9 Least Effective Exercises
Experts name their top picks for fitness moves that are best to avoid.
Potentially Unsafe Exercises continued...
A safer alternative: It's not necessary to use weights when doing a squat.
But, if you are able to perform squats with good form, adding weight will
intensify the move. Standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart,
slowly lower your body. Move the hips back as if you where going to sit in a
chair. You must try to maintain your weight directly over your feet.
Lower yourself to about a 90 degree bend in the knee. Slowly return to a
6. Any exercise done wearing the wrong shoes. Even if you're doing
everything else right, your efforts can be undermined by improper footwear,
warns Saremi. Working out with the wrong shoes increases pounding on the
joints, and can lead to injuries like plantar fasciitis or tendinitis, she
The key, experts say, is to choose a shoe that is specific to your activity
and that suits your particular foot. They recommend shopping at stores
specializing in athletic shoes, where you can seek advice from a knowledgeable
salesperson. And don't forget to replace your shoes when they show signs of
Exercises That Don't Deliver
Our experts named the following exercises as those that fail to live up to
7. Exercises done with the goal of spot reduction. People who do
strengthening and toning exercises in an effort to trim fat from a certain area
– thighs, hips, stomach, or arms – have the wrong idea. While these exercises
can help firm muscles, if the targeted area still carries an extra layer of
fat, it won't look much different.
"You're making the muscles stronger, but it's not anything you're going to
visibly see when you look in the mirror," says Warpeha.
Fat loss cannot be isolated to one area, but is distributed evenly throughout
the body, Danberg says. So you'll lose a millimeter of fat from your chin
whenever you lose a millimeter of fat from your torso. Doing 1,000 crunches
won't take more fat off your abdominals.
Cardiovascular exercise is the biggest calorie burner, but resistance training
is a big part of the equation if you want to burn fat.
"When you build more muscle mass, you slowly increase your resting
metabolic rate, burning more calories all the hours of the day that you're not
active," says Warpeha.
8. Using bad form on cardio machines. Walk into any gym and you'll
see some people sweating through their treadmill, elliptical, or stair-climber
workouts with their bodies hunched over and a death grip on the
"People will put a really huge incline (or high resistance) on the machine
and then grab on," says Saremi. "This is totally contraindicated.
"If you can't run or walk with your hands off, you shouldn't do
She also notes that exercising in a hunched-over position can keep you from
breathing deeply, and that the improper alignment of your spine can make the
workout more jarring to your shoulders and elbows.
Use a natural gait, says Danberg. And "Don't hold the handrails because it
breaks the natural biomechanics of the body. We don't go through life holding
on to something."
If you need more stability, he says, hold with one hand and move the other arm,
Saremi also discourages reading while using the cardio machines: "You're
not concentrating and getting a good workout. You're not monitoring your
progress. Exercise has to engage your head. Form is so important."
9. Always lifting with a weight belt. Bodybuilders have long used
these belts to provide low back and abdominal support when lifting heavy
weights. But now they seem to be standard equipment even for many occasional
"Too many people wear weight belts too often," says Warpeha. "They
should only be used when you're getting 85% to 90% of your one-repetition
maximum [for example, squatting with 300 pounds of weight if you're a man].
Most people are not working at that level."
Unless you have a back injury or another medical reason to use the belt, says
Warpeha, the level at which the average person works doesn't require a weight
belt. And it can do more harm than good.
"When the belt is on, you're not allowing your normal core muscles to get
strengthened," he explains. "If you get used to having that belt, you
go into everyday life and try to lift groceries or pick the baby up out of the
car seat and you can't do it. You'll never learn how to use your natural belt,
your core, the abs, obliques, and spinal erectors."