are great variation – because they keep the weight off to the sides of your thighs. But even dumbbell shrugs can get a bit awkward, and some gyms don’t have heavy enough dumbbells to really stimulate adequate trap growth.

But don’t worry, I have a few tricks up my sleeves when it comes to growing huge traps. One trick I use a lot these days is an exercise I call the one-arm Smith machine shrug. It’s easy to do and you can really load up the weight. Here’s how it’s done:

To perform the one-arm Smith machine shrug, load the bar of a Smith machine and stand in the middle of the apparatus with your right side facing the bar. Grab the bar in the middle with your right hand and shrug your shoulder up as high as possible while keeping your arm as straight as you can. Hold this position for a second and squeeze your trap muscle hard, then lower your arm back down to get a full stretch.

I suggest you use an open grip where your thumb doesn’t wrap around the bar. This prevents your thumb from getting caught on your clothes and allows you to keep the bar closer to your body as you shrug it up. This helps to maximize the range of motion on this exercise for better trap development.

When you finish all reps on one side, switch to the other side and repeat.

I suggest you start your traps workout with about 3 sets of standard barbell shrugs or even standard shrugs in the Smith machine. Then, finish with about 3 or 4 sets of one-arm Smith machine shrugs. Or, if you’re short on time but don’t want to be short on trap development, do 4-6 sets of one-arm Smith shrugs without stopping. By that I mean go back and forth from right arm to left arm without stopping until you’ve completed 4-6 sets per side.

One last thing about trap training: I know that many of you are confused about whether you should train traps with shoulders or back. Before I give you my answer, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the musculature.

The trapezius muscle is a large diamond-shaped muscle on the back and shoulders. It’s composed of three sections: the upper traps, which are used to raise the shoulders such as when you perform shrugs; the middle traps, which are used to pull the shoulder blades together, such as when doing rows; and the lower traps, which pull the shoulder blades down, such as during pulldowns.

I prefer to work the upper traps via shrugs after shoulders. That’s because the upper traps assist with many shoulder exercises such as shoulder presses, lateral raises and upright rows. I often do exercises to target the middle and lower traps after back, since these areas of the trapezius tend to be involved in major back exercises like rows, pulldowns and straight arm pulldowns.

Smith Machine Biceps Curl Throw

As I’ve already said, performing reps explosively in this manner can help boost power and overall strength, which will then enable you to lift heavier weight during your normal biceps training, leading to improved overall muscle hypertrophy. The Smith machine is the perfect tool for performing these fast, explosive reps.

In the video below, I discuss a great exercise to help build stronger and more powerful biceps with one movement: The Biceps Curl Throw. If you’ve reached a sticking point on your strength gains when it comes to curls, give this exercise a try.

Smith-Forged Calves

One of the questions that I get all the time is, “Jim, my gym doesn’t carry a seated calf raise machine or a standing calf raise machine. So how can I properly train legs?” My answer is the Smith machine. After all, most commercial gyms carry at least one Smith machine and it’s very easy to set up to do both the seated calf raise and the standing calf raise in the Smith machine. One stop shopping, allowing you to bang out your calf training without moving around much.

Watch this video to see how to do the Smith machine seated calf raise:

Watch this video to see how to do the Smith machine standing calf raise

Smith Machine Hip Thrust

I am always in search of unique techniques and alternatives to the traditional methods we use to help sculpt specific areas of the body. The below exercise, the Smith Machine Hip Thrust, is certainly one of the movements that is going to get you unique looks while executing it the next time at the gym. But who cares right? Results are what matter and I urge you all to give this new innovative ways to target the abs in a completely new way.

Try the workout below to see how you can incorporate the Smith machine hip thrust into your ab training routines.

Smith Machine Crunch

I’m a firm believer in adding resistance to ab exercises such as crunches to build strong, well-developed abs. After all, the rectus abdominis (the “6-pack”) and other midsection muscles, such as the obliques, are like any other muscle group you train and need to be trained with a variety of resistance and rep ranges.

In fact, a recent study found that when subjects performed a body-weight only ab workout several times per week for 12 weeks, they experienced no significant increases in abdominal strength.

While weighted crunches done holding weight plates, dumbbells, or medicine balls are good ways to increase the resistance on crunches, these methods can limit the amount of weight you can place on your abs. A great alternative is an exercise that I call the Smith Machine Crunch.

To do this exercise, place a bench in the middle of a Smith machine. Lie face up on the bench with your knees bent and feet flat on the bench. The bar should line up over your upper abs as you hold the bar at arm’s length above you with your back flat on the bench.

Use your abs to explosively lift your torso up as high as you can, pushing the bar up as your body rises. Slowly lower your upper body back to the bench and repeat for reps. Vary your weight and rep ranges and go as low as 6-8 reps in some workouts to as high as 25-30+ reps in other workouts.

When the gym is busy and empty benches aren’t easy to come by, forego the bench and do the Smith machine crunch right from the floor in the same manner.

JimStoppani.com Membership

“I’ve laid the groundwork for you by doing the research in the lab to find out what really works, designing the programs and systems, creating the content, and developing the technology. My knowledge is your power – now it’s up to you to run with it and get the results.”

Get 30 Days For $1

Lee Constantinou for Bodybuilding.com (Picture: Simon Howard of snhfoto.com)

The gym can be a confusing, intimidating place.

Unless we’re booked into a class, many of us will spend our gym hour on the treadmill or cross trainer.

It’s not because we don’t know that the rest of it is good for us – we just haven’t got a clue how to use it.

British Military Fitness recently reported that one in five men perform exercises wrong after learning bad habits from copying others working out.

It’s something many of us do – which wastes time and leave us prone to injury.

There’s a whole load of equipment that looks way too daunting to use unless you’ve got the inside scoop – and one of those is the Smith machine.

You’ll have seen people using it – but might have been too nervous to get involved yourself.

Advertisement Advertisement

Yet once you do, you’ll never look back.

We’ve enlisted Lee Constantinou, body transformation coach and bodybuilding.com athlete, to nip bad habits in the bud and help you get the most out of the gym.

What is a Smith machine?

(Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Alongside the free weights and resistance machines there is a piece of equipment that you might be less familiar with.

It’s called the Smith machine and it looks like a barbell attached to a supporting frame. Have you seen it?

The Smith machine is designed to give you more support during barbell exercises as it uses a fixed ‘up and down’ movement.

It doesn’t allow you to sway forward or back out of the alignment of the frame; making typical barbell exercises a little easier.

Don’t be fooled though, it may be easier than using the free weight barbells but you can still get a great full body workout on this piece of gym equipment.

Here are eight greats that you can do on the Smith machine for a full body workout.

BACK SQUAT

(Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Everyone should be performing the back squat, whether your goal is to build muscle, lose fat or get stronger.

The Smith machine back squat will help achieve either of these goals.

Muscles targeted

Quads, gluteus and core

How to perform the Smith machine back squat

Resting the bar on your shoulders and traps, position your feet 3 to 4 inches in front of the bar. Stand at a comfortable distance keeping your feet at least hip width apart with your toes either straight on or pointing slightly outwards.

Advertisement Advertisement

Keeping your back straight and core tight slowly sink your hips back until your thighs reach a parallel position to the floor.

Keeping your feet flat to the floor, drive through your heels to push yourself back up to your start position.

Top tips

You need to keep your feet slightly in front of the bar on a Smith machine compared to the free-weight barbell where you stand beneath the bar. Focus on keeping your back straight by slightly tilting your hips back and keeping your shoulders blades squeezing together. Breathe in as you lower your down and back and exhale as you push the bar back up to the start position.

Common mistakes

  • Rounding/curving back
  • Lifting heels off the floor
  • Looking up too high (hyperextending the neck)
  • Knees collapsing inwards

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT

(Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Muscle targeted

Quads and gluteus

How to perform the Smith machine Bulgarian split squat

Place a bench about 1ft behind the bar on the smith machine. Resting the bar on your traps and shoulders, elevate one leg behind you on the bench with your standing leg 3-4 inches in front of the bar.

Slowly lower your back knee towards the floor as your front knee bends to roughly 90 degrees.

Once you’ve reached your full range, using the front leg engage your butt muscles and push yourself back up to a standing position. Once you complete a set on one leg, change sides to balance out the exercise, working both legs.

Top tips

Advertisement

Work to your full range; aim to get your back leg as close to the floor as possible. Keep your back straight and core tight to support your posture. Keep your front foot flat on the floor and push through the heel. Inhale as you lower the bar and exhale as you push up.

Common mistakes

  • Sitting onto the back leg; pushing off the elevated leg
  • Rounding back on the descend
  • Having the front leg too far forward; reducing your ROM (range of motion)

CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS

(Picture: Deni Kirkova) (Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Muscle targeted

Pectorals (chest) and triceps

How to perform the Smith machine close grip bench press

Laying flat on a bench, grip the bar 6-8 inches apart with your arms fully lengthened out in front. Slowly lower the bar down toward your chest. Pause approximately 1in from your chest and press the bar back up to the start position.

Key exercise tips

Keep your elbows fairly tucked in throughout this movement. Ensure your wrists are in a comfortable position by keeping them in a locked fixed position. Inhale as you lower the bar; exhale slowly as you press the bar up from your chest.

Common mistakes

  • Having too closer grip
  • Having too wider grip (conventional bench press)
  • Bending the wrists too far back
  • Bouncing the bar off the chest
  • Overextending the arms at the top of the movement

ROMANIAN DEADLIFT (RDL)

(Picture: Deni Kirkova) (Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Smith machine RDLs are a great compound exercise to target your hamstrings and gluteus.

Advertisement

Muscle targeted

Hamstrings, gluteus and core

How to perform the Smith machine Romanian deadlift

Position your feet underneath the bar at hip width apart, pointing your toes forward. Take a slight bend in your knees and grip the bar with an overhand grip just outside your hips. Leading with your hips, keep your back straight; lower your chest to the floor, pushing your hips back behind you. Pause once you pass your knees by about 2 inches before pushing through your heels, driving your hips forward and returning back the start position.

Top tips

Keep your shoulders down and squeeze your shoulders blades back.

Gripping through your toes, keep your feet flat to the floor at all times.

If you’re struggling with grip then try using liquid chalk wraps to help you hold the bar. Breathe in as you lower the bar and exhale as you pull and stand up.

Common mistakes

  • Rounding or curving of the back
  • Lifting toes off the floor
  • Bending knees too much (conventional deadlift style)

BARBELL ROWS

(Picture: Deni Kirkova) (Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Muscle targeted

Latissimus dorsi, traps and biceps

How to perform the Smith machine barbell row

Standing inside the Smith machine, position your feet hip width apart and grip the bar at shoulder distance apart with an overhand grip. Sit your hips back into the Romanian Deadlift position (see Smith machine RDL) with your arms at full length. Pull the bar in towards your mid-section, pause, and then slowly lower the back down, fully straightening your arms.

Top tips

Keep your shoulders down and back to fully engage your lats. Ensure your elbows are tucked as your pull the bar in towards your body.

Common mistakes

  • Using momentum by bending the knees and using the legs
  • Jerky movements by extending at the lower back
  • Pushing the head forward as the bar comes into the body

UPRIGHT ROW

(Picture: Deni Kirkova) (Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Muscle targeted

Deltoids (shoulders) and traps

How to perform the Smith machine upright row

Stand with your feet at shoulder width beneath the bar. With an overhand grip the bar at waist height. Leading with your elbows pull the bar upwards to your chin. Once the bar is in line with your clavicle (upper chest area) pause for a split second before lowering the bar back down to waist height, fully straightening your arms.

Top tips

Lead with your elbows and keep then higher than your wrist throughout the movement. Keep your knees soft for stability. Exhale as you pull the bar upwards and inhale as you lower the bar back down.

Common mistakes

  • Using the legs and creating momentum to lift the bar
  • Having a too wider grip
  • Dropping elbows bellow wrists

DONKEY KICK

Picture: Deni Kirkova) (Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Muscle targeted

Gluteus

How to perform the Smith machine donkey kick

This exercise is great for isolating your gluteus. Just a note, you may need a partner to help you un-rack the bar from the Smith machine. Position yourself on the floor, resting your forearms down to stabilise your body. Placing the middle of one leg on the base of the bar, rotate your foot to un-rack the bar from the machine. Slowly lower the bar down towards the floor, flexing at your knee. As your knee is approximately 2 inches from the floor push through your heel and raise the bar upward extending your leg.

Top tips

Positing the resting leg on the floor with your toes curled under to stabilise and support your body. Try to keep a flat back throughout the movement.

Common mistakes:

  • Hyperextending the lower back
  • Pushing the bar with the toes
  • Rounding the back

SHOULDER PRESS

(Picture: Deni Kirkova) (Picture: Deni Kirkova)

Muscle targeted

Deltoids (shoulders)

How to perform the Smith machine shoulder press

Position bench in the upright position; grip the bar just outside shoulder width apart. Slowly lower the bar down toward your upper chest. Pause the bar just below your chin then press the bar back up, straightening out your arms.

Top tips

Keep your elbows slightly forward. Try to keep your back flat against the bench maintaining contact through your upper back and butt. If you have limited range in your shoulders then a slight arch in your lower back is okay.

Common mistakes

  • Flared elbows; bringing the elbows behind the bench
  • Overarching the lower back; lifting the chest too high
  • Hyperextending the elbows; locking the arms out aggressively

Advertisement Advertisement

The Fix

The daily lifestyle email from Metro.co.uk.

Find out more

The “research era” of fitness and training has seen plenty of major breakthroughs to make exercise smarter and more effective, but that’s not to say sometimes the experts are a little bit trigger happy when it comes to giving a new philosophy publicity. For ages, the Smith machine was maligned by educated strength coaches and deemed an obsolete piece of equipment that doesn’t properly mimic the body’s natural movement patterns. Having a bar mounted on a fixed track to perform a movement (especially a compound movement) can be hazardous to teaching a newer lifter proper form and technique, engaging his stabilising muscles into a lift to produce true strength.

(Related: Hit your body goals with machines)

But that’s exactly the reason I like it for intermediate and advanced lifters.

If you’re a well trained man looking to add muscle size, using the Smith machine for various movements can create the direct volume you need to see new growth. The predictability of the bar’s path makes it an excellent tool for breaking down and totally fatiguing muscles from one angle, thus tapping into the same set of motor units on every rep without fail. Here I present choice exercises to bulk up your training programme.

(Related: Three pieces of gym equipment you should use)

Smith Machine Bench Press

Set up a flat or low-inclined bench under the Smith machine, and adjust your position so it contacts the lower (and most comfortable) part of your chest at the bottom. Set your back and feet the way you would on any bench press, and feel free to take the bar for a ride. The good thing about the Smith machine is that the track can often dull the downward momentum. At the top of each rep, take advantage of that and stop just short of a full extension. You’ll receive a better pump due to the constant tension.

(Related: Why you need to use cable machines)

Smith Machine Bent-over Row

For lifters who struggle to hit the upper back in enough isolation (that means not using other muscles/bad form to complete reps) when training this movement with a regular barbell, doing the same thing on the Smith machine would be a viable option. As a bonus, the limited stability required to execute this movement is an excellent lower back saver, especially for those who have suffered previous injuries to it. Focus on higher reps.

(Related: How you are using exercise machines wrong)

Smith Machine Romanian Deadlifts

Due to the nature of the lift, this version of the RDL would be more focused towards hamstring development, and less toward glute development. It’s hard to “lock out” on this lift since the body can’t change its angle at the top (deadlifts with free weights will allow a lifter to lean back by just a couple of degrees in order to counterbalance). For that reason, stopping just short of a full back extension and maintaining the hamstring contraction is another great option for a super pump and a burnout for the hamstrings.

Watch: 32 moves to build bigge biceps

One More Thing: Do Inverted Rows

A lift all lifters – beginner, intermediate and advanced – can benefit from is the under-the-bar (inverted) row. This is a bodyweight staple exercise that bolsters the upper back to support proper rowing mechanics, improve core strength, and stabilise the shoulders for pressing movements to come. It’s often hard to find a setup of the proper height off the ground suitable for these movements, and setting up a bar in a squat rack isn’t always accessible, or looked favourably upon by people actually wanting to squat. Adjusting the Smith machine to the suitable elevation is the best thing you can do to set the tone for your gains. Since it’s a bodyweight exercise, perform reps to technical failure, and always look to make rep improvements.

By Lee Boyce, Internationally published fitness writer and strength coach

THERACK® Workout Station 30 lb Pro Version Review

We are super excited to be testing out this innovative piece of equipment so let’s dive straight into it with our The Rack Workout Station Pro Version review!

Features:

  • Heavy-Duty, 1½ inch diameter steel framing and bolts – Weighs 30 pounds – Solid
  • Reconfigures to 3 different levels + 1
  • 19 different functional exercises, including dips, curls, pushups, abs and rows
  • Multiple, durable hand grips for a well defined and balanced upper body
  • Ideal for Circuit Training & creating an aerobic workout

Dimensions / Weight:

  • 15.8 x 24 x 34 inches (foldable)
  • 30 pounds

Assembly:

Simple 10-minute set-up.

Opinions:

We have never seen so many possibilities packed into such a small package.

On first impressions the rack looked to us like grandpa’s walker on steroids, but on closer inspection we found it to be brimming with fantastic features.

The unit is specifically designed to target 7 different body parts; your chest, lats, delts, traps, triceps, biceps, abs. However, us calisthenics junkies know that a piece of equipment is what you make of it and we were able to find several other uses.

Throw it on your shoulders for some extra weight during lunges or use it for support when learning single-leg squats. Every time you pick it up or flip it over The RACK becomes something new!

Not only can you target individual body parts, you can also vary the exercises you hit them with. For example, you can choose from a multitude of options for push-ups such as wide grip, regular and close grip. Just look at this example of use everyday use…

This variety and versatility all adds up to a complete workout package which will leave you aching in places you never even knew existed.

Its size makes it easy to pack away and take almost anywhere. If you’re tight for space in your home gym or simply want a portable solution then this is incredible bang for your buck.

Price:

The RACK workout station 30 lb pro version is available for $159.99 at the time of writing.

Unfortunately this beast is not yet available in the UK but we will be keeping our eyes peeled for an alternative!

The Rack All In One Workout Station Review: Top Pick For 2020!

THE RACK Workout Station is an excellent all in one home gym that allows you to work out from the comfort of your own house. THE RACK Workout Station is small enough to carry around in your car and bring to a friend’s house if you wanted to get a good workout somewhere else, but also heavy enough to give you a great work out no matter what body part you’re targeting.

THE RACK all in one workout station is made from 30 pounds of pure steel. It’s a small metal cage that you can use as a complete workout station no matter where you are. You can easily achieve a great workout within 15 to 30 minutes or faster depending on what body part you’re looking to target. It’s effective, fun, functional, easy to use, and can give you one of the best workouts you’ve ever had before.

SEE ALSO: Best Compact Exercise Equipment for Apartments and Small Spaces

If you’re looking to make working out fun and exciting again then THE RACK All In One Gym Workout Station might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s going to give you a variety of different exercises that can help you sculpt whatever part of your body you want.

I’ve never seen or experienced a home workout station that’s as versatile as THE RACK and it lets you work out every body part with such a simple but effective design.

Table of Contents

The Rack Exercise

On THE RACK Workout Station, you are able to do 19 different functional exercises including dips, curls, pushups, abs, and rows. It works by letting you use your own body weight against you to work out. It has a steel metal cage that has three different positions that can be used to work out from.

The three different positions that can be used to work out from are, the standing position, the bench position, the flat position, and it can also be used as a free weight.

The Rack In A Standing Position

In the standing position, you can use THE RACK to do tricep dips to target your arms and sculpt it into rock-solid muscle. You can also do scissor-kicks to get shredded abs as well as one-legged squats to build more definition in your legs from this position.

The Rack In A Bench Position

In the bench position, you can target your shoulder and arm muscles by doing elevated pushups. With multiple hand grips available you can be sure to target multiple different muscle groups by doing the same exercise in a different way. This position is also great for doing extreme pull-ups.

The Rack In A Flat Position

In the flat position, THE RACK Workout Station comes with wheels that let you do ab rollouts and lets you roll out to the side so you can target those hard to tackle love handles.

Using The Rack In A Free Weight

Using THE RACK Workout Station as a free weight will give you the ability to do bicep curls, lunges, squats, bent-over rows, upright rows, overhead presses, etc. These exercises (with tons of variations) are sure to give your body an intense workout no matter what level of fitness you’re at. You also can add up to 40lbs of plates for added resistance

Pros and Cons of THE RACK Workout Station

Pros:

  • Use your own body weight as the primary resistance
  • More than 20 different body-building and strengthening exercises for a variety of workouts
  • Lets you add additional 5 lb weight to increase resistance and get an even more intense workout
  • Low impact exercises on joints compared to typical weight training
  • Can be used for any level of fitness you’re at
  • Can move around very easily
  • Made of 100% steel materials
  • Excellent customer reviews

Cons:

  • Has a weight limit of only 250 lbs meaning bigger people can’t use it
  • Won’t be able to build extremely large muscles
  • Not suitable for very tall people (anyone over 6’6″ could have difficulties doing certain exercises)
  • Can only do a certain limited amount of exercises using THE RACK Workout Station

SEE ALSO: Stealth Core Trainer Review: Abs, Obliques, Glutes, and Lower Back

Who is THE RACK All In One Gym Suitable For?

The Rack all in one gym is suitable for anyone under 250 lbs that wants to either target a specific body part or their whole body. It’s great for any beginner that wants to work out every day and get in extreme shape and it’s also going to be excellent for people who are already-fit as there are many advanced workouts you can do while using THE RACK Workout Station.

THE RACK Workout Station isn’t just great for people looking to build muscle, you can also get some serious cardiovascular workouts from this workout station. Since you mostly use your own body weight against you, you can always add additional steps to give you a seriously intense workout. Adding jumps between lunges or squats will give anyone the burn they’re looking for and can push your fitness to the next level. Even if you don’t work out that often, this workout station will be something that you can easily store and bring out whenever you do feel like working out. THE RACK Workout Station can give you the fast results you’re looking for if used properly every day.

No other home workout station was made like THE RACK. Its unique design lets you comfortably and seamlessly switch between different hand grips and exercises. It has plenty of ways for you to do advanced exercises when things get too easy to make it a one of a kind home workout station. You can tell that they really had the consumer in mind when making this versatile, portable, and foldable gym.

What’s Unique and Special About THE RACK Workout Station?

THE RACK Workout Station is like having 10 different workout machines all packed into one portable unit. This versatile piece of equipment lets you target seven different body parts – your shoulders, back, triceps, biceps, legs, abs, and chest. Working out on THE RACK is extremely fun and enjoyable. It feels so intuitive when working out, something so basic but also extremely effective and functional.

Building muscle while using THE RACK Workout Station should come easy when following a proper nutrition guide. They use a technique called Zone Progression Training that combines basic exercises, compound sets, and supersets all done in a sequential manner. This technique will target your muscles harder and faster then when you use traditional workout methods because you’re isolating the muscle and doing a set of 8 – 12 reps and then resting for a short period of time and doing another 8 – 12 sets followed by doing a compound set and a superset. These will help you save time and give you a more intense workout.

No other home workout station was made like THE RACK. Its unique design lets you comfortably and seamlessly switch between different hand grips and exercises. It has plenty of ways for you to do advanced exercises when things get too easy to make it a one of a kind home workout station. You can tell that they really had the consumer in mind when making this versatile, portable, and foldable gym.

Who’s the Creator of THE RACK Workout Station?

Between the winter of 1995 and 1996 actor and athlete Travis Burrell (while on set for the movie Escape from LA) threw together a makeshift on-set gym from various different scraps of metal ranging from remnant sawhorses, walkway rails, and catering chairs. He later imagined a single unobtrusive exercise piece of equipment that he could carry from set to set. THE RACK Workout station was made the following year.

THE RACK was originally sold in sports equipment stores from 1998 to 2002 and began marketing, distribution, and manufacturing in 2007.

SEE ALSO: OYO Personal Gym Review: Portable Gym For Home, Office & Travel

What You’ll Get

  • Comes with a 30 lb Steel Frame (THE RACK)
  • A set of 6 DVDs Plus 2 Bonus DVDs
  • Nutrition Guide
  • Owners Manual

It also has optional accessories that can be purchased additionally to THE RACK Workout Station such as a set of 2 five-pound weights and a cushioned seat pad.

FAQs – THERACK® Workout All In One Gym

How much does The Rack weigh?

The Rack’s sturdy steel frame, steel bolts, and wheels weigh in right at 30 lbs.

Is The Rack portable?

Yes. It easily folds and locks into place for portability and storage.

What is the weight limit for The Rack?

Your body weight should not exceed 250 pounds.

Are there any height restrictions?

People 6’6″ or taller may have trouble with some of the exercises like the Full Body Dip.

The Verdict

When I first saw THE RACK Workout Station I honestly thought it looked like a walker on steroids. It didn’t look aesthetically pleasing at all but when I started to play around with it and use it I found it to be everything I was looking for and more for an all in one home gym.

This little workout machine has to be the most cleverly designed piece of work out equipment I’ve ever come across in my entire life. It’s innovative, versatile, portable, and functional. It does everything you can want it to do when it comes to getting an intense workout in and it allows you to do beginner, intermediate, or advanced exercises.

Getting a good full-body workout used to be hard. Going to the gym every day and tinkering with all the different settings every time I moved to another machine just to get everything in the perfect place so I could work out would be extremely irritating but it was also necessary to do. When I got THE RACK Workout Station I started saving a lot of time and money by dropping my gym membership and I could focus only on working out (no more tinkering with settings on workout machines).

If you’re someone who’s serious about working out and you want to save a lot of time and money, I would highly recommend THE RACK. It’s going to give you everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s meant for both beginners and advanced trainers alike and you can quickly get in intense workouts if you’re serious about it.

10 Exercises You Should Never Do Again, According to Trainers

Getty Images/ LENblR

Take a look around your gym: You’ll probably see some fellow gym-goers hammering out these exercises. But that doesn’t mean you should too. These crazy common moves are, at best, ineffective—at worst, dangerous. Here, the moves—and exercise machines—you should ditch from your workout routine, according to trainers.

Smith Machine Squats

Squatting on a Smith machine might look like a safe alternative to the squat rack. In reality, it’s anything but. When you lower into a squat using a Smith machine, your back stays straight and almost perfectly perpendicular to the ground, which compresses and stresses the vertebrae, says Lou Schuler, C.S.C.S., co-author of The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged. Also, since using the Smith machine requires leaning back into the bar, you overly stress your knees, never fully contract your glutes or hamstrings, and don’t train your core.

Try instead: Weighted squats

Save yourself the risk and learn how to do a barbell squat without the machine. Both bodyweight and weighted squats (e.g., goblet, barbell, and dumbbell variations) train your entire lower body functionally, effectively, and without overstressing your joints, Schuler says. Plus, since you’re not relying on the stability of a machine, these exercises also work your core. (Related: How to Do Bodyweight Squats Correctly Once and for All)

Machine Leg Extensions

How often do you just sit around and kick out your legs? Probably not often—if ever. So why do so in the gym? “There’s no functional benefit to leg extensions,” says strength coach and personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T. (Functional exercises use your body’s natural movement in ways that apply to real-world motions.) Plus, your knees aren’t designed to carry weight from that angle, which could cause injury. While your injury risk is low if you have otherwise healthy knees, why take the risk if the exercise isn’t even functional to begin with?

Try instead: Squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges

All of these moves are great for training your quads. Not to mention, they simultaneously strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and smaller stabilizing muscles. Since these are all functional exercises, tapping your body’s natural movement patterns, your knees are designed to take their weight, he says.

Ab Machines

Sure, ab machines are a lot more comfortable than arms-behind-the-head sit-ups, but they can make it awkward to activate your ab muscles correctly, says Jessica Fox, a certified Starting Strength coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn.

Try Instead: Planks

Most people can—and should—just do full sit-ups. Even better? Drop into a plank: It’s more effective for toning your abdominals than an assisted crunch (or any machine), and typically safe for people who can’t do sit-ups because of neck pain. (Up your ab game with this powered-up plank workout that HIITs your core hard .)

Image zoom oatawa / Getty Images

Behind-the-Head Lat Pull-Downs

When performing lat pulldowns, the bar should always stay in front of your body. As in, always. “Otherwise it’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen,” says women’s strength expert Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S. Pulling the bar down and behind your head and neck places extreme stress and strain on the front of the shoulder joint.

Try instead: Wide-grip lat pull-downs

Pulldowns are still your traps’ main move—just focus on aiming the bar toward your collarbone. You don’t need to bring the bar all the way to your chest, but you should move in that direction, Perkins says.

The Elliptical

Ellipticals are simple to use—which is why people gravitate to them. But, since you move through a relatively small range of motion, it is so easy to slack on these things, says Christian Fox, a certified Starting Strength coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn.

Try instead: Rowing machine

The rowing machine is a better choice to get your heart rate up. “Rowing incorporates a lot of muscle mass into the movement, and with a little technique can provide a wallop of a workout,” Christian Fox says. Skeptical? Attempt a 250-meter sprint at max effort, and you’ll never want to step on the elliptical again. (Not sure where to start? Here’s how to use a rowing machine for a better cardio workout.)

Abductor/Adductor Machines

Like many machines in the gym, these target one specific area of the body—which is simply an inefficient way to work out when there are so many moves that will work multiple muscles at once, Jessica Fox says.

Try instead: Squats

Skip the machines and drop down into a squat. A proper squat recruits more muscles (including the ad/abductors) and is a functional movement, meaning it’ll better prepare your muscles for real-life challenges, like walking up the stairs and picking things up. (Want more multi-muscle moves? Check out these seven functional fitness exercises.)

Image zoom Photo: filadendron / Getty Images filadendron/Getty Images

Triceps Dips

It’s meant to train your triceps, but it can easily end up overloading the small muscles that make up your shoulder’s rotator cuff. “It’s a risk to lift your body weight when your upper arms are behind your torso,” Schuler says. Damage those muscles and even everyday tasks—like washing your hair—can become painful.

Try instead: Cable pushdowns, triceps push-ups, and close-grip bench presses

Tone your triceps while keeping your arms in front of your body with any of these moves, Schuler suggests.

Superman

“The amount of force and compression that gets placed on the vertebrae of the low back is unreal,” Donavanik says. “Yes, you’re working your spinal erectors and many stabilizing muscles throughout the back and core, but you’re placing a ton of force and stress on a very sensitive and specific area in the body.”

Try instead: Bird-Dog

Get on all fours with the bird-dog exercise, advises Donavanik. The yoga staple strengthens the same muscles, while placing less force on the spine. Good mornings, deadlifts, and floor bridges are also great alternatives, he says.

Very Light Dumbbells

Light weights have their place in barre or spin class, but if you’re lifting too light you could be missing out on some serious sculpting. (BTW, here are five reasons why lifting heavy weights *won’t* make you bulk up.) Yes, you will want to start out light if you’ve never lifted. But over time you must lift progressively heavier weights to gain strength and definition, Jessica Fox explains.

Try onstead: Anything over 5 pounds

How heavy should you go? Depending on the exercise, the weights should be heavy enough that the last two reps of each set are significantly challenging. (Need more convincing? Read these 11 major health and fitness benefits of lifting weights.)

Anything That Hurts

There’s something to be said for pushing through muscle fatigue and discomfort. But when discomfort turns into pain, the opposite is true. “Pain is your body’s way of saying, ‘Stop! If you keep doing this, I’m going to tear, break, or strain,'” Perkins says. What’s the difference, exactly? While discomfort feels like a dull or burning ache in the muscles, acute pain tends to be sharp and sudden, and most often strikes near a joint, she says.

Try instead: There’s an alternative move for every exercise out there whether you’re modifying for an injury, for pregnancy, or just because you’re tired AF in your boot-camp class and worried about sacrificing form. Be sure to ask your trainer for a move that works for you.

  • By K. Aleisha Fetters and Chris Artis

Dangerous Workouts: 15 Exercises You Should Never Do

One of the reasons going to the gym can be so intimidating is that there are so many ways in which to injure yourself, or simply waste your time. A particular exercise may look like a great way to get a good workout, but in practice, might not be doing anything beneficial for your body at all, and could even be harming it. With an influx of new workout routines and popular fitness regimens, what’s beneficial and what’s not is quickly becoming even harder to discern.

Here are 15 exercises to avoid the next time you hit the gym. The exercise on page nine may seem routine, but they are so dangerous.

1. Behind-the-head lat pull-down

Make sure your form is correct to avoid injuries. | Gerry_fents via Instagram

One way to develop a killer set of arms is to incorporate the lat pull-down into your routine, but make sure you’re performing the exercise correctly. One way to completely screw it up and put your body at risk is to bring the bar down behind your head, rather than in front of you — much like a pull-up. There’s risk of shoulder and back injury when you bring the bar down behind you, so be sure to always pull it straight down.

Next: This machine seems like a good idea, but it leaves little room for movement.

2. The Smith machine

This popular machine is actually hard to master. | Eveteka_blog via Instagram

The Smith machine is the squatter’s favorite helper. While a Smith machine is a great way to start squatting, doing so with traditional free weights and a barbell is probably a better and safer bet. Basically, the Smith machine limits your range of motion and allows you to perform squats with improper form, which can lead to injury. It can be a good tool, but you’re better off just hitting the squat rack.

Next: This awkward exercise is popular but very dangerous.

3. Kipping Pull-up

This move puts major stress on your muscles. | Ashkhowell via Instagram

If you know any CrossFitters, you may be familiar with the kipping pull-up. The mechanics of the exercise, and how you put all the moves together are extremely important. The problem is that it’s a dangerous move that can result in injury.

The whipping of your body on the bar can put heavy stress on your muscles and tendons. It is recommended that you instead opt for traditional dead-hang pull-ups. There is still some debate, but outside of the CrossFit community, kipping pull-ups are not often recommended.

Next: If you have ever wanted an excuse out of leg day, here’s your evidence.

4. Leg press

The leg press can be dangerous. | Creative-Family/iStock/Getty Images

The leg press is a fixture in many gyms and can be beneficial for many people. But it does have some problems, and when used incorrectly or without proper form, you can end up hurting yourself. And that’s the key — you have to make sure you’re using the machine properly. The whole point of the leg press is to alleviate pressure on your back, and if you’re not on the machine in the correct position, it’s a bust. Researchers suggest you just do squats instead.

Next: This machine promises you the body of a god, but delivers serious pain.

5. Ab machines

Skip the ab machines. You’re better off focusing on losing fat. | iStock.com

You’ve seen all of those ab machines at your gym, with people twisting, turning, and contorting themselves in an effort to build a six-pack. Yeah — avoid those. Using them can lead to poor posture and muscle imbalances. These machines don’t provide many benefits.

They are typically used by people who think if they target their stomach muscles during the workout, they’ll develop washboard abs. Well, you can’t spot-burn fat, so you’re better off getting a balanced workout if you want those abs to show up.

Next: Why people are doing these is beyond us.

6. Jumping jack press

Watch out for this tricky move. | Anitaparmelee via Instagram

Jumping jack presses are not something you see a lot of people doing, and with good reason. On the surface, it looks like a great way to get in some cardio, while doing a bit of weight training simultaneously. It can be, but the move also puts a lot of undue pressure on your body, and many experts suggest you avoid them.

Jumping jack presses can lead to joint and tendon problems, particularly in your legs. Some trainers say there’s absolutely no benefit to doing them at all — so you’re better off just going for a run, or doing some military presses instead.

Next: This Romanian activity will leave you serious pain.

7. Romanian deadlifts

This move will take a lot of preparation and practice. | iStock.com

Improper execution of this exercise is super dangerous. Most people don’t properly distribute the weight across their body and some even round their backs as they are lifting. Keeping the back straight and lifting with the legs and butt is the only way you should ever do this exercise.

Next: Swinging this thing around is just as dangerous as a maul.

8. Kettlebell swings

Kettlebell swings will get your heart pumping. | iStock.com

This exercise is really popular with CrossFitters, but newbs can cause some serious damage. The exercise is meant to exercise the hamstring and glutes, but some people put a lot of their arms into the action. This can lead to a lot of shoulder injuries.

You can also really hurt the person next to you. If you’re not properly taught how to use the kettlebell, there’s a chance that you can knock someone out.

Next:

9. Bent Over Rows

Have a personal trainer help you out if you’re itching to try this one. | iStock.com

Building up back muscles is extremely challenging. That’s why a lot of the exercises associated with those muscles are pretty dangerous. Rows are no different. That position is kind of awkward with your posture and improper execution can lead to some pinched nerves or back injuries.

Next: Squats are great, but this one risks more injury than any other.

10. Overhead squats

Don’t try this move if you’re new to the gym. | iStock.com

Squats are a great way to get a full body exercise. However, the keywords in there are “full body.” When you try to do a squat and one location of your body isn’t as strong as the rest, you’re risking a lot of injury in that area. It is best to reserve complicated squat positions for when you’re a little more advanced in your training.

Next: Throwing stuff behind your back comes with inherent risks.

11. Backward medicine ball throws

This move can cause accidents and injuries if done incorrectly. | iStock.com

These types of throws are great for improving your jump speed and height. Coming from a squatted position and thrusting upward to toss the ball behind you has the potential to take you out of training. That sudden and sharp bend of the spine can slip a disk or pinch a nerve.

Next: Here’s another advanced squat that just needs to be executed perfectly to not hurt yourself.

12. One-Legged Pistol Squat

A challenging move to say the least. | iStock.com

Form has everything to do with this exercise. People tend to roll their shoulders into the dip which rounds the back. They also don’t get the dip low enough to the ground which makes the exercise a little less effective. Your thigh should be getting parallel with the ground.

Next: This exercise can lead to overloading your joints and ruining your day … if not your year.

13. Overhead dumbbell triceps extension

Don’t let yourself be distracted while performing this exercise. | iStock.com

This is already a really odd way to hold anything. However, it is still a great exercise that targets the triceps effectively. People go wrong with this exercise because of they grip the handle of the dumbbell. Pictured above is the proper way to hold the dumbbell in this exercise. Improper execution can overload your joints, rather than your muscles.

Next: Here’s another deadlift that has to be executed perfectly to prevent injuries.

14. Turkish Deadlifts

This move requires concentration, flexibility and balance. | Keonihudoba via Instagram

Also known as the Turkish Getup, this exercise has ten positions incorporated into it. From lying down to going completely vertical and back down again, the risk of injury is everywhere. Like the Romanian Deadlift, you need to be an advanced lifter to do this exercise. Any weak spot along the way could suffer serious injuries.

Next: Explosive power doesn’t lead to explosive gains.

15. Snatch

This move is definitely not for beginners. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

The power of an explosive Snatch Lift can seem very rewarding. But the risk of tearing one or both of your labrums is extremely high. You could also rip one or both of your rotator cuffs. Doing that will leave you out of the gym for at way longer than the time you saved doing them.

Additional reporting by Phillip Francis.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!

Take a look around your gym: You’ll probably see some fellow gym-goers hammering out these exercises. But that doesn’t mean you should too. These crazy common moves are, at best, ineffective—at worst, dangerous. Here, the moves—and exercise machines—you should ditch from your workout routine, according to trainers.

© Sarinya Pinngam/EyeEm/Getty Image Newsflash: Some moves (and exercise machines) don’t actually do that much for you—and some can be downright dangerous. Here, what to do instead the next time you hit the gym.

Squatting on a Smith machine might look like a safe alternative to the squat rack. In reality, it’s anything but. When you lower into a squat using a Smith machine, your back stays straight and almost perfectly perpendicular to the ground, which compresses and stresses the vertebrae, says Lou Schuler, C.S.C.S., co-author of The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged. Also, since using the Smith machine requires leaning back into the bar, you overly stress your knees, never fully contract your glutes or hamstrings, and don’t train your core.

Try instead: Weighted squats

Save yourself the risk and learn how to do a barbell squat without the machine. Both bodyweight and weighted squats (e.g., goblet, barbell, and dumbbell variations) train your entire lower body functionally, effectively, and without overstressing your joints, Schuler says. Plus, since you’re not relying on the stability of a machine, these exercises also work your core. (Related: How to Do Bodyweight Squats Correctly Once and for All)

How often do you just sit around and kick out your legs? Probably not often—if ever. So why do so in the gym? “There’s no functional benefit to leg extensions,” says strength coach and personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T. (Functional exercises use your body’s natural movement in ways that apply to real-world motions.) Plus, your knees aren’t designed to carry weight from that angle, which could cause injury. While your injury risk is low if you have otherwise healthy knees, why take the risk if the exercise isn’t even functional to begin with?

Try instead: Squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges

All of these moves are great for training your quads. Not to mention, they simultaneously strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and smaller stabilizing muscles. Since these are all functional exercises, tapping your body’s natural movement patterns, your knees are designed to take their weight, he says.

Slideshow: Celebrities who aren’t afraid to lift heavy (Shape)

  • 19 Social Security “Aids” That Every Retiree Should KnowAd Microsoft
  • Expert: This is the #1 Cash Back Card on the MarketAd Microsoft
  • 1/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Chelsea Handler

    Chelsea Handler is crushing barbell hip thrusts with some serious weights in this pic. Good news: We’ve got the deets on how to perform the super-effective move for stronger, lifted glutes. And if you need more inspo from the comedian, just check her out in this Insta video of her killing her morning workout by pushing 400 pounds. #Goals.

    2/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Demi Lovato

    Demi Lovato shared this weighted squat video on Snapchat and had us immediately adding more weight to our squats. Yes, it helps build strong and sexy glutes, but research shows adding in a few sets of weighted squats a few days a week helps strengthen your bones too. (Looking to add some variety to this butt-sculpting move? Check out our 30-Day Squat Challenge.)

    3/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Ashley Graham

    Ashley Graham takes this rear-foot elevated split squat (AKA a Bulgarian split squat) up a notch with weights for some serious butt and leg sculpting. (There’s more where that came from: See 12 Times Ashley Graham Showed Us What Fitspo Was Really About.)

    4/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Khloé Kardashian

    It’s confirmed: Our May cover girl Khloé has definitely “earned every curve” and is a total bad*ss in gym, whether she’s using resistance bands, battle ropes, or heavy weights to push herself.

    5/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Nina Agdal

    “Pushed 527lb today, thats basically 3 baby elephants,” Nina captioned this video of her pushing a sled with weights AND a fully grown man. We are bowing down.

    6/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Ellie Goulding

    Ellie Goulding is all about strong over skinny and, as evidenced from her Instagram, always up for a new challenge, whether it’s adding weights to her sit-ups to help sculpt her killer six-pack, or doing a weighted wall sit to target her quads, hamstrings, and glutes. (We aren’t sure if that’s 50 pounds or kilograms, but either way, damn!)

    7/11 SLIDES © Instagram

    Kate Upton

    Kate Upton’s trainer posted this video of the model as she supersets heavy landmine reverse lunges (and shows off some dance moves!). Up next: Check out the Celebrities Who Aren’t Afraid to Break a Sweat.

    8/11 SLIDES © Meredith Corporation

    Brie Larson

    When it comes to fitness, Brie Larson is nothing short of a beast. Over the past year, the actress has gotten insanely strong prepping for her role as Captain Marvel. We’re talking upside-down indoor rock climbing, pull-ups with steel chains, and insane abs workouts that will have you feeling sore just watching. She’s been been wowing us with her ability to hip thrust 275-pound and 400-pound weights, so clearly this girl isn’t afraid to lift heavy. (Feeling inspired? Here’s how to perform a barbell hip thrust—and why you should.)

    9/11 SLIDES © Instagram/@risemovement

    Emma Stone

    Emma Stone is known for her pretty svelte figure but the actress gained 15 pounds of muscle for her role in Battle of the Sexes, all thanks to some serious heavy lifting. While she didn’t love upping the weights at first, she got to the point where she was like, “Can we do more? How strong can we get?” her trainer Jaso Walsh previously told us. (Related: Emma Stone Opened Up About Her Biggest “Flaw” and So Many Women Will Relate​)

    Even though she’s far past training for BOTS, Stone continues to lift heavy and loves it. “She likes it now, it feels good,” Walsh told us. “Now she equates the strength training with being healthy and pain-free and living a better quality of life.”

    10/11 SLIDES © Instagram/@alisonbrie

    Alison Brie

    Alison Brie didn’t mess around when it came to prepping for season two of her hit show GLOW. The actress previously mastered all the strength training basics with her trainer Jason Walsh while prepping for season one so training for season two was all about upping the ante. That included things like 200-pound deadlifts, heavy hip thrusts, front squats, weighted bear crawl sled drags and weighted pull-ups, Walsh previously told us. “We would start with a 10-pound weight vest and work up to a 20-pound weight vest, then a kettlebell around the waist,” he said.

    While her hard work in the gym has definitely scored her the physique of a female wrestler, she’s also gained some body confidence along the way. “She’s really proud of where she’s at, very comfortable and confident-more so than ever before,” Walsh told us. “It comes from being proud of what she’s been able to accomplish and what’s in the mirror.”

    11/11 SLIDES © Instagram/@thejeanniemai

    Jeannie Mai

    TV personality Jeannie Mai made headlines last year after opening up about her 17-pound weight gain. After over a decade of focusing on being “skinny” and being a self-proclaimed cardio bunny, Mai fell in love with lifting as it helped her appreciate her body in new ways. “You just feel so victorious after lifting heavy,” she previously told us. “There’s something so gratifying about testing your strength and feeling surprised by it. It makes you realize that there’s no limit to what your body can do if you put your mind to it.” ​

    11/11 SLIDES

    Sure, ab machines are a lot more comfortable than arms-behind-the-head sit-ups, but they can make it awkward to activate your ab muscles correctly, says Jessica Fox, a certified Starting Strength coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn.

    Try Instead: Planks

    Most people can—and should—just do full sit-ups. Even better? Drop into a plank: It’s more effective for toning your abdominals than an assisted crunch (or any machine), and typically safe for people who can’t do sit-ups because of neck pain. (Up your ab game with this powered-up plank workout that HIITs your core hard .)

    © Provided by Meredith Corporation oatawa / Getty Images

    When performing lat pulldowns, the bar should always stay in front of your body. As in, always. “Otherwise it’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen,” says women’s strength expert Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S. Pulling the bar down and behind your head and neck places extreme stress and strain on the front of the shoulder joint.

    Try instead: Wide-grip lat pull-downs

    Pulldowns are still your traps’ main move—just focus on aiming the bar toward your collarbone. You don’t need to bring the bar all the way to your chest, but you should move in that direction, Perkins says.

    Ellipticals are simple to use—which is why people gravitate to them. But, since you move through a relatively small range of motion, it is so easy to slack on these things, says Christian Fox, a certified Starting Strength coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn.

    Try instead: Rowing machine

    The rowing machine is a better choice to get your heart rate up. “Rowing incorporates a lot of muscle mass into the movement, and with a little technique can provide a wallop of a workout,” Christian Fox says. Skeptical? Attempt a 250-meter sprint at max effort, and you’ll never want to step on the elliptical again. (Not sure where to start? Here’s how to use a rowing machine for a better cardio workout.)

    Like many machines in the gym, these target one specific area of the body—which is simply an inefficient way to work out when there are so many moves that will work multiple muscles at once, Jessica Fox says.

    Try instead: Squats

    Skip the machines and drop down into a squat. A proper squat recruits more muscles (including the ad/abductors) and is a functional movement, meaning it’ll better prepare your muscles for real-life challenges, like walking up the stairs and picking things up. (Want more multi-muscle moves? Check out these seven functional fitness exercises.)

    © Provided by Meredith Corporation filadendron/Getty Images Photo: filadendron / Getty Images

    It’s meant to train your triceps, but it can easily end up overloading the small muscles that make up your shoulder’s rotator cuff. “It’s a risk to lift your body weight when your upper arms are behind your torso,” Schuler says. Damage those muscles and even everyday tasks—like washing your hair—can become painful.

    Try instead: Cable pushdowns, triceps push-ups, and close-grip bench presses

    Tone your triceps while keeping your arms in front of your body with any of these moves, Schuler suggests.

    “The amount of force and compression that gets placed on the vertebrae of the low back is unreal,” Donavanik says. “Yes, you’re working your spinal erectors and many stabilizing muscles throughout the back and core, but you’re placing a ton of force and stress on a very sensitive and specific area in the body.”

    Try instead: Bird-Dog

    Get on all fours with the bird-dog exercise, advises Donavanik. The yoga staple strengthens the same muscles, while placing less force on the spine. Good mornings, deadlifts, and floor bridges are also great alternatives, he says.

    Light weights have their place in barre or spin class, but if you’re lifting too light you could be missing out on some serious sculpting. (BTW, here are five reasons why lifting heavy weights *won’t* make you bulk up.) Yes, you will want to start out light if you’ve never lifted. But over time you must lift progressively heavier weights to gain strength and definition, Jessica Fox explains.

    Try instead: Anything over 5 pounds

    How heavy should you go? Depending on the exercise, the weights should be heavy enough that the last two reps of each set are significantly challenging. (Need more convincing? Read these 11 major health and fitness benefits of lifting weights.)

    There’s something to be said for pushing through muscle fatigue and discomfort. But when discomfort turns into pain, the opposite is true. “Pain is your body’s way of saying, ‘Stop! If you keep doing this, I’m going to tear, break, or strain,'” Perkins says. What’s the difference, exactly? While discomfort feels like a dull or burning ache in the muscles, acute pain tends to be sharp and sudden, and most often strikes near a joint, she says.

    Try instead: There’s an alternative move for every exercise out there whether you’re modifying for an injury, for pregnancy, or just because you’re tired AF in your boot-camp class and worried about sacrificing form. Be sure to ask your trainer for a move that works for you.

    Video: Why does my workout cause weight gain? (Courtesy: Shape)

    It’s always safer to exercise in a gym

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *