Three Machine Exercises to Avoid | STACK Coaches and Trainers
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Three Machine Exercises Athletes Should Avoid

April 9, 2012

Must See Strength Training Videos

New training notions seem to spread extremely fast within the fitness industry. But "revolutionary" ideas circulating through crowds of workout warriors are often a double-edged sword. Research is constantly conflicting, and steadfast claims can be completely discredited weeks, months or years later.

Thus, when trendy claims about the next superfood, the best dietary supplement, the greatest cardio routine or the quickest way to build muscle start spreading like wildfire, problems can arise. The upside of fast circulating information is that when good tips do come along, they tend to get the recognition they deserve. However, the good gets muddled in with the bad, making it hard to know the best course of action.

As a strength and conditioning coach, one of my biggest concerns is exercise selection. Whether it's an athlete doing some extra, unguided work, or a position coach mimicking what he saw back in the '70s, or an administrator executing the latest YouTube workout move, I've observed many cringe-worthy routines. Much like the popular "Eat This, Not That" series, perhaps we need a bulletin board displaying "Build Muscle Like This, Not That" hung in every weight room.

Off the top of my head, I can reel off an extensive list of exercises to avoid, but let's keep this round simple. Here are three common lower-body exercises for which substituting a Squat could go a long way:

Smith Machine

The Smith Machine, while meant for Squatting, actually sets a lifter up for pain and injury, both short- and long-term. Due to its vertical sliding track, which allows for no deviation from the set pathway, the machine puts the body through an unnatural range of motion, forcing the lifter to go through a linear—not arched—path and placing undue stress on the knees, lower back and shoulders.

Smith Machine Squats

Leg Press

Don't get me wrong, there is a definite time and place for the Leg Press machine. It serves as one of the main progressions in a rehabilitation program for lower-body injury, and it can even facilitate good prehab work, since it promote some extra quad strengthening. However, using a machine removes many of the crucial byproducts that result from a free weight movement. One of the greatest benefits of a Squat movement—whether bodyweight, back, front or single-leg—is the stabilization and mobilization that it helps cultivate. The Leg Press does not engage any of the stabilization muscles of the core; and there is little or no recruitment of the hips, glutes and lower back. If your objective is to get in a little extra quad work after a good session of squatting, then press away. Just note that the Leg Press machine can force the spine into flex if the movement is not carefully executed.

Leg Press Machine

Leg Extension

Again, there can be a time and place for the Leg Extension machine. Like the Leg Press, it is appropriate for rehab, prehab and strengthening. However, when you look at the motion the legs perform (see picture below), you would be hard pressed to think of a time in real life when your legs actually execute this motion—and that's because it's a movement the lower body is not designed to do. If heavily loaded, the machine can place stress and strain on the tendons and ligaments surrounding the kneecaps. Plus, all the stabilization benefits are lost on a seated machine, not to mention the lack of glute and hamstring recruitment. Since weak glutes and hamstrings are key issues strength coaches often have to address with their athletes, the Leg Extension machine should be the at the bottom of the list of go-to movements.

Leg Extension Machine

Learn more about the Squat and different variations with our How-To Squat Series.

Photo:  bodybuilding.com

Alex Boyd currently serves as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where she works with the women’s volleyball, soccer and softball programs. She previously served as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at Eastern Illinois University and as a sports performance intern at Stanford University. She earned her undergraduate degree in physiology from the University of Arizona in 2010, while simultaneously serving as a strength and conditioning intern. Boyd is CSCS, SCCC, RSCC and CPT-certified, and she has presented at the Illinois NSCA Conference.

Alex Boyd
- Alex Boyd currently serves as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where she works with the women’s volleyball, soccer and...
Alex Boyd
- Alex Boyd currently serves as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where she works with the women’s volleyball, soccer and...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Dominate Your Bench Test With This Strategy

These 3 Single-Leg Movements Will Improve Your Squat Technique

7 Exercises That Safely Build Shoulder Strength

How Often Should You Vary Your Exercise?

Build Powerful Pecs With This Multi-Angle Chest Workout

Get a Ripped Core With 6 Advanced Dead Bug Variations

Break Through Plateaus With the 1-10 Drop Set Method

7 Strategies for Faster Workout Recovery

4 Lifts to Build Wrestling Strength

10 Ways to Get Stronger With a Sandbag

5 Softball Catcher Drills for Throwing Power

Build Full-Body Strength With 5 Suspension Trainer Exercises

Get Faster by Improving Your Core Mobility

3 Post-Activation Potentiation Combos for Explosive Strength

Female Athletes: Get Strong, Not Bulky, With These Workouts

4 Deadlift Variations to Increase Your Pull

7 Best Lower-Body Strengthening Exercises

3 Explosive Exercises Designed to Increase Pitching Power

Improve Your Back Strength with the Inverted Row

Top 5 Baseball Strength Training Myths

The Simplest Bodyweight Workout Ever

Make Lifts More Challenging With Resistance Bands

How Functional Training Has Overly Complicated Strength Training

4 Sure-Fire Ways to Build a Strong Core

Notice On-Court Results With This Basketball Core Workout

The Best Single-Leg Exercises for Youth Athletes

4 Exercises to Build True Lacrosse Power

Perfect Your Squat Technique With the Unloaded Squat

Never Bench Press With Your Feet in This Position

7-Exercise Core-Blasting Workout

Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

3 Sandbag Training Mistakes Athletes Make

4 Weaknesses That Can Ruin Your Exercise Technique (With Fixes)

Blast Through Plateaus with Tempo Sets

Basketball In-Season Battle Rope Complexes, Part 1

The Science of Building Muscle: 2 Ways to Maximize Hypertrophy

Don't Train Your Arms Until You Can Do These 4 Things

A Better Way to Train Your Core

7 Ways to Work Out Competitively Without CrossFit

7 Strategies for Dealing With a Meathead in Your Gym

3 Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercises to Boost Your Performance

Master the Lateral Lunge to Improve Your Hockey Stride

Kyle Lowry's 12-Week All-Star Training Program

5 Isolation Exercises Your Workout Is Missing