All it takes is a quick internet search and you can have hundreds, maybe even thousands of exercises at your fingertips.

Regardless of whether they’re completely new to you, or a staple in your exercise routine, it’s always worth thinking what it’s really doing for you and is there a way that it could be improved or exchanged for a more effective alternative.

You may look at some of the overrated exercises below with some surprise.

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However, just because they’re overrated doesn’t mean they’re pointless, in fact some are actually very good. They’re in my top five either because there is a more effective alternative or because they are technically quite difficult and are often performed with poor technique, thereby rendering them almost useless.

Crunches

The good old crunch is one of the most overused and overrated exercises in the book, with many believing that doing your daily crunches or sit ups will lead you to a solid core and washboard abs.

Unfortunately not. The truth is that while your core is made up of multiple layers of different muscles, crunches only work part of one of these muscles, the rectus abdominis. In order to strengthen your core and develop that six-pack, a combination of different core exercises and eating accordingly will do the trick.

“What should I be doing instead?”

Exercises like the traditional plank (and variations of), side planks and ab rollouts are all much better all-round core exercises. Big compound movements such as the squat and the deadlift are also excellent ways to strengthen your core when performed correctly.

Another alternative, if your gym is equipped with it, is suspension training. Almost all exercises on this equipment require core activation in order to keep your body straight and upright.

Core specific suspension training exercises such as the plank, Spiderman plank (plank while bringing knee to elbow), knee tucks and suspended pikes are also very good alternatives.

Hip Abductor/Adductor Machine

This one seems to be a favourite amongst people trying to lose a bit of fat off the top of their legs. Unfortunately, “spot reducing” or reducing fat in just one target area is just not going to happen.

These machines do have their place as they will strengthen the abductor and adductor muscles but there are much more efficient ways of doing this.

“What should I be doing instead?”

Your best bet to strengthen your hip abductors and adductors is standard compound leg exercises such as squats and lunges as these will also work other muscles at the same time and are much more functional movements useful in everyday life.

If you are looking to isolate your abductors and adductors, standing cable hip abduction/adduction is better than the seated machine equivalent as it brings your core into action.

To do this, stand sideways on to a cable pulley machine and attach a strap to your furthest ankle from the bottom of the pulley.From there, extend your leg out to the side (this is for abduction).

For your adductor muscles, turn around so the same leg is now closer to the machine, attach the strap to this ankle and adopt a wider stance. From here, bring your leg inwards towards your other one.

This will work your hip adductors.

Medicine Ball Russian Twists

This one isn’t actually a bad exercise at all, the problem I have with it is that a lot of people don’t get the technique right. This is a core exercise and works by rotating the trunk from side to side using some form of resistance, often a medicine ball.

However, what many people tend to do is move the weight from side to side without twisting the abdomen, thereby turning it into an arm exercise.

“What should I be doing instead?”

There’s nothing wrong with this exercise if done correctly so be sure to twist at the abdomen when moving the weight from side to side. Alternatives include the cable trunk rotation and cable woodchop.

Overrated exercises_2

Incline Bench Press

This one may not be as much a case of the incline bench press being an overrated exercise, as a case of the reverse grip bench press being an underrated one. The incline bench press is a staple on most weight lifters’ chest day and is used to target the upper portion of the chest.

This is an exercise I use myself and definitely has its place in pectoral development. However, research from the Strength and Conditioning Journal has shown that performing an incline bench press only activates the upper pecs 5% more than on a standard flat bench press and up to 80% more activation in the anterior deltoids.

More research found that upper pec muscle activation increased by around 30% when performing the reverse grip bench press.

“What should I be doing instead?”

So…by all means continue with your incline benching, but try to get the reverse grip bench press somewhere into your routine as well.

This is basically exactly the same setup as a standard flat bench press but your hands will be facing the other way in an underhand grip. My two tips when performing this exercise is firstly to make your grip slightly wider than shoulder width in order to isolate the chest a little more.

Secondly, I would suggest you lift lighter than you would with a normal bench press and perhaps recruit the services of a spotter to help you lift the bar off the rack as it can be quite awkward, especially if you’re new to it.

Hanging Knee Tucks/Leg Raises

This is an effective abdominal exercise designed primarily to target the lower part of your rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscle.

The main issue with this is that due to its prevalence in online fitness programmes and YouTube, everybody is trying to incorporate it into their routine. As a result, what is quite an advanced exercise is often being performed by beginners.

The key to getting the most of this exercise is to bring you knees or feet (depending on whether you’re doing knee tucks or leg raises) as high as possible in order to lift your hips.

Many gym newbies will at first lack the core strength and hip/hamstring mobility to get your legs this high and will only manage to reach about parallel. This will prove to be a decent exercise for your hip flexors but will have little to no effect on your abs.

“What should I be doing instead?”

If you’re already doing this exercise and comfortably getting out 10 or more reps each set then by all means continue and look to progress to a weighted version.

However, if you are new to it, start by replicating the exercise lying on your back on the floor, lifting your legs up until your hips come off the floor and then lowering them slowly to six inches from the floor before repeating for however many reps you can.

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This is still a very effective exercise for your lower abdomen and once you’ve mastered this, you can reach for the pull up bar and try it from a hanging position.

So, a few of these overrated exercises are so not because the exercise has no benefit, but because it is often not done in the most effective way.

Next time you pull on your gym t-shirt or are getting ready to start your daily sit up routine, have a think about what you’re trying to achieve and whether or not you are taking the safest and most effective route.

References

1. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning

2. Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College

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