If you’re like most Americans, you squeeze your workouts into an already-busy day, so it’s important that your workout is effective and efficient. When it comes to some exercises—particularly some weightlifting or strength training exercises—you could be getting more out of your workout by trading your moves for some more effective alternatives.
If you’re short on time and need to boost the efficiency of your workouts, stop wasting your time on these exercises and try an alternative:
Stationary Bike or Treadmill Warm-Up
Spending five minutes on the bike or walking on the treadmill to warm up won’t get your heart rate in the range it should be before you start your workout (at least 60-65 percent of your max heart rate). For an effective warm-up, you’ve got to increase heart rate and break a sweat.
Do this instead: Spend five minutes doing bodyweight exercises like jumping jacks, squats, mountain climbers, walking lunges and burpees. These will get your blood pumping and your body ready for your workout.
Machine Leg Press
The machine leg press takes an exercise that should work more than just your legs and reduces it to a single-plane, unidirectional movement. You aren’t required to engage your core for stability, which reduces calorie burn.
Do this instead: Squats. They strengthen your legs as well as your core for stability. If bodyweight squats aren’t a challenge, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest for extra resistance. Practice good form, too. Keep your weight on your heels, be sure your knees do not extend past your toes, and lower your body until your thighbone is parallel to the ground.
Machine Shoulder Press
Like a machine leg press, the machine shoulder press takes the core out of the equation, reducing the effectiveness of this exercise.
Do this instead: Dumbbell shoulder press. Engage your core for a calorie-torching, muscle-shaping exercise.
Because they use so much momentum, kettlebell swings aren’t toning your legs and deltoids like you hope.
Do this instead: Squats, lunges and dumbbell front raises. Your muscles will have to work more with each movement than they do with the kettlebell swing, increasing the effect on your muscles.
Machine Hip Adduction/Abduction
Two more machines at the gym that aren’t worth your time. You just aren’t doing much work when you’re sitting down to exercise your inner and outer thighs.
Do this instead: Again, squats and lunges. Add in side lunges to work the adductors and abductors. These standing exercises activate other muscle groups like your core, quads, hamstrings, glues and calves. These exercises are also an effective replacement for machine leg extensions.
Crunches are less effective at stimulating the muscle than an exercise that also requires the spine for stabilization.
Do this instead: Planks. They activate the core and require your spine to remain stable, doing more for your abdominal muscles than the standard crunch. They also aren’t a strain on your neck.
Seated Chest Press
Like other seated machine exercises, the seated chest press just isn’t that effective. When using the seated machine, your strong side can compensate for your weaker side, which can cause imbalances.
Do this instead: Pushups. Not only do pushups force you to develop equal strength on both sides, but they also activate your core, so you’re getting an ab workout too.
The bottom line is that you’ll get more out of your workout when you opt for bodyweight exercises than going easy with the machines. If you need to add extra resistance, grab a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell to hold while you work your legs, arms and core.