If you know me, then you know I workout AT HOME. It is my heavy preference. Getting dressed, packing bags, kids, plus snacks, entertainment, jackets, etc. is my idea of HELL. So, it's probably no shocker to read that I question some of the equipment at the gym.
What you may not know is that I actually like the gym. I enjoy the nice, open spaces, cool air blowing, music blasting, mirrors everywhere and most importantly, class offerings of many local gyms. And I think it's a GREAT escape and change of scenery for a good workout. I'm also a big fan of people watching, so going to the gym would actually be a fairly fun experience for me. I am simply not in a place in my life where it is convenient. So, home workouts for me it is.
However, for MANY of you, the gym is ideal and practical. So, in an effort to streamline your gym experience, let me share with you a few items that you can SKIP during your next gym trip. And when I say "skip," I mean like forever...as in you can completely remove them from your gym radar and avoid every, single, day. Of course, this is based on my opinion...my very professional opinion...which is rooted in more than 12 years as a licensed physical therapist and movement specialist. My education is literally based around where muscles originate, insert, how they are controlled and how they move. So, if I happen to name a favorite machine of yours, just know that you have the right to continue using it forever, but I am probably right. lol. I'm seriously joking...seriously.
The first machine that you can skip at the gym is the (Loaded) Calf Raise Machine.
I understand what the creators of this machine were going for. Load the calves with more than your body weight and go to town pumping those ankles up and down. The problem though, is the fact that the weight is being dispersed first through the shoulders. Depending on how much weight is chosen, that can have very damning effects on the shoulder girdle itself and also the spine. Gravity gives us enough compression in the spine, we do not need to add more. The shoulder is a complicated, complex and fragile structure, so applying a downward force from weight is not the best idea. Tiptoe past this machine and opt instead for unloaded calf raises.
The second piece of gym equipment that you can ignore, is the Leg Press Machine. I know this one is a fan fave. It used to be one of mine as well. My dad (who was a bodybuilder) LOVED to put me on one of these and have me pressing until my legs were shaking. Who doesn't feel strong pushing hundreds of pounds with your legs? But the reality is that our bodies were not created to perform such a motion, at least not with such excessive forces of weight. Applying pressure to the legs like that, while lying down is kind of silly. Your legs carry you around all day, so to effect any level of change, you would need to load the machine with more than your body weight. For many people, that amount of weight will cause the lower back to lift off of the machine, redirecting the force of pushing from the buttocks and legs (as intended) to the spine and THAT. IS. NOT. OKAY. Make this machine another one you scoot right past. Instead, go back to squats, lunges and all things plyometric (jumping).
The last piece of gym equipment that I caution against is the Hip Adduction/Abduction Machine. No lie, this machine makes me laugh. Every time I see it, I giggle inside because in my mind I am picturing all the Instagram videos of women in booty-enhancing leggings using this machine in a ridiculous and overly sexual way. The only muscle that gets a great workout from this machine is your IT Band (along the outer edge of your thigh from hip to knee). Since this muscle (which is only partly muscle but mostly connective tissue) is already tight in most people, working it more might have damaging effects on the knee, potentially displacing the knee cap (patella). This machine is an oxymoron in that you are trying to contract and work muscles that you are SITTING on. Unless you are unable to stand, you can ghost this machine. My suggestion, just go ahead and have sex with someone... you will get a more enjoyable hip burning experience.
If I'm being honest, there is not one machine that I recommend to work your butt, thighs or calves. I truly believe the most effective and least dangerous way to address these areas is through body weight exercises...all of which CAN be done in the gym, but also, right in the comfort of your home. Good old-fashioned squats, lunges and burpees, coupled with some more advanced moves, like bear crawls, mountain climbers and gorilla hops will get the job done. Adding weights (in your hands) and making your exercises more compound (working the legs AND arms simultaneously) will intensify the moves, improve your overall calorie burn and increase your lower body strength quickly and efficiently.
Happy Working Out!