Equinox trainer Philip Easley laments the gym faux pas that keep him up at night.
The human anatomy is complex. It's not something to throw around any way you see fit or abuse by doing things you see others doing. Improper movements can be dangerous, they can actually defeat the purpose of the exercise entirely, and they can be a pointless waste of energy. Here are the most baffling non-exercises I commonly see people doing on machines.
What I see:__ Guys sitting on the seat and pulling the bar behind their heads. This flub is incredibly common, partly because it feels like it's doing something. When performed correctly, this move can strengthen the lats a great deal. However, pulling the bar behind you actually has the opposite effect and causes the head to jut forward even more.
What I want to see: After you've grasped the bar, try to think of this movement in two parts: First, drop the shoulders down away from the ears without bending the elbows. Second, lean back slightly, keeping the abs engaged, your head in line with your spine, then pull the bar to the upper part of the chest near the collar bone, keeping your shoulders back and down. Once your body understands the two-part movement, combine into one fluid motion.
__Chest Press/Reverse Fly
What I see:__Guys will sit down facing the machine, with their chest against the back support, grab the handles, and literally let it fly, as if the goal is to touch the handles behind their back. That is a complete waste of time.
What I want to see:Position the seat so that the handles are approximately at shoulder-level, your elbows straight, and shoulders pressed back and down. Concentrate on using only the rear deltoids (the backs of the shoulders) to move your arms back until they're straight out at shoulder height. Then stop! If you go any farther than that the rear delts turn off, the shoulder rotates inward, and the upper traps and rhomboids kick in to assist, weakening the exercise.
What I see:__ I think people do this just to mess with me. A guy will sit on the top step of the pull-up machine, sometimes even wrapping his ankles behind the bottom step. He then grasps the bar you're supposed to stand on behind his back and performs some kind of bastardization of a triceps press-down.
What I want to see: First, adjust the weight (50 percent of your body weight is a good place to start, and remember, the more weight you add, the more assistance you get), then stand on the step and hold the hand grips. Pull up in three counts and lower down in three counts. The slower and more controlled the movement, the more effective it is.
So, the moral is this: If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. And if you don't know what you're doing, stop and ask a trainer.
About the author:
Q by Equinox is the daily blog of the luxury fitness brand. Check back here weekly for new posts that tap into Q's stable of world-class trainers and experts to keep up with all things health and well-being.
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