In running my FB page and groups, I get to learn about the questions that you have with regards to fitness and working out. I love answering them and love even more that you guys are looking to learn the reasons behind my methods.
One thing I hear a lot is “There are so many conflicting articles out there about which exercises are BEST and which to avoid. Can you help me shed some light on this?” I’d love to!
There are not many exercises I have a strong dislike for, but for some mysterious reason the ones I DO dislike (justifiably so, keep reading…;) end up in more mainstream (for lack of a better phrase) fitness programs for women.
Actually, it’s not really that big of a mystery why these less-than-ideal exercises continue to rear their heads into women’s fitness literature. My theory is that it’s due to a combination of sexism and misinformation (the exact dosage depending on the source).
Apparently, according to the mainstream, women are either “not supposed” to use the exercises that are the most effective because they’re “too challenging” (save those for the fellas) OR because women are supposed to rely more on exercises to target “problem areas” with low resistance.
So even though spot reduction has been known to be NOT a real thing for a couple decades now, maybe – JUST MAYBE – it’ll work if you use a 3lb dumbbell and burn a whopping 4 calories per set. (can you sense my sarcasm?)
The good news is more and more women are discovering the benefits of serious resistance training. The bad news is that the bad information is still the most prominent.
Today I’m going to expose the 5 ½ most common exercises that are pushed onto women more than men, why I’m concerned about them and what I suggest instead of them in order for you to benefit more directly.
Offender #1: Smith Machine “Squats”
Reason: I use the quotes for “squats” because anyone that knows proper squat form cringes when they see a so-called squat on a smith machine. Rather than moving freely as it would with a simple barbell and squat rack setup, the Smith machine forces your body to try to accommodate the fixed purely-up-and-down path of the bar. This places more force into the knees and low back than is necessary.
Alternative: Most likely if you’re using these, it’s because you’re feeling not ready for barbell back squats. No shame in that at all – they’re a relatively advanced exercise. There are other baby steps that are better though. Goblet squats with a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest are a good way to learn the squat movement pattern with good core stability and enough resistance to get your legs a-burnin’. As you get more proficient in goblet squats, you can move to barbell front squats. If you’re for some reason limited to only machine exercises, I would choose the leg press over the smith machine.
Reason: Resistance applied to the shoulder in an extreme range of motion – some times with the elbows getting as high as shoulder height. Think about this angle, it’s not like anything we experience in our day to day life, so why go so uncomfortably and unsafely out of our way to extend to that unnatural range of motion when we have so many shoulder-friendly alternatives?
Alternative: Depending on the exact angle, these will work some combination of triceps and chest. Any upper body pressing exercise will do here. Push up variations with proper form are fantastic for your shoulder health as they help teach proper shoulder blade movement. And let’s not forget bench press and overhead press exercises. If you are a more advanced lifter and feel you need isolation work for your triceps, you could also do tricep pushdowns. But if you’re advanced already, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that…
Offender #3: Combo moves (step up and overhead press; lunge and curl, etc.)
Reason: These aren’t necessarily a bad idea depending on how you’re using them. For example, if you’ve already done your strength work and just looking to keep moving for the fun of it and burn a few extra calories. However, it’s a bad idea to replace your more effective strength training with these types of exercises. The amount of weight you’ll be able to handle on a lower body exercise will nearly always be heavier than what you can handle for an upper body exercise. Take a woman who can step up with 25 lb dumbbells and make her do a step up and overhead press combo, and now you could be looking at 10-15 lbs per dumbbell. That just voided a lot of the benefits for the step up…
Alternative: This one is easy – let exercises be their own exercises. Generally do one at a time and challenge yourself appropriately with that exercise. There are some effective ways to integrate combo type exercises – if that interests you can check out Strength Training for Fat Loss by Nick Tumminello.
I still have 2 ½ more exercises I want to talk to you guys about but I’m afraid this is getting too long. Let all of this digest and we’ll reconvene next week with the remainder of this list.
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