1. Abdominal crunch machines
“Abdominal crunch machines isolate the abs, which sounds good in theory, but in everyday activities the abdominal muscles never work in isolation,” says Peter Jenkins, C.P.T., director of personal training at Blink Fitness. “By nature, our abs contract as way to protect our spine, using the hip flexors to do so. Most abdominal machines are specifically designed to take the hip flexors out of the movement, allowing the arms, shoulders, and legs to assist instead of relying on the core for strength.” So while you might be slightly strengthening some muscles, this machine probably won’t make you feel stronger IRL.
Instead, try this: “You’re much better off letting the core do its own work and sticking to some exercises such as V-ups, reverse crunches, and hanging leg raises,” says Jenkins.
2. Basic crunches
Even traditional crunches without machine assistance aren’t the most effective abs-sculpting exercise. “Crunches have long been the ‘go-to’ move for those seeking better abs, but recent research has shown that the crunch is less effective at stimulating the desired muscle fibers than exercises that require the spine to stabilize, like the plank.”
Instead, try this: “Planks activate more muscles in the core and they don’t strain your back as crunches can.” Here’s how to do the perfect plank—or, here are 21 other amazing alternatives to crunches.
3. Hip abductor/adductor machine
This machine uses your inner or outer thighs to push against weight (depending on the setting), but whichever way you use it, it’s not really worth your time. “Many gravitate towards these machines believing they can ‘spot reduce’ trouble thigh areas,” says Jenkins. However, there’s no such thing as spot reduction. “In addition to not reducing fat, this exercise is considered an isolation movement, making it less effective since it burns fewer calories than an exercise that uses more muscle groups.”
Instead, try this: “Stick to compound movements such as squats and lunges if you want to improve your legs,” says Jenkins. Compound exercises recruit more muscles at once, which increases your caloric burn. The reverse lunge is a great beginner-friendly variation of the classic move, give it a try!
4. Front raises with dumbbells
This one isn’t necessarily a bad exercise, but if you’re overdoing it on the weight you’re using, you won’t get the results you want. “This can be a wonderful movement to showcase your delts, the muscles the helps to create the cap-like roundness of your shoulder,” says Joselynne Boschen, Nike Master Trainer and founder of Alpha Sport East gym. “But the common way I see people doing this isn’t correct. When you aren’t strong enough to lift the weight you are holding, the shoulders lift and round slightly forward. If you let this happen repeatedly, this can cause neck problems and visible posture issues.”
Instead, try this: Plank front raises—these don’t require any weights. Start in high plank. Then raise one arm to the front of the room at shoulder-height with your palm facing inwards (so your thumb is up). Slide your shoulder blade down your back and hold for two seconds. Then lower your arm and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides for 45 seconds total. This way, “you can work your front and rear delts and core without straining your neck,” says Boschen.