Gym time can be overwhelming—between the machines, the free weights, and the endless possibilities of the open floor, picking your next workout move can sometimes feel impossible. To narrow down your options, we’re here to put some of those potential exercises on the chopping block. It turns out that some of your go-to gym moves could be hurting you more than helping you (and some are probably not doing much for you at all). Check out these five moves that trainers swear are a waste of time.
1. Don’t Bother With Sit-Ups
If getting rock-hard abs (or even just one single ab… are you in there, abs?) is on your fitness to-do list, Anna Kaiser, celebrity trainer for Kelly Ripa and Sarah Jessica Parker and founder of AKT fitness studios, says to ditch the crunches.
“Doing one million crunches every day will not get you rock-hard abs,” Kaiser says. “In fact, a crunch is far less effective than you think. They can also pose a risk of injury to your neck and lower back.” What abs workout should you do instead? “Choose planks for a core-strengthening exercise that recruits and strengthens muscles from the front, side, and back of the body,” Kaiser says.
2. Lose the Dumbells When Doing Chest Flies
The next time “chest day” rolls around, Fhitting Room trainer Jason Tran suggests you spread your wings and fly sans dumbbells.
“Adding weight to chest flies puts too much pressure on your shoulder joints,” Tran says. “When you’re doing flies while lying on a bench, gravity is at play and people often go too far.”
Instead, Tran says you can easily achieve the same activation with a cable machine. “With a machine, you’re able to stay upright—you’ll have way more control over your range of motion so you can spend less time fighting gravity and more time getting a great pec workout. And if there’s no equipment available, opt for wide-stance push-ups.”
3. Quit Stationary Pedaling
Finding the motivation for cardio is tough for some people, which is why the stationary bike is so appealing—Netflix binge while pedaling, anyone? But celebrity trainer Nick Mitchell has a bone to pick with bikes that don’t move.
“Steady-state cardio has its place, and I think that if you enjoysomething like a cycling class, then by all means, go for it. But my issue with the use of stationary bikes is a very simple and basic one: The way that most people use them is just too damn easy. If you can read a magazine or book while exercising, then you’re not really exercising at all—you’re just wiggling your limbs around a little bit.”
His preference for moderate cardio? The tread. “Even walking on a treadmill involves more muscular and nervous system recruitment than sitting on a bike,” Mitchell says.
4. Assisted Pull-Ups Are Slowing You Down
Don’t get too excited—we’re not about to say pull-ups aren’t worth striving for. But Devon Fitol, trainer at Accelerate in Seattle, WA, says that using a tool like a resistance band to assist you in the process isn’t worth your time.
“If you want to achieve pull-ups, you need to be fully loading the muscles that you’re trying to get stronger,” Fitol says. “A great hack for this is spending time above the bar and doing bodyweight negatives—use a box to jump to the bar, hold your chin above the bar for one second, and then slowly lower your body for three seconds until your arms are straight. Or, if you must use a band, try to focus on spending more time above the bar with each rep so you’re not blowing through the motions.”
5. Strut Past the Hip Abductor Machine
Next time you are working through the circuit of machines at the gym, celeb trainer Doug Bopst says you should skip the hip abductor machine.
“The hip abductor machine is a waste because it allows you to load a lot of weight on the muscles in the hips while they’re flexed at 90 degrees—something you never actually simulate in real life,” Bopst says. Moving heavy weight in an unnatural way can end up doing more harm than good to the surrounding muscle groups and your knees. “A more functional approach would be to use resistance bands to work those muscles in a safer and more efficient way.”