Fitness facilities contain a wide variety of equipment. This variety can make things confusing to someone with limited knowledge of fitness and exercise equipment. While variety is good and most things are worth giving a try, there are a few things in most fitness facilities which generally be avoided or used with caution. For the most part, these shouldn’t be used due to safety concerns even though, on the surface some of these seem like they are safer. This series of features will discuss the 6 things to avoid at the gym. This weeks feature: the smith machine and the ab wheel.
1- Smith Machine– In my experience, the smith machine is the number one culprit. Due to the sliding mechanism, it provides some assistance when performing various exercises with a bar. This gives an illusion of safety because of the assistance but in reality it is capable of doing more harm than good. A few problems arise from the use of the smith machine. The first problem is that is causes a very unnatural movement. Because the bar slides along a pole, the smith machine is a linear movement, it goes straight up and straight down. This means that any movements dome with it will be forced in that direction. The problem is that when we perform movements such as the squat, bench press or shoulder press with a bar, there is a natural arc through the movement. The smith machine does not allow for this arc and creates an unnatural movement which puts unneeded stress on the joints.
Alternative– An alternative to using the smith machine would be the cable crossover machine or a barbell. Some people like using the smith machine because it gives them the impression of having a spotter but I can assure you it’s better to use lighter weights and a bar or just ask somebody for a spot.
2- ab wheel– one of the most popular fitness creations in recent memory is the ab wheel and countless other versions. The craters claim that it targets the “lower abdominals” (the subject for a later article). This claim is false because the “lower abdominals don not exist as a separate entity from the upper portion. The problem with this device is that is generally causes more harm than good. Unless used under the supervision of a professional, the ab wheel doesn’t work the abs at all and in fact mostly strains the hip flexors which eventually will lead to lower back pain.
Alternative– A great alternative to the ab wheel is using the physio ball. The physio ball is an awesome device for working all of the core muscles and you will get 10X the workout without straining the lower back.