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Top 5 Machines To Avoid In A Health Club

Walk into most any modern gym or health club today and you’ll undoubtedly find a huge array of exercise equipment designed to work every body part imaginable. The funny thing is the typical health club floor is so jam packed full of equipment there’s little room to actually move and exercise.

The free weights are being pushed into a small corner and good luck finding room to jump rope, hit a punching bag, or do anything else that even resembles physical activity.

Sadly “working out” has turned into making your rounds on a series of machines that have you doing an exercise while sitting down.

Does anybody but me see a problem with this? You’re spending the majority of your time sitting down! Isn’t that the reason we need to exercise and move our bodies, because we sit down too much as it is?

It’s interesting to me that one of the main problems with why people don’t have optimal function, health, and movement is actually part of the health club’s solution to you!

Common sense tells me if a big part our problem stems from sedentary lifestyles and sitting too much, that physical activity should be done on our feet and include as much functional movement as possible.

Never the less, while not my ideal choice, there are some machines that can be used safely and effectively for strength training.

The top 5 machines and related movements you should avoid at all costs in a health club.

My top 5 machines to avoid were chosen because their function and related movement patterns can actually make common muscle imbalances worse. Bottom line is they’re totally counterproductive and a waste of your time, not to mention leaving you more prone to injury.

#1 Hip abduction machine

This is the machine where you sit down and put your legs straight out on padded rails and push away from your body. You’re in essence spreading your legs against weighted resistance.

Hip Abduction Machine

The premise is that you’re working on toning, firming, and sculpting your hips. The machine even shows on the exercise instruction placard these “mystery muscles” you’re supportively working along the side of your legs. This is a joke.

The main muscle that gets worked in this exercise is not a muscle at all but a band of connective tissue called the iliotibial band. The problem is that the iliotibial band is commonly very tight to begin with due to muscle imbalances resulting from sitting too much or being on your feet too much.

This exercise only makes it worse! There is no such thing as spot reduction with a weighted exercise to remove fat from your hips.

If you want to burn fat from your hips you need high intensity “burst training” (both resistance and cardio) to send the right hormonal signals to release fat from those stubborn areas. You can’t diet it off and you can spot reduce it with a machine. That is a fact, so save yourself time and wasted effort and get off this machine.

Better Choices: Squats, Lunges, and Multi-Planar Reaches

#2. Hip Adduction Machine

This is very similar to the hip abduction machine only now you’re pushing your legs in together against weighted resistance. The idea once again is that you’ll be toning, firming, and sculpting your inner thighs.

Hip Adduction Machine

Can you say duped by the myth of spot reduction once more? This machine does a terribly ineffective job of working the adductor muscle groups because you’re sitting down.

The muscles in the human body work with integration of one another and NEVER in isolation. You’ll be hard pressed to find a normal human movement pattern that requires you to sit down and squeeze your legs together.

It’s an unnatural movement pattern by design and that fact alone makes it an exercise that’s totally worthless.

The problem is when you fail to work on strengthening the gluteal muscles (the muscles in your butt) with exercises that INTEGRATE all the major leg muscles (squats, lunges, reaches, etc) at once and you choose to ISOLATE the adductors instead, this can lead to hip and knee problems.

In fact this exercise (along with the hip abduction machine) is one of the main reasons why women suffer more from patella femoral syndrome (runner’s knee) and other knee, hip, and ankle issues.

They only make muscle imbalances WORSE that throw off the entire kinetic chain of the lower body. This causes your gait when you run to be out of alignment and much like your tires being out of alignment on your car, after a while things start to wear out unevenly and break down.

Better Choices: Lateral Lunges, Lateral Reaches, Mini-Band Crossover Walks, Squats, Lunges, 1 Leg Deadlifts.

#3 Seated Torso Rotation

This is the machine where you sit down and rotate side to side against weighted resistance. The idea is that you’re strengthening your abdominal muscles and firming those “love handles.”

Seated Torso Rotation

Looks good on paper but the reality is this exercise is terrible! For starters your body was NOT designed to rotate from side to side while sitting down. Think about when this happens in every day life?

This movement results in flexing of the spine and can cause back problems in a hurry. The role of the abdominals (core muscles) are to stabilize the pelvic-lumbar region and control acceleration/deceleration of the spine…NOT to rotate your hips while sitting down!

Once again you will NOT lose your “love handles” no matter how many repetitions of this exercise you do. The abdominals are relatively small muscles and don’t burn many calories when being worked. Look to do burst training to rev up the fat burning and lose your love handles.

Better Choices: Cable Wood Chop, Resistance Band Rotations, Medicine Ball Diagonal Chops, Side Planks

#4 Seated Abdominal Crunch

This is the machine where you sit down and place a padded bar across your chest to crunch forward against weighted resistance. The idea is once again to strengthen your abdominals and get a flat stomach.

For starters, crunches are an extremely ineffective movement for flattening your stomach, but that’s not the real reason why this machine is worthless. The crunch movement you perform on this machine against weighted resistance is done once again while sitting down.

This is a very, very, BAD idea. The main muscle that gets worked in this exercise is the rectus abdominus. Because the movement is done while sitting down it doesn’t integrate the deeper core muscles.

Believe it or not, this exercise can actually make the appearance of the dreaded “pooch belly” even worse.

Why? Because it’s the deeper core and pelvic muscles that actually function to hold your stomach in naturally. If you neglect those muscles and over-strengthen the rectus abdominus you’ll wind up not being able to hold your stomach in! In fact, you’ll be conditioning your body to push your stomach OUT!



Do yourself a favor and choose exercises to work your abdominal muscles that aren’t done while sitting down.

Better choices: 1 Leg Medicine Ball Chop, Resistance Band Chops, 1 Leg Medicine Ball Knee Tuck, V-up’s, Stability Ball Planks

#5 Lying Hamstring Curl

This is the machine where you lay face down and curl your legs up towards your butt against weighted resistance. The idea is to firm, tone, and strengthen the hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your leg).

Lying Hamstring Curls

Once again this machine ISOLATES the hamstring muscle groups which is a bad idea. Most people who sit too much or are on their feet all day due to their job suffer from muscle imbalances commonly referred to “lower crossed syndrome.”

Part of that imbalance is tight hamstrings. By isolating this muscle group you’ll only make it tighter and make the muscle imbalances worse. Remember the idea is to work all the muscle groups with integration and NOT isolation (the way you were designed to move).

Think of a time today when you’ll need to lay on your stomach and curl your legs up against some weighted resistance. If you can’t think of a time (I know I can’t) then it’s probably a good idea to leave this one out of our exercise routine.

Better choices: Squats, Lunges, Split Squats, 1 Leg Deadlifts, Bulgarian Squats

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fitness expert, speaker, author, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a no obligations FREE trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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  1. [...] this week were bad hip abduction&adduction/ab crunch/leg extensions+lying leg curls ( source; Top 5 Machines To Avoid In A Health Club ) – And also, i should feel soreness the next day to know that I will have results soon [...]