fitness

8 exercises that actually aren't doing your body huge favours.

Image: iStock.

When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is to get your body moving — whether that be through walking, kayaking, playing hockey, hitting the gym, whatever you fancy. Any kind of physical activity is better for you than doing nothing at all.

That said, nobody wants to go to the effort of sweating through a workout only to learn their chosen exercise isn’t really doing what it’s supposed to. You mightn’t realise this, but there are some popular training techniques that aren’t as effective as they’re cracked up to be — so we asked experts to name and shame them.

1. Crunches/sit ups

Convinced a round of crunches will give you the stomach of Britney Spears circa 1998? There’s a good chance you’re only going to wind up disappointed.

“[People] think it will help burn fat from your abs. Instead you are adding more muscle bulk and shortening your posture,” explains Greg Stark, Better Being‘s owner and trainer and lululemon Ambassador.

Dylan Rivier, personal trainer and owner of Built By Dylan Training, adds that while situps can engage your six pack muscles, most people don’t do them correctly. “The result is a lot of Hip Flexor activation and excessive spinal flexion. If you are one of those people who then hook your toes underneath something to give you a hand, that’s arguably even worse,” he says.

Quick, someone inform Patrick Bateman.

Instead, Rivier recommends leg raises; hanging, supported or lying knee tucks; "statis holds" (like planking) or big compound movements like squatting to work your abs and core more effectively. If your aim is to tone your stomach, Stark says focusing on your diet and keeping your heart rate up as you train is the wisest way to go about it.

2. Burpees

Yes, burpees — the gruelling three-step move beloved by many a fitness fanatic. Although the elevated heart rate that results from doing burpees will benefit your fitness, Stark says they're more likely to injure you than other exercises (along with being "not that fun").

"Exercises that you go from a low to high position like a squat with overhead press is far safer, more effective and definitely more enjoyable," he says. Roger that.

Watch: Former Bachelor Sam Wood demonstrates an effective 5-step workout routine you can do anywhere. (Post continues after video.)

3. Extended treadmill time

Treadmills are to gyms what Kardashians are to popular culture: ubiquitous. But despite what you've been told, slogging it out on the treadmill for extended periods isn't a golden ticket to Fit Town.

"The days of an hour on the treadmill are over, unless you are training for marathons," says Tom Sproats, Scenic Cycle founder and lululemon Ambassador.

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"Long distances on the treadmill should be avoided and short, sharp, higher intensity work on the treadmill should be mixed in among your other training i.e. weight lifting, interval work, circuit work or other cardio."

"The days of an hour on the treadmill are over."

4. Behind-the-neck lat pulldowns

This is another common exercise people often perform incorrectly, which can make it unsafe and ultimately a waste of time. "Many people will excessively round their shoulders or crane their neck so that the bar can travel behind their head, and this is a recipe for disaster," Dylan Rivier explains.

This puts the neck in a compromising position and increases the risk of injury, and can also also cause a humeral glide in your shoulder joint. "This is what happens when they roll forward and your upper back is flexed. This switches off your latissimus dorsi muscles (the target muscles in your back) and puts a whole lot of load on your bicep's rotator cuffs," he adds.

Instead, Rivier recommends keeping it simple. "If you want to do Lat Pulldowns, bring the bar down in front of your face. Keep your spine neutral and pull your elbows down towards your ribs, being sure to keep your scapula (shoulder blades) pulled back and down, not rolling forward," he says. (Post continues after gallery.)

 5. Glute and core activation

"People believe activating their glutes with clams [a side-lying exercise that works the glutes/thighs] or core with planks will make them stronger and give them tone," Greg Stark says.

"They might do to a very small degree, but you are much better served focusing on exercises working bigger muscle groups such as lunges with rotations or reaches."

6. Smith Machine squats

About to get stuck into a round of squats? Dylan Rivier suggests ditching the Smith Machine — that's the one that has silver rails with a barbell fixed across them.

"Instead of being a complicated compound exercise, using the Smith turns it into more of a specific isolation exercise. In my opinion you’re better off doing bodyweight squats," he explains.

"People often tell me, 'I can load the Smith Machine right up and my legs can handle it but if I use an Olympic (free weight) squat rack my lower back or my knees hurt.' All this tells me is that you have a weak core and your squat position is probably incorrect. You might have strong quads but if your mid-section is not up to speed then all you’re doing is furthering the imbalances in your body."

L-R: Greg Stark, Dylan Rivier and Tom Sproats (Images: Better Being/Supplied/Scenic Cycle)

7. Wall sits

If you ask Tom Sproats, it's high time these guys took a seat.

"The health and performance benefits of wall sits are minimal," he says. The solution? Sub them out for a dumbbell squat press.

"Take one dumbbell in each hand and squat down to a certain level (a box for box jumps or bench press seat is usually fine) then extend vertically to straight legs. Lastly, lift the hands above the head at the top to complete the full body movement," he explains.

Lean against a wall post-workout, by all means.

8. Deadlifts

Stark says people view deadlifts as "the be all and end all of functional exercise" — but it might be time to kill them off (pun very much intended).

"The reality is they aren't as functional as you might think, and actually cause the most amount of injuries in the gym. Instead use single leg squats or step ups," he advises. In other words, step away from the giant weights.

Do you regularly perform any of these moves?