The five most overrated gym exercises of all time - Juice Daily
Couple training for fitness in gym with weigts

The five most overrated gym exercises of all time

‘What’s the best exercise for toned legs?’ ‘How can I get a six-pack fast?’

The answer to these questions may surprise some people, particularly those who are new to fitness. To get rock-hard abs you just need to do crunches, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Even when you’re hitting it hard you may not be working to your full potential. Many people waste their energy on machines and exercises that don’t deliver the desired results.

Here’s a list of the five most overrated gym exercises and some safer and more effective alternatives to try to get the most out of your workout.

1. Sit-ups

Sit-ups are, without a doubt, the most overrated exercise when it comes to developing a six-pack. The theory that you can spot reduce fat from your abdominal region is just not true. While sit-ups do train your abs, if your body fat is over 14 per cent, your hard work will not be visible.

Nutrition and diet are much more effective than exercise when it comes to developing a six-pack. Aim to cut back on booze and processed food, drink lots of water and opt for lean proteins with plenty of fresh vegetables. If you don’t address what you eat and drink a whole lifetime of sit-ups won’t reveal your abs.

Once your nutrition and lifestyle practices are on point you can get started on these core workouts.

A woman is wearing athletic clothing and is working out at the gym. She is doing sit ups and abdominal crunches.

Sit-up. Photo: iStock

2. Cable woodchop

The cable woodchop is meant to target the abdominals, in particular, the obliques. It was popularised by Paul Chek, a functional exercise practitioner, who believed exercise should return to primal movement patterns.

The biggest problem with the cable woodchop is that it’s technically difficult to master. If you are new to fitness (or even an intermediate trainee) you run the risk of injuring yourself. Furthermore, the load used in a cable woodchop is not great enough to stimulate adequate stress on the obliques muscles.

There are many safer and easier exercises you can do to strengthen the core muscles.

3. Box squats

A box squat allows you to squat to a certain depth by placing a box or bench behind you. Many people use them because they’re meant to be safer on the knees or because they don’t have the mobility or flexibility to squat deep. With the right guidance and coaching, however, you will be surprised by how low you can go.

Training any body part through a lesser range of motion isn’t going to give you fast results. In a recent study by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers studied range of motion in relation to squats and other leg exercises. Participants did leg workouts three days per week with one group doing their leg work from zero to 50 degrees, and the other doing the same work from zero to 90 degrees.

After the 12 weeks the strength and size of the muscle was greater in the group with the longer range of motion. Researchers also measured fat stores within the affected muscle and they were reduced more in the group with the longer range of motion.

While the box squat does have it’s place, when it comes to body composition goals, there is no comparison to a full range squat. And if you’re looking for bang for your squat-buck, a barbell squat should be the movement of choice.

Young adult girl doing heavy duty squats in gym with barbell

Barbell squat. Photo: iStock

4. Standing barbell curls

Standing barbell curls are definitely high on the list. Again, it’s not because curls are a bad exercise per se, they’re just not the most effective means of building bigger biceps. Our upper body (in particular the smaller muscles groups like biceps and deltoids) requires more variation than the legs. The best ways to shock growth is to train the muscle through different parts of the strength curve.

The strength curve relates to the amount of force you can apply over a range of motion. For example, in the standing bicep curl, you have the bottom end of the strength curve which is the starting point with the arms fully extended, the midrange when the arms are in a right angle position, and the top end when the hands are in line with the shoulders.

In my opinion, the scott curl is a far more effective mass builder for the biceps than a standing curl, because you able to utilise a greater amount of load in a seated position and it’s fantastic for building the coveted biceps peak.

5. Electronic cardio equipment

Treadmills, cross trainers and stationary bikes may make you feel like you’re working hard, when it comes to improving lean muscle gains, dropping body fat and improving athletic performance cardio isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I heard this saying many years ago from world renowned strength and conditioning expert, Charles R Poliquin, and I am a firm believer in it. “Human beings are designed to throw a rock at the rabbit, not chase the rabbit.” In other words, if your strength wasn’t good in prehistoric times you were hot out of luck.

There’s another analogy I also use with clients – cardiovascular training should be treated like an entree, it comprises part of your meal but is not the main course. The hors d’oeuvres is always strength training. If you want to build a lean, athletic and fit physique you should focus on compound movements that work the major muscles. Here is the best all over body workout you will ever do.

People exercising in gym to keep body in shape

Photo: iStock

Daine McDonald

About the person who wrote this

Daine McDonald

Daine is the Head Coach at the Clean Health Fitness Institute. He has an extensive knowledge of functional medicine and is known for his integrative approach to helping his clients achieve their health and fitness goals, including fat loss, muscle building or athletic performance.

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