Coaches and fitness experts usually have a long list of exercises they don’t like and solid reasons for not prescribing them to their clients. A calisthenics coach would never let a client perform kipping pull-ups, and with good reason too. After all, there are a number of shoulder and rotator cuff injuries that people can sustain if they don’t perform this CrossFit move carefully. For a calisthenics coach, the kipping pull-up is not as effective for strength training because it uses the body’s momentum rather than recruiting muscles to perform the pull-up. Lounge spoke to some top coaches to get a better sense of why they like to avoid certain exercises.
The twister machine
It is a simple machine with a rotating plate at the bottom with a waist-high scooter-like handle. You can always spot one at a gym, with people twisting away on them in the hope of getting a slimmer waistline. Fitness and lifestyle coach Gagan Arora finds the machine so futile and without benefits that he has never done it in his entire life, not even out of curiosity, and has never prescribed it to any of his clients. “It’s just useless pivoting of your body on a plate for reps,” says Arora, also the founder of Delhi’s Kosmic Fitness. “The movement doesn’t involve or recruit any muscle and overdoing it leads to unnecessary repetitive load on the spine.”
This exercise is included very often in CrossFit and HIIT (high intensity interval training) programmes but Bengaluru-based AK Abhinav, coach and founder of Namma X-Fit, who has performed the movement several times in the past, is no longer a fan. Jumping and plyometric training seeks to build explosiveness, and the act of landing back on the ground helps build resistance and trains the athlete to absorb landing forces, explains Abhinav. “Box jumps do not have an absorption or eccentric component, which renders the movement useless in real life or sports movements,” he says.
Add to that the risk of smashing your shins against the boxes, which is quite common once you start tiring as the workout progresses. “If you must do box jumps, use foam boxes. Otherwise, there are a plethora of more effective jump variations to increase explosiveness, such as weighted jump squats,” says Abhinav.
The multi-gym machines
Rajesh Parameswaran, head coach and founder of The Den Strength and Conditioning in Bengaluru, in a single sweeping statement disses almost all gym machines, saying, “I stay away from machines that don’t really serve our [exercise] purpose.”
Now, no machine is totally useless if used properly. However, some of these just aren’t very effective, Parameswaran clarifies. But he does dislike the leg curl machine, the pulley machine for side bends and the Smith machine for multi-joint movements. “Swap out these useless machines for more effective alternatives,” he says.
The hamstrings perform two movements—knee flexion and hip extension—but the Leg Curl machine can only perform the former, thus limiting the benefits. Parameswaran says that it’s better to perform elevated bridges or Nordic hamstring curls instead. Moves such as these help you reap the benefits of both knee flexion and hip extension.
As for the pulley machine, Parameswaran says that it does nothing for reducing your love handles but can put undue stress on your lower back. Plank variations and V-Ups along with a good nutrition plan are a lot more effective.
The Smith machine is a multi-exercise equipment with a barbell attached to a sliding sled. The movement and plane of motion of the Smith machine bar is awkward and the risk of injury is high, says Parameswaran. “Pick up a barbell instead and do your squats, deadlifts, chest press and shoulder to overhead exercises, which are a lot safer and much more beneficial,” he adds.
As a CrossFit coach who ran a box in Pune, Pawan Jani spent plenty of time chasing the elusive holy grail of all CrossFitters: the muscle-up. But as his fitness and coaching journey continued and Jani moved onto establish Pune’s all-round fitness studio Chakra Fitness, he realised that the muscle-up, an integral movement for gymnasts, is totally useless for regular fitness enthusiasts.
“It is too complex an exercise for regular people to get right as it not only requires a lot of strength but a whole lot of technique too. It should be included in the training of competitive athletes who are preparing for competitions, not for regular folks who just want to be fit. You can get almost the same benefits of the muscle-up from a combination of pull-up and dips without the unnecessary risk that come with attempting a muscle-up,” says Jani. Keep it simple should be your mantra when it comes to fitness.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.