Popular but potentially ineffective gym moves.

Before copying the resident gym hardbody or You Tube star, make sure you understand the dynamics and implications of the following popular but potentially ineffective gym moves.

Buns of steel

Ladies, kicking your leg out like a ballerina on the stair machine to shape your glutes is a graceful but ineffective movement (not to be confused with the “Stairmaster Slouch” where people drape their upper body over the console as their feet move at mach speed).

Without getting technical, this simply doesn’t work — even if you really want it to. Cardio machines typically don’t build or shape muscle unless you are lifting them.

Endurance planking

We are all impressed that you can plank for a full episode of Hoarders. Like curling a beer stein for reps, however this doesn’t build muscle. If you can plank for a minute, time to up the ante. Create a less stable base by sliding your feet backwards during your plank (your elbows will no longer be under your shoulders). To prevent lower back pain, keep your bellybutton pulled in and your hips slightly peaked.

Dance routine

One and two and kick. Staring at your phone to learn a new exercise makes sense. Staring at your phone while you replicate a complicated dance routine reduces intensity. If your goal is to learn Flashdance moves, I stand corrected. If your goal is to drop fat and tighten muscle, spend less time choreographing and more time working. Keep things physically challenging yet simple.

Jerking, bouncing, rocking

Failure to control movement while lifting weights takes away from the intent of the exercise — building, shaping and strengthening muscle. Momentum kills gains. Not only are you under-training the intended muscle, but extraneous movement can also be hard on the joints. In the end, it’s a big hit to the ego when someone corrects your form and you have to start over with lighter weight.


If your body is flailing all over the place, you may not be strong enough to perform a proper chin-up (see jerking, bouncing etc. above). Aching shoulders and elbows aren’t worth the trade-off of pulling your face above a bar.

Before pounding away at multiple chin-ups, ensure you understand strict form: chest high throughout (don’t crunch at the top), neutral wrists (don’t flex), maintain tension at the bottom (don’t hang), control you line (don’t swing).

Too tough? Progress by performing negatives. Climb to the top with your chin over the bar and hold on for dear life. Slowly lower your body. Its a great first step towards completing a full chin-up.

Dead lifts and Olympic bench press

While we’re on the topic of challenging lifts, we might as well touch on dead lifts and Olympic bench presses. Both have a long history steeped in competitive lifting. Like chin- ups, not bad lifts but often bad execution.

Unless you’re fixated on performing these particular lifts try something else like a push up or a goblet squat (which also require experience and knowledge). If mastering these lifts is on your bucket list, find someone with technical knowledge to point you in the right direction from the beginning. Its much easier to learn than to unlearn. Note: big biceps don’t constitute technical knowledge.

Drinking tons of water

At some point in time, we decided carrying water was an essential tool for successful urban living (probably around the same time beverage companies realized they could make money selling something that is free).

Today, risky endeavors like wandering the mall or sitting behind a desk are potentially hazardous without the accompaniment of expensive designer bottles. After all, the nearest water source may be all the way across the hall.

Here’s the real problem (other than landfills) — too many people believe drinking water is their “go-to-health-move.” This absolves them from eating a balanced diet and exercising. Sure, water is important, but I think it may have been overdone.

Ab speed round

To finish things off, here are a few ab-rippling misfires:

Without eating a healthy diet, most people will never see their abs — regardless of crunch reps.

If dropping pounds is your focus, hours of joint pounding cardio is a poor alternative to eating a healthy diet.

If you really want to burn fat, eat more plants and less processed food, be a little hungry now and then, and cut off evening snacking.

Crunches work your abs, not your core.

Sit ups work your hip flexors, not your abs.

Comments 1

  1. Well written and 100% accurate! I still like watching people do the “high leg kick” while stair climbing…it makes me laugh!

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