Now that the weather is finally warming up, you’ve had a chance to tackle spring cleaning around your house. However, the cleaning doesn’t need to stop once your space is spick-and-span. Your workout routine could also probably use some freshening up. Unless you are regularly working with a certified personal trainer or attending group fitness classes programmed by professionals, there is a strong possibility that you are not getting the most out of your workouts at the gym.
“When I watch people at the gym, it seems there is a lot of bopping around to different machines,” said Caley Crawford, NASM-CPT and Director of Education and Programming for Row House. “Typically I think this happens because people will go to the machines or go do the exercises they’re comfortable doing. But the problem with it is there is no focus or reasoning behind what they’re doing.”
If that description sounds like you or you’re in a rut with fitness after the long, dreary winter months, it’s probably time to spring clean your workout. Keep reading to learn about the worst exercises and equipment that may be inefficient and ineffective in achieving your desired fitness results. Plus, suggestions for better alternatives.
Static stretching before exercise >> Dynamic and mobility movements
Static or PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching is okay to do prior to a workout. But it’s not going to benefit you the way some dynamic stretching or mobility exercises will (think bodyweight Cossack squats, zombie walks, or gate openers for the hips).
“These movements will increase the body’s temperature and prepare the body for the types of exercises that will be performed during the workout,” said Kelsey Decker, Education Coordinator for StretchLab.
It’s called a “warmup” for a reason – it’s time to get your body warm! So, save the static and PNF stretches for the end the workout.
Stairmaster >> Walking lunges
Don’t get me wrong – I love the Stairmaster. It’s a great machine to lift your heartrate, but if you also want to build lean muscle in the legs, it’s not ideal. To break a sweat and sculpt your legs, try walking lunges instead.
“Lunges will give more range of motion than the Stairmaster, recruiting more muscles while still having the lower body strength and glute work that you’re normally looking to achieve on the Stairmaster,” said Crawford.
She adds that walking up stairs won’t necessarily make you good at lunges, but lunges will definitely help you get better at walking up the stairs. (And if you live on the third floor like me, that is a huge bonus!)
Elliptical >> Rower
How often do you see people mindlessly moving their legs on the elliptical while reading a magazine? If this sounds like you, you should refocus and hop on the rower, or ergometer, instead.
“With rowing, you get cardio and strength in one, all while being full body,” said Crawford. “The elliptical doesn’t allow for you to find resistance while increasing heart rate. Rowing will allow you to generate more intensity and resistance while also increasing heart rate.”
Furthermore, the elliptical only requires about 30% of your range of motion. Rowing challenges your full range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles, maximizing muscle recruitment and mobility. No other cardio machine at the gym allows for the triple extension that a rower does!
The best part – you could row everyday because it’s low impact. Rowing builds your body up without breaking it down.
Regular pushups >> Hand release pushups
Pushups are one of the most dynamic exercises you can do, engaging your chest, shoulders, arms, and core. But why stop there?
Challenge even more muscles and your range of motion with hand release pushups. Instead of stopping when your elbows are at 90 degrees, lower your chest all the way to the floor. Then, squeeze between your shoulder blades to lift your elbows up and hands off the ground. This is going to fire up the back muscles around your spine that help you stand taller. After that additional squeeze, then push yourself back up to your plank position.
“I see a lot of people doing half pushups where they don’t go all the way down to the ground,” noted Crawford. “It’s better to do this full range of motion. You’ll build strength a lot faster.”
Lat pulldown >> Pull-ups
The lat pulldown machine is a favorite for gym-goers to build up their back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi. But you can amplify your results even more with a good old-fashioned pull-up. (Remember those seemingly impossible fitness tests from grade school gym class?)
“Even if you need a band to do assisted pull-ups, they will recruit more muscles and are more functional,” Crawford explained. “Your core is much more active in a pull-up versus the Lat pulldown.”
In no time, you’ll be scaling mountains with your newfound upper body strength!
And add this in to your spring workouts
Now that you’ve saved some time during your workout with more effective machines and movements, you may have a few extra minutes for an activity we all need to do more often – stretching! People often bolt out of the gym right after they finish their last set, but they’re only doing their bodies harm. A deep stretch at the end of a workout can help speed up recovery, prevent future injuries, and increase flexibility.
“After your workout, you should consistently incorporate at least ten to twenty minutes of stretching and mobility movements to help the body recover,” said Decker.