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5 Exercise machines to avoid

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Don't use these exercise machines

Walk into various gyms around the country (perhaps even in your locale) and you face a sweat-inducing plethora of weight machines, all designed to target specific muscles and pump them up to their fitness potential. However, some of the most popular weight machines are actually biomechanically incorrect and can even put you at risk for injury. We asked Steve Perrine -- author of The Women’s Health Diet and editor-in-chief of Men’s Health and Women’s Health Books -- which exercise machines to avoid.

Woman with medicine ball

Women's Health Diet

The best exercise machine is Y-O-U

You may not know it, but you carry around one of the most effective fitness tools for getting in shape. "The best exercise machine for your body is, well, your body," says Perinne. "Exercise machines aren't built for your body, they're built for some generic, make-believe body. They're not only less effective at building lean muscle and burning calories, but they're more likely to lead to injury, because they lock your body into ranges of motion that it's not necessarily built for."

5 Exercise machines to avoid

In The Women's Health Diet, Perrine has a chapter on the 10 exercise machines to bypass when you're at the gym. Here are his top five no-no exercise machines.

1Seated Leg Extension

Though this seemingly effective machine specifically targets the quadriceps muscles (the muscles that make up the front of your thigh), it puts undue strain on the ligaments and tendons of your kneecap. It locks your legs into a position and movement that your legs aren't designed to support.

A better exercise: One-legged body-weight squats

Lift one leg up and bend the opposite knee, dipping as far as you can, while flexing at the hip, knee, and ankle. Use a rail for support until you develop strength and balance. Aim for 5 to 10 reps for each leg.

2Seated Military Press

One of the most popular upper-body machines, the seated military press is supposed to train your shoulders and triceps. But instead of being super-effective, it's super dangerous for your shoulder joints because pressing weight overhead in a seated position does not allow your hips or lower body to stabilize and help your upper body press the weight upward.

A better exercise: Medicine ball throws

Stand 3 feet from a concrete wall. Bounce a rubber medicine ball off a spot on the wall 4 feet above your head, squatting to catch the ball and rising to throw it upward in one continuous motion. Aim for 15 to 20 reps.

3Seated Lat Pulldown (behind the neck)

All too often, you see weight lifters pulling the lat bar behind the neck with the goal of pumping up their lat muscles, upper back and biceps. Unfortunately, this form of lat pulldown puts strain on the shoulder joints, particularly if the shoulders are inflexible, and can damage the rotator cuff muscles.

A better exercise: Incline pull-ups

Place a bar in the squat rack at waist height, grab the bar with both hands, and hang from the bar with your feet stretched out in front of you. Keep your torso stiff and pull your chest to the bar, lower, repeat. Aim for 10 to 15 repetitions.

4Seated Pec Deck

This chest exercise machine is supposed to exercise the chest and shoulders. What it ends it up doing is putting the shoulder in an unstable position and placing excessive stress on the shoulder joint and connective tissue.

A better exercise: Incline pushups

Place a bar in the squat rack at waist height. Stand in front of the bar, lean forward and grab the bar with both hands, wider than shoulder-distance apart. Walk your feet back so you are in a pushup position with your chest over the bar. Lower your chest towards the bar then push up. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions.

5Seated Hip Abductor Machine

Some women worship this leg exercise machine, thinking it is a miracle spot-reducer and will rid them of those pesky "saddlebags." Not only is spot-reducing a myth, this machine promotes a movement that isn't even functional. How often do you sit down and move your leg like that? Worse, if abduction is done with excessive weight and jerky technique, it can put undue pressure on the spine.

A better exercise: Side step with resistance band

Place a heavy short looped resistance band around your legs at the ankles. Sidestep out 20 paces, then repeat in the opposite direction.

Perrine can't emphasize enough that your body is your best "machine" for exercises. He's even come up with a safe, effective bodyweight-based workout to help you strengthen, tone and burn calories. "To turbocharge the effects of The Women's Health Diet, we created a series of exercises called the Women's Health Fast-Track Tone-Up Plan, which requires nothing more than you, and just 30 minutes three times a week." Sounds a lot more fun than risking injury and wasting time with exercise machines that don't work!

More gym mistakes to avoid

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