When you step into a gym, you see a variety of training machines and equipment. And these machines and devices allow all manner of proper exercises to be performed. However there are also exercises that are not actually appropriate for our bodies to execute.

Such exercises performed on poorly designed machines can actually limit the body from functioning at its best during a workout.

Some trainers are not aware that these exercises are more harmful than helpful, and still teach their clients to perform them. This article will describe three such exercises or types of exercise that cause more harm than good…

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1. The first is squatting on the Smith Machine

The Smith Machine is a self-spotting machine in which the load is fixed in a linear direction perpendicular to the floor, in addition to being significantly assisted by a counter balance to make the load lighter for the lifter.

First, the fixed plane of motion is not conducive for many exercises

Because our bodies don’t naturally move in a truly linear way when performing a squat, our body needs to be able to freely move during the full range of motion of the exercise. Therefore, this machine automatically puts you at a disadvantage.

Secondly, this movement is restricting 

When performing a squat on the Smith Machine, your body can never actually activate the appropriate muscles and stabilizers due to the fixed linear movement.

While using this machine, the upper body from the torso to the hips, is directly under the weight, and the lower body from the hips to the feet, is forced to be out in front of the rest of the body (picture sitting in a chair).

This position loads the quadriceps, and places significant shearing force at the knee joint, which could cause damage to the joint.

The body’s natural movements

The appropriate way to perform a squat would be to load the lumbar, by allowing the hips to push back behind the bar as you descend down towards the floor; something achieved only when performing a free weighted squat.

As a result, using the Smith Machine for a squat clearly limits the body’s natural movement, could possibly cause injury,

It is simply disadvantageous since it reduces the many benefits that squats could have for the body.

Additionally, as trainers and coaches, our jobs are to help our clients move effectively in everyday life and/or sport performance, and at no time in life or in sports will you ever be locked in one line of direction without the ability to move outside of that fixed line.

exercises that are bad for you_2Therefore, not only is the Smith Machine bad for doing squats, it is poorly designed for performing most exercises that translate into real life scenarios, both on and off the field.

If your client is using this machine for anything other than doing inverted rows or incline assisted push-ups, they will invariably hurt their ability to achieve their goals and exercise education.

In addition, if a client is performing a squat on the Smith Machine, you have no opportunity to assist or “spot” them because the machine is set up to be self-spotting only. You will find that your presence  becomes unnecessary, and perhaps renders your job useless in this situation. As a trainer, why would you want to eliminate your own job?!

2. The next exercise I will elaborate on is one-legged squats on the BOSU ball, or “BOTH SIDES UP” ball

The BOSU ball is another piece of exercise equipment that I wish was never invented. While I understand that the object of the device is to create an unstable surface, training on an unstable surface does not truly create a more effective exercise platform.

Furthermore, balancing on a hemisphere does not promote natural training posture because it creates inversion of the ankle joints.

Therefore, performing one-legged squats on such an item does not seem beneficial to the body at all.

Let’s also clarify that the acronym BOSU in and of itself is also somewhat false advertising because, written on the flat side, it states to not stand on the flat side; only on the blue side (the bubble side).

While this item can be used on either side, you cannot stand on the flat side. This limitation definitely creates a problem for anyone trying to address the ankle inversion issue.

Training on uneven surfaces

Don’t get me wrong, using different pieces of equipment to train specific clients with injuries and sport-specific athletes on uneven surfaces can be very beneficial, it does not have to be as dramatic as a hemispheric shaped bubble.

For example: in most physical therapy offices there are “Airex pads,” which are simply foam pads that offer an unstable surface for persons with lower-body injuries such as ankle, knee, or hip injuries.

This pad is enough of an unstable surface to force a person to use their stabilization muscles, and it will not cause inversion of the ankle joints. Consequently, performing a one-legged squat on an Airex pad would be more beneficial to the body than the BOSU ball.

Lastly, adding stabilization exercises into specific routines is absolutely legitimate if it’s in the trainer’s discretion that their client isn’t firing or sequencing their muscles appropriately in a particular movement. However, if the trainer is just putting them in to make the body work harder-it isn’t!

So the take-home point is this: if there is no visible breakdown in the client/athlete kinetic chain, adding in these types of exercises just exposes the client to an unnecessary potential risk of injury.

In tomorrow’s concluding part Frank Cosenza looks at a final exercise protocol that causes him to get heated – and not in a good way!

Connect with Expert Frank Cosenza.

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