Here's a simple rule for deciding whether or not to include an exercise in your workout - if it makes you look a bit "funny", don't do it.
There's nothing wrong with mixing up your workouts and performing movements that hit your muscles a little differently than you're used to, but some exercises, when performed incorrectly, can promote or reinforce poor movement patterns and put you at risk of injury.
Here, I have complied a few exercises (in no particular order) that are not very useful, accompanied by better alternatives that promote a safer, more effective workout.
The claim: Kipping pull-ups supposedly train speed and power, as you're using the momentum created by the lower body to help with what is normally an upper body movement in this exercise.
In theory, the more momentum you create with the lower body (by swinging through the hips), the easier the movement becomes and you can perform this movement faster and with more reps than you would with a standard pull-up.
The risk: Shoulder injury, especially if you do not have the prerequisite strength to do a proper pull-up to start off with. Because unfortunately, the momentum that helps you get your chin over the bar in a kipping pull-up really does nothing to help stabilise the shoulder joints. In fact, every rep violently pulls these joints, which are among the most delicate in the body.
A better alternative: Do the standard pull-up instead. If you can't (and they tend to be harder than the kipping variety), start with chin-ups because the underhand grip allows for greater biceps participation, hence, making the movement easier. Just grab a bar using a shoulder-width, underhand grip, and hang at arm's length.
To avoid "cheating", cross your ankles behind you so you don't rely on momentum to get up. Pull your chest to the bar, pause, then return to a dead hang with your arms fully extended.
Seated leg extension
The claim: The seated leg extension machine is supposed to help train the quadriceps (quads). For the fitness novice, the movement seems like a simple enough and easily understood exercise. You simply load the weight, lock yourself into a seated position, and use your quads to lift the weight.
The risk: From a biomechanical standpoint, because the movement strengthens a motion that your legs aren't actually designed to do, it can put undue strain on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the knees.
The result? It could aggravate existing knee issues or even create new ones.
A better alternative:Try doing the Bulgarian split squat instead. You start by resting the top of one foot on a bench positioned behind you. Load the quads of your other leg, then descend in a controlled manner until the knee of the foot resting on the bench touches the ground, then stand back up. Be sure to keep your core tight throughout the movement. Aim for eight to 10 reps per leg, for three to five sets.
The adductor/abductor machine
The claim: A mainstay in most gyms, a ride on the adductor/abductor machine is meant to help strengthen the muscles of your inner and outer thighs.
The risk: It's easy to load up the weight on this machine and feel like you're making progress, but it does nothing to strengthen your muscles. Also, by forcing your legs to open and close, you put a lot of stress on your hip capsules and iliotibial bands, which could cause pain or even injury in the long run.
A better alternative: Side lunges. They target the quads, glutes and hamstring, and can be performed using dumbbells or as a bodyweight exercise.
Start with a standing position, with the knees and hips slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Then, staying low (while keeping the head and chest up), take a slow, lateral step to the right. Keep your toes pointed forward and stay low. Then, extend the left knee and shift your weight to the right, getting into a side lunge position. Pause at the bottom of the motion, and then extend through the working leg to return to a standing position, before you transition into a lunge to the opposite side.
The claim: Doing hundreds and hundreds of crunches every day will help you sculpt a set of beautiful six-pack abs.
The risk: Crunches can hurt your back. The actual "crunching" part puts an extremely awkward and unhealthy strain on your lower back. As crunches involve lying on your back and repeatedly bending and extending your spinal discs, they place excessive strain on the region.
That's not all, you cannot simply "spot reduce" your absas the body doesn't burn fat in isolation. If it did, you'll be seeing tonnes of folks walking around with ripped abs, but flabby arms, by now.
A better alternative: Multi-joint exercises. Think squats and deadlifts, the bench press or even the push-up.
Although these are not normally considered "ab exercises", they will hit you hard in the core because they'll force you to engage and stabilise your core muscles while you move the weight. They also work multiple muscle groups all at once, and can create the greatest change in body composition in the shortest period of time.
The result? You don't just get a solid midsection, you get solid all over.
Finally, there's no question that getting six-pack abs is predominantly about eating right.
If you aren't watching what you put into your mouth with each and every meal, success will elude you, so it's no exaggeration when they say that six-pack abs are made in the kitchen!
Fiona Ho is a certified personal trainer and a strength training enthusiast who derives happiness in lifting heavy objects. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice.
Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.