Monthly Archives: October 2013

Exercise machines you can do without

I have recently begun mentoring a young client of mine that has interests in one day becoming a personal trainer.   She is a recent client of mine having come over from a former co-worker and is an avid CrossFitter.  Each weekend we take 30-60 minutes and cover areas of personal training that are not always covered in textbooks,college or in certification courses.

The first day we covered “Exercise machines you can do without”  

I will admit having some level of personal bias on this topic as I favor exercises that are more useful for function or sports performance over bodybuilding.  I do not consider myself “anti-machine” and do realize that some have value.    

First stop…. my personal favorites…..the hip abductor (sit down, open your legs) and the hip adductor (sit down, close your legs)


These machines work your piriformis muscles which are used to laterally rotate the thighs and the glute muscles (minimus, medius and maximus.)  The problems you ask? (1) Your told it will work your inner and outer thighs (partially true…but the piriformis is a deep muscle and not visible to the eye)  (2) Lifting heavy weight loads can tighten the IT band, which in turn can throw the kneecap out of place. (3) Can place a strain on the spine.

Want to make it worse? Do the abduction/adduction exercise with your glutes hovering off the pad.


The behind the neck lat pull-down / behind the neck barbell press.

Take a good look at the drawings shoulder….does that look like a good way to pull or push a heavy weight?  For fun, and to make the training a little interactive I loaded a fairly low weight on the lat pull-down and first demonstrated the what happens to the human shoulder when a load is moved in this manner, I also showed how the neck had to move in order to bring the bar down.

Can this exercise be done safely? I’m sure that it can, but the person must have very good shoulder flexibility and stability as well as positioning.  



The Pec Deck / Rear Deltoid Fly:  The Pec-Decks problem occurs when the user place their arms beyond a lateral point, thereby hyper-extending their shoulders, or from the belief that this exercise is superior to the bench press in bringing out the pectoral muscles.

Neither the Peck Deck nor Rear Deltoid fly allow the user to load enough weight to elicit growth in the muscles. Both exercises totally skip the stabilizer muscles involved in abducting or adducting your arms.


The Seated Leg Extension.  Not totally worthless, it has some use in rehab.  I have limited use of this machine to only a few clients and only use the single leg version.  It is my belief that performing the exercise with independent leg action is better that using both legs simultaneously as the stronger leg will take over the lions share of the workload once fatigue starts to set in.  I typically keep the weight fairly low as shearing forces on the knee increase with weight. 


Smith Rack Squats.  Performing Squats in the Smith Rack removes nearly all need for core engagement which invites serious muscle imbalances and the fixed path can over-stress your knees since your hips cannot move the way they are supposed to.   The even worse Smith Rack offense is barbell curling in the Smith Rack (or ANY Squat Rack!)



The entire line up of weighted crunch / ab machines.  Two facts:  The lower back muscles are taken out of play on these machines (which your abs are supposed to work with in a given movement), and crunches by themselves are not going to give you six pack abs (cutting out the deep fried doughnut cheeseburgers will do more to help you out there.)

All in all, my client thought it was an informative session and came away with some pretty good take home lessons.