BY: LBL Team

10 Common Exercises That Don’t Work — And What You Should Do Instead

These exercises are a waste—here’s what to replace them with

You’re working out regularly, but you’re not seeing the results you want. The truth is, just because an exercise is popular doesn’t mean it’s always effective. As important as it is for your workout to be catered to your individual body type, it’s also important to disregard the exercises that just don’t do much for any body type! Here are 10 common exercises that are a total waste of time and what you should do instead.

1. Thigh machine

As we all know, spot-reducing exercises don’t help you lose fat. This is why the seated thigh machine is a waste of time. It seems like it’ll help slim your thighs, but it won’t.

Try lunges instead. They not only strengthen and tone your whole body, including your thighs. They also train your body for activities you perform in everyday life.

2. Leg extension

The leg extension machine at the gym is supposed to strengthen your quads. Instead, it ends up putting a lot of stress on your knees.

Trade this routine for basic squats. They strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes without stressing your joints.

3. Crunches

Research has shown that, contrary to popular belief, crunches aren’t terribly effective. In fact, they are less effective at stimulating muscle fiber than other exercises.

Ditch crunches for planks; they activate more core muscles.

4. Broomstick rotation

When you place a bar weight behind your neck and start twisting or bending, there’s really no resistance. You may think you’re strengthening your core, but you actually aren’t.

Side planks are better. They really work your core.

5. Chest press

Doing chest presses actually results in imbalance because it enables the stronger side of your body to compensate for the weaker side.

Do push-ups instead. They force you to develop equal strength. What’s more, they strengthen your core.

6. Leg curl

When you use a leg curl machine lying down, your core isn’t engaged, and you’re activating few muscles.

Single-leg deadlifts are a better exercise. They engage your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

7. Smith Machine squats

Using the Smith Machine bench press or squat places a lot of pressure on the knees because it doesn’t activate your hamstrings.

Try dumbbell or barbell squats with lighter weights instead. These will strengthen and activate all the large muscles in your legs, including glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

8. Tricep kickbacks

This exercise fails because it doesn’t allow you to lift weights that are heavy enough while maintaining proper form.

Barbell lying triceps extensions do a better job. They work your triceps while allowing you to still keep proper form.

9. Standing calf machine

This machine loads all of the weight onto your shoulders and pushes it onto your back, so it never even works your calves.

Sprinting is a better exercise to do, especially if you want to develop your calves.

10. Leg press

Most people add too much weight to a leg press machine, putting themselves at risk for injury. Plus, research has shown that a leg press activates the fewest number of muscles compared to other exercises.

More effective are dumbbell squats. They target your legs and reduce injuries.

Proper fitness is never a waste of time

It’s a common assumption that as long as you’re going to the gym regularly and getting in a good workout, you’ll automatically become super fit. Unfortunately, not all moves and techniques will make you stronger and fitter. In fact, a lot of common exercises just aren’t helpful at all, no matter how much you do them.


  1. “5 Exercises You Think You Need — but Don’t,”, August 26, 2011.
  2. “The 10 Most Overrated Exercises (And What to Do Instead),” Outside Online, August 29, 2013.
  3. “Trainer Confessions: 5 Exercises That Don’t Do What You Think They Do,” Women’s Health, February 13, 2014.
  4. “Workouts That Don’t Work: 6 Exercises You Should Never Do,” CheatSheet, May 1, 2017.
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