Everyone has a favorite exercise. Often, these are the exercises that you are good at. If you like to squat, chances are you squat a lot and have become good at the exercise. If you like doing chin-ups, chances are you are good at chin-ups. The problem is when you spend much of your precious workout time on exercises that are, generally speaking, a waste of time.
We’re not talking about exercises that may not be appropriate for certain individuals based upon their conditioning level or training goals. For example, depth jumps may be a valuable plyometric exercise for an elite sprinter, but such exercises should be avoided by novice trainees, especially if their goal is to build muscle or improve body composition. Likewise, there are special exercises such as the Peterson Step-up that should not be used to develop massive quads, but rather to correct structural balances. That’s not what we’re talking about.
What we are talking about are exercises that, pretty much regardless of how much you do them, will not make significant changes in strength, muscle size, or body composition. Here are five of them.
#1. Triceps kickback. Although it may make for a nice photo in a general fitness magazine, the triceps kickback is an isolation movement that only stresses the triceps during a small portion of the strength curve. What big, strong arms? Try something else.
Alternatives: Barbell triceps extension to forehead, Dips
#2. Barbell calf raise. It may look impressive to some people to stand with a heavy barbell on your back and lift your heels, but to optimally work the calves you need to train them throughout a full range of motion.
Alternatives: Calf raise on leg press machine, Single leg calf raise with dumbbell on calf machine
#3. Side Leg Raise. An exercise designed to isolate the hip adductors, the side leg raise should be considered more of an exercise to work the obliques. Rather than performing this isolation exercise, there are many compound exercises that will work the obliques and give you a lot of “bang for your buck” by involving more muscle groups.
Alternatives: Farmer’s walk, Super yolk
#4. Adductor machine. One of the issues with these types of leg machines is that they usually start with your legs in a stretched position, making it easy to pull these inner thigh muscles. It is much more effective, and safer, to work the adductors with compound exercises.
Alternatives: Sideways sled pull, Side step-ups
#5. Barbell front raise. The anterior delts get plenty of work with pressing exercises, so there is seldom any need to do any additional work for them. Plus, with this exercise the muscle is only stressed during a small portion of the strength curve, reducing its effectiveness.
Alternatives: Military press, Incline bench press
Although any exercise you do in the gym has some benefit (and of course doing something is better than nothing), these five exercises are not worth the effort. There are many more exercises that are a waste of time, but it’s a safe bet that these five should be on your “Don’t waste my time” checklist. What’s on your list?