While all exercises had humble beginnings somewhere, there are a few that have become so commonplace it’s no wonder people overuse them. Whether it’s the new guy at the gym who goes to each machine trying all the workouts he’s seen on TV, or the woman wanting to get more ab definition by doing only the most mundane, and often least-effective, ab exercises everyone knows about, there are simply some workouts that are so well-known that they’ve become overrated.
Still, know that an “overrated” exercise isn’t necessarily a “bad” one; just that there are probably superior workouts you could try than these ones everyone knows about.
The Ab Plank and Side Plank
This stability and core workout is great for yoga students, rehab patients, and entry-level gym members. The primary goal with planks is to build awareness of optimal body alignment while strengthening your core muscles in a static position, further increasing your muscle endurance as your time increases.
This exercise is overrated because the beginner version is often introduced to folks without them ever understanding the natural progressions of the plank to more advanced and useful exercises. After obtaining the body awareness and torso alignment planks offer, you should move to exercises that challenge your stability dynamically, because maintaining that alignment when you’re moving your body gives you increased muscle and joint flexibility.
Hanging Knee Raise
This workout is the backward one of the bunch– while there are times when intermediate and advanced lifters get stuck doing beginner exercises, the hanging knee raise is much of the opposite: an expert exercise that has become over-utilized by novice lifters.
It’s a great workout if your abs are strong enough to lift your pelvis upwards, but typically most efficiently used by expert gym-goers.
Closed Grip Seated Row
While this often-seen exercise is great for many of your upper body muscles, as you contract and release them with each set, it oftentimes misses the muscle that novice lifters are attempting to target– lats and traps.
Because the close-grip seated cable row leaves off the final 2 to 3 inches of your full range of motion during each set, you’re unable to get a full contraction on these two important back muscles.
While many fitness experts swear by the validity of the leg press, the fact of the matter is that this overly-used exercise probably won’t help you with the majority of your fitness goals, even if you’re an expert lifter. In fact, the leg press is a poor choice for most gym members, because you tend to initiate an improper position for your back when you use it.
When your feet are higher up on the platform, extra hip flexion is created, causing you to lose the natural lordotic curve of your lower back at an alarming rate. Much like you avoid performing a deadlift with a curved back, avoid using the leg press machine with your feet placed too high up on the platform. Front squats, back squats, and split squats are considerably safer options for your body than these backbreakers.
Tire flips are the epitome of a contest-specific exercise initially made for professional strength athletes that became way too mainstream, way too quickly.
In training, tire flips are used to work your posterior-chain muscles (lower back and hamstrings), which are a set of muscles just as easily worked through deadlifts. Aside from “looking awesome” since they’re done outside for the whole world to see, tire flips are one of the more dangerous and less helpful workouts everyone knows about.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
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