You’ve seen them at your gym. People who perform those crazy looking exercises or trendy moves that turn heads.
The kinds of exercises you see in the magazines touting their efficiency as much as their uniqueness.
Weird one-arm cable exercises and standing on balls may look interesting, but are they really all that effective?
Are they worth the time and energy to try?
Below are five exercises that are wasting your time. If you’ve been around the gym for any time at all, you’re most likely familiar with a few of these and have witnessed others.
Have a look and see if you’re guilty of any of these exercises.
1. High cable double biceps curl
High cable double biceps curl is one of the most overused, overestimated, and useless exercises out there. For those who aren’t familiar, you stand between two high cable pulleys (as if you were about to do cable crossovers). Grasp each handle and keep your elbows at shoulder level at each side of your head. Curl the handles toward your ears as if you were performing a front double biceps pose.
Many people use too much weight, bringing in their elbows toward the front, and contort their arms in every way just so they can get the weight up. This is also a vanity exercise since they love seeing themselves in the mirror flexing their arms.
A better choice: If you feel your biceps could be better, focus on the basics. Nothing beats barbell and dumbbell curls for mass, muscularity, and peak. Additionally, variations of those exercises will stave off boredom and give you more interesting ways to train. Incline dumbbell curls, spider curls, and intensity techniques such as 21s will keep your biceps growing.
A basic starter routine can include four sets of barbell curls and four sets of dumbbell curls. For the more advanced, go with 4 sets of barbell curls, 4 sets of incline bench dumbbell curls, and finish off with three sets of concentration or spider curls.
2. Single arm reverse grip cable triceps pressdown
Single arm reverse grip cable tricep pushdowns are for triceps what the above is for biceps. It’s mostly useless when it comes to packing on mass to your triceps. Sure, you’ve seen this one in the magazines too, but it’s a waste of your time when you could be performing exercises that tax your triceps more.
Grasping a high cable pulley handle with a reverse grip and pressing down by your side will make your triceps burn and it will isolate that area, but if you lack real triceps muscle mass then you’ll need some bigger moves to get the job done.
A better choice: That’s not to say there’s no room for exercises like this, but you first must create a bigger foundation of muscle before you go on to refine it. You can’t carve a pebble.
Try exercises that pack on mass such as close-grip bench presses, dips (bodyweight and weighted), diamond push-ups, suspension trainer triceps presses, and lying triceps extensions with a barbell or pair of dumbbells. Leave the smaller isolation exercises until after you’ve built bigger triceps.
3. Anything on a bosu ball
We live in an age of gimmicks and shortcuts. Flex balls and bosu balls are now commonplace in most gyms. They have their place, but if you’re interested in building a maximum amount of muscle and your time is valuable, then you don’t have time for tricks.
The popularity of functional training (namely balance training) has exploded. Some claim that creating unstable environments for exercises involves more core engagement and more overall body control. However, creating instability during leg exercises or other moves only makes you lose focus on the targeted area.
A better choice: If you still need a new twist every now and then, ignore the bosu ball and instead try other more proven techniques such as unilateral training, kettlebells, bands, chains, and plyometric exercises. This way you’re still sticking to a lot of the fundamental rules, but challenging those rules and taking your training further.
Try single-leg Bulgarian split squats, banded bench presses, kettlebell clean and presses, and box jumps.
4. Cable leg abductors and adductors
Yes, another cable machine culprit. You see this mainly performed by women in hopes to spot reduce their legs. Hooking the end of a low cable pulley to your foot and performing adduction and abduction movements does little for spot reduction. They also are a waste of time because they take isolation to the extreme.
A better choice: To stimulate fat loss in any area, you’ll need to have a full-body mentality. Fat is lost all over, not just in one, single area.
Secondly, if your goal is to develop areas around the hip (the adductors and abductors mentioned above) then you’re better off performing more functional, dynamic exercises such as lateral lunges, wide stance squats, reverse lunges, shuffles, and straddle hops. These work many more muscles than the cable exercises and give you a better workout.
5. Using incorrect form on any exercise
Lastly, your personal performance on any exercise will dictate whether it’s effective or not. If you’re guilty of half squats, lifting your butt of the bench during bench presses, heaving the weight up during barbell rows, and standing upright on T-bar rows, then you’ve effectively made every exercise ineffective.
Swinging, heaving, swaying, and cheating the weight up is the perfect recipe for wasting your time and effort in the gym.
A better choice: Be honest and true to yourself. Perform every exercise with textbook form. Achieve a full range of motion on squats: All the way down with your knees in line with your toes, hamstrings meeting your calves, and your back flat.
For bench presses, achieve the five-point position. Your head, upper back, and butt in contact with the bench and both feet firmly planted on the ground. If your upper body is coming up too much during rows lighten the load and do it right. Make every exercise work for you not against you. Then you will have wasted no time getting the physique you really want.