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Gyms are filled with inventive and sometimes downright terrifying looking equipment designed to help us become fit and toned. However, there are some machines and exercises that can do more harm than good and should be avoided to stay injury free.
Deep knee bend leg squats or presses
Any exercise that causes excessive bending at the knees when supporting weight can put you at risk of knee injury. When bent too far, the knee joint becomes more unstable and greater stress is placed on the joint, meaning the risk of damage is increased.
Avoid leg presses and when doing squats make sure the knees are never bent more than a 90 degree angle. The knees should also be directly over the feet when doing this type of exercise.
Sit-ups, when you come all the way up from a lying position with your back curled can result in back injury and should be avoided. This exercise actually works the hip flexors more than the abs, and so is not the most effective way to improve your strength and toning in this area anyway.
A crunch, where the back remains flat and raises slightly towards the ceiling is a safer and more effective option.
This exercise, performed with free weights and lifting them vertically straight up towards the shoulders can put a large amount of strain on the shoulder and wrist muscles and may result in nerve damage that is hard to recover from. Most people do not have the range of motion necessary to carry out this activity correctly and thus should avoid it.
A safer alternative is to do lift the weight in a lateral raise either to the front or the side of the body, remembering to start with a light weight and work up.
Double leg Hyperextensions
A better alternative is to raise one leg at a time.
Straight leg abdominal curls
As with sit-ups, this type of exercise places a lot of strain on the lower back and may cause injury. Knees should always be raised when doing crunches and curls and stomach muscles engaged to prevent excess strain on the back.
Doing crunches on fit balls can be a good alternative and help to protect the back.
Behind the head lat pull downs
Pulling the weighted bar behind the head whilst doing lat pull downs can be detrimental to the shoulders, neck and spine and carries a high injury risk to these areas. To pull the bar behind the neck safely, you need incredibly flexible shoulders, which most people simply do not have.
This means that there is a risk of shoulder injury or even rotator cuff damage. Banging the bar on the back of the neck can also cause damage to vertebrae.
This exercise is best performed pulling the bar down to the chest and using the back and abdominal muscles to support the controlled movement. As with any exercise it is important to ask for the assistance of an instructor or trainer to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly.
A better option is to stretch the back of the legs in the seated position.
Seated shoulder press machine
When pushing above the shoulders it is natural for the hips to assist with this movement and provide support. However, on this machine, the hips are not allowed to do this, meaning all the pressure and strain rests on the shoulders. This runs a high risk of shoulder injury and should be avoided.
Seated leg extension machine
It’s designed to work the quadriceps, however the design of this machine puts excessive strain on ligaments and tendons around the knee joint. Damage to these areas can be very serious and take a long time to recover from. A good alternative is one-legged leg squats using your own body weight, although it may be better to start with double leg and work up to one legged squats over time.
Anything that is too heavy
It can be tempting when starting a strengthening routine to head straight for the weight that the person next to you is lifting, however, this can be a sure fire way to injure yourself and put an end to your gym visits for quite some time. Lifting weights that are too heavy puts strain on your muscles that they are not yet developed enough to handle, which can lead to injury. It is essential to start with light weights and gradually build up in weight as your strength improves.
It is also important to remember that sometimes exercising using your own body weight or resistance bands can be just as effective in strengthening and toning your body and carries less risk of injury that weight machines and free weights.
When working out at the gym, good technique on both weight and cardio machines is essential to prevent injury and make sure the exercise is actually achieving its desired purpose. Always consult with a trainer as to how to operate machines and carry out exercises correctly to minimize injury risk and start small to begin with.
References used in this article