Many of us spend hours at the gym every week, sweating and straining our muscles to get that lean, toned body we want. But if you’re not careful, all of that hard work might be for nothing. If you’re doing some of these exercises, you could be wasting your time and effort! Instead, focus on these exercises that are more efficient and effective, allowing you to reach your fitness goals faster than ever before!
1) Lateral raises
Lateral raises are a bad idea for most exercisers. While they’ll provide some upper-body size and strength gains, if you’re doing lateral raises and nothing else, you’re wasting your time. That’s because you can get better results with other exercises that work for more muscle groups at once. Plus, lateral raises place a ton of stress on your shoulders’ joints and surrounding tissues, which means potential for injury during or after exercise. Unless you have severe shoulder injuries or limited movement in your shoulders, avoid lateral raises—you don’t need them.
2) Dumbbell curls
We don’t need to dumbbell curl anything. You can just as easily grab a barbell or Smith machine and do your curls that way. The same goes for skull crushers and bench presses. If you want even more isolation work, you can always choose a cable system instead of doing free weight pressing movements. Either way, your biceps are getting worked hard—it doesn’t matter what kind of movement you’re doing (unless, of course, it’s something unsafe or ineffective). In short: Stop wasting time with these overrated exercises and instead focus on exercises that give you better results in less time; there are plenty of those out there!
3) Leg extensions
If you have time for just one strength move, make it squats. This movement targets your quadriceps and glutes. Squats also strengthen your hamstrings, improve balance and stability, and help protect your knees from injury. There are many different squat variations you can do to target each leg individually or both legs together—front squats, back squats, pistol squats (standing on one leg), Bulgarian split squats (holding a dumbbell in each hand). You can also adjust your squat stance for variety: wide stance with toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle or narrow with toes pointed straight ahead.
4) Standing calf raises
This is a more intense version of calf raises and doesn’t provide anything you can’t get from regular calf raises. While standing, do calf raises regularly by standing on a step (or stair) with your toes hanging over so that when you straighten your leg, there’s tension in your calf muscles. Contract them and repeat 15 times for three sets. Also, include walking every day for 30 minutes or jogging for 15 minutes three times a week.
5) Barbell squats
Squats with a barbell are great for your overall leg development. However, they’re not necessary if you’re trying to maximize leg development. Squats with a barbell are hard on your shoulders and elbows and they also limit the range of motion. Additionally, it’s difficult to truly isolate any muscle groups by using a barbell (you’ll also use back muscles and even biceps). If you’re looking for an isolated glute workout, it may be better to do an exercise like glute kickbacks or step-ups instead. And, if you want total leg development (with less stress on your joints), try lunges or split squats instead of squats with a barbell.
6) Incline bench press
Contrary to what bodybuilders would have you believe, there’s little reason for most guys to do incline bench presses. The muscles worked in a standard barbell bench press aren’t significantly different than those working in an incline version. Plus, if your incline is too steep, it could put stress on your shoulders—especially if you go heavy and/or lockout your arms at the top. As such, start doing flat benches instead of inclines—just take care that your form stays perfect so as not to hurt yourself.
7) Bent over barbell rows
This is one of those exercises that almost seems like a right of passage: so many gyms have some version of it, and even bodybuilders swear by it. However, in reality, bent over barbell rows are fairly useless. First, they’re not all that effective at directly targeting your upper back; in fact, doing them properly requires so much tension in your arms and chest that you don’t do much for your upper back at all. Second, they can be hard on your shoulders; if you have any issues with injury or pain here, skip these altogether. Third and most importantly for most people: there are other more effective options for working your back.
8) Seated shoulder press
The seated shoulder press strengthens your deltoids and triceps. The exercise can be performed with a dumbbell or a machine, but it’s important that you maintain proper form. If you’re using free weights, sit up straight while holding a weight in each hand just outside of your shoulders with palms facing in toward each other. Press both weights up until they touch and then slowly return them to their starting position. This exercise only works your upper body and it’s one of those exercises that looks more impressive than it feels, which might cause you to use more weight than necessary.