While they may look like safe training wheels for your muscles, these pieces of kit are hardly worth the effort. These machines carry more kinks than benefits.

At best, you won’t be effectively hitting the muscle group as you want. At worst, you’re putting yourself at risk of injury.


Which gym machines should be avoided and what alternatives are better?

Below are the biggest offenders and the alternatives to iron out the kinks of these popular machines.


THE OFFENDER: behind the neck lat pull-downs

You can rotate your shoulders into a position which strains the rotator cuffs, and guys can sometimes pull the bar down so fast that they crack their vertebrae.

SAFE ALTERNATIVE: Front pull-downs

Not only is pulling the bar to your chest easier on your shoulders, but it exes your lats through a greater range of motion, accelerating muscle growth.


THE OFFENDER: Smith machine squats

You put yourself at risk of form errors that can injure your hips, lower back and knees. You may be able to lift more on it, but in reality, it’s fake strength.


Yes, regular squats are better, but lunges target all the same muscles while you improve your core strength and balance. Double win.


THE OFFENDER: Leg extensions

The four muscles of your quadriceps should work together, but this move activates each muscle independently.

This can inflame tendons as it creates uneven compression between the kneecap and thighbone.


muscular man on a leg extension machine with safety tape wrapped around them



This king of exercises makes the muscles in your upper legs work as a single unit, priming you for performance. Do them single- legged to go one better.


THE OFFENDER: Seated shoulder press machine

Unless each handle is individually weighted, your stronger shoulder will take over, creating imbalances that can harm your most important muscle group.

SAFE ALTERNATIVE: Standing Arnold press

Using a pair of dumbbells not only evens out imbalances, but standing involves more work from your core.


THE OFFENDER: Loaded standing calf machine

You slap all the pressure onto your spine, risking a compressed disc, and is sure to cause you some back pain in the long run.

SAFE ALTERNATIVE: Single leg bodyweight calf raises

You’ll distribute your strength evenly between your legs while recruiting more stabilizing muscles that’ll help stop you from rolling your ankle sprains.

Not heavy enough? Talk to us when you’ve done a 100 rep set.


THE OFFENDER: Seated ab crunch machine

Not only is this one of the least effective ab exercises you can do, but set it up wrong and you can compromise the loads on your spine.

SAFE ALTERNATIVE: Bicycle crunches

This works your abs and obliques way better than traditional crunches or sit-ups and allows for rotation, which is what your abs are designed to do in the wild.


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