Three exercises that are a waste of time

Don’t be fooled by the latest fitness fads or equipment commonly accepted by the gym masses. Your workout time is precious, so understanding a few principles of sports science will help you make the most of it.

Unstable Surface Training Every gym comes complete with a personal trainer committed to performing every exercise known to man on a Swiss ball. This is all in the hope that the instability experienced wobbles and vibrates his – and his client’s – body to physical perfection. Sadly, research conducted by Eastern Illinois University discovered it won’t.

Scientists took 12 trained men and monitored their muscle activation while performing a squat, deadlift, overhead press and bicep curl, both on stable ground and on an unstable ball. What they found was: “there were no significant differences between the stable and unstable surfaces across all muscles and lifts examined.” Concluding, “Fitness trainers should be advised that each of the aforementioned lifts can be performed while standing on stable ground without losing the potential core muscle training benefits.”

Put more bluntly, it might look impressive and, yes, there are some studies that show Swiss balls are good for specific rehabilitation training, but trying to perform your heaviest sets on a giant inflatable ball is a spectacle best reserved for the circus.

Anything on a Smith Machine According to an article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, scientists discovered through electromyography technology that: “Activation of all muscles during the free weight squat was 43 per cent higher when compared to the Smith machine squat.”

For this reason, avoid the Smith machine and train old school instead by using free weights.

The Law of Specificity The Specificity Principle states that to become better at a certain movement, sport or skill you must perform that particular movement, sport or skill.

So then what exactly is the widely used abdominal crunch training you for?

Repeatedly contracting your abdominals over a very short range of motion is the answer. Essentially, despite its popularity, the abdominal crunch is a fairly useless exercise. Instead, go for more functional ab exercises.

Scientists wanted to measure – again, using surface electromyographic technology – the level of muscle activation in the upper rectus abdominis and lower rectus abdominis during certain yoga poses. What they found was: “variations in core muscle firing patterns depend on the trunk and pelvic positions during these poses. But specifically the high plank, low plank and downward facing dog poses are effective for strengthening external oblique abdominis” reporting a significant amount of muscle activation during the movement.

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