The 4 Gym Machines You Should Skip (and What to Do Instead)

Walk into any big-box gym, and you’ll likely see the same scenario: a sea of people talking on treadmills; others walking around alongside free-standing gym machines, unsure what to do. While yes, those clunky machines are there for a reason, the reality is they can be more detrimental than good.

“Gym machines can be good for muscle activation and getting accustomed to feeling your body do work,” says Denzel Allen, kettlebell specialist and instructor at SoHo Strength Lab in New York City. “But they can also be risky. A machine setup can give people a false impression that they’re stronger than they actually are.”

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So what’s a concerned gym-goer to do? It’s all about programming. “The right programming can make all the difference and may only involve a few simple swaps from your current routine,” says Kitsa Ouzounidis, a personal trainer at Equinox in New York. “Plus, smarter planning can help you stay consistent and on track reaching your personal goals.”

It’s time to smarten up. Ditch the machines with these four smart swaps that will help you get more out of your next workout.

1. Crunch Machine

Why: “The crunch machine and most other ab machines work the superficial layer of your abdominal muscles,” Allen says. “This means that they overdevelop the part of your abs that you can visually see, but they do not develop your inner core, which is responsible for protecting your spine, improving your posture, and connecting your upper and lower extremities to ensure your body works as a unit.”

What to Do Instead: Bear Crawl
“A bear crawl works your entire core, not just that superficial layer. Think of a baby: Babies create the strength to be able to walk by crawling and building their upper-body and lower-body strength, as well as their core strength, until they are able to stand upright. As adults we lose the ability to crawl, but gaining that strength back c​an go a long way toward resetting the body and making us feel young again,” Allen says.

How to do it: Start on all fours, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips. Lift knees off the floor an inch and raise hips slightly, bracing your core as you do so. That’s the “bear” position. Keeping shoulders and hips at the same height, step forward with right foot while reaching forward with left hand. Switch and step forward with left foot while reaching forward with right hand. Continue to repeat while moving forward, building speed as you go for 30 to 60 seconds.

2. Seated Leg Extension Machine

Why: “The seated leg extension does a great job of developing the quadriceps, but that’s about it,” Allen says. “Since it doesn’t work the hip or the opposing muscle group [the hamstrings], using the machine

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