Chances are you're wasting your time and energy doing exercises that aren't working out. Why? Between “fast-fix” gadgets and “no pain, strength gained” gimmicks, it's easy to fall prey to the many “magic bullet” fitness tricks playing into our deep insecurities and desires to finally shake the weight and get healthy once and for all. Before you waste another minute, dollar, or ounce of energy, know that the best way to obtain your fit goal is the old fashioned way: cardio, resistance, diet, dedication… repeat, repeat, repeat day in and day out. From running to swimming, even speed walking to dancing, the only real “trick” is to get your heart rate up for a sustained period of time (to help burn off the fat), engage different muscle groups (to tone and fire up your metabolism), and eat a healthy balanced diet (for sustained energy and fuel). Beyond those basics, here are 5 exercises NOT to be fooled by that aren't just a waste of time and energy, but can also cause injury:
1. Hundreds of Crunches
You can crunch until the cows come home and still have a muffin top folding over your jeans. If you want a flat stomach you've got to do more than just 3-digits worth of daily sit-ups. Why? Doing 100s of daily sit-ups is actually extinguishing the oxygen from your muscles, suffocating them as opposed to strengthening them. Instead do 3 sets of 15 10-second crunches, moving like molasses, or simply hold Plank pose for 1 minute every day. BUT even that won't guarantee a 6-pack. You have to burn off the fat that sits on top FIRST. How? Cardio and diet. This doesn't mean that crunches are pointless. The more muscle you have, the more calories you naturally burn, even during rest.
2. Pre-Workout Stretch
Imagine a stick of taffy. If you try to bend it in half without first gently warming it up, it will snap. That could be your muscle. That's why you never want to stretch a cold muscle- ever! More than risking ripping, stretching before working out also makes your muscles produce less force. In other words, you get less out of your workout because of your pre-exercise stretch. So what should you do before your workout? Warm-up! Before you run, jump, or do anything strenuous, get your blood flowing for a few minutes by walking or marching in place.
3. Hand Weights while Walking
So you think that rhythmically pumping your arms forward and back while you walk or run helps create momentum, which makes you move forward even faster while simultaneously getting your abs and arms in the toning action (upping the calorie burn)? Think again. Holding weights actually slows that momentum, decreasing your speed and therefore your cardio output and calorie burn. You are also putting yourself at risk for injury thanks to the repetitive weighted movement and force on your elbows.
4. Hunch over a Cardio Machine
I get it: you're tired, over it, and just want to get through the last few minutes of your treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical workout, so you rest your elbows or hands on the handlebars and allow your upper body to slightly hunch over. While you might be relieving your legs of some of your bodyweight burden, you could also be throwing off your alignment, shifting your spine, tensing your shoulders, and agitating your elbows, creating long-term discomfort or even injury- not so conducive to a continued effective workout. Instead, stand up straight and imagine shifting your weight into a different lower body area. For example, if your quads are tired, try to shift your focus to your butt, putting the work into lifting and trimming those cheeks. I mean really, who are you trying to fool by cheating your workout other than yourself?
5. Spot Reduction Exercise
Non-existent. You simply can't burn fat from a specific area of the body. Fat burns off evenly from the entire body thanks to a combination of cardio, diet, and consuming less calories than you burn. You can, however, spot train. In other words, you can hone in on a specific muscle group and you will see a definite difference in how tone that section gets, even if the muscle tone lies under a layer of fat.
Bottom line? There aren't any magic bullets to exercise. So it's time to bite the bullet, get up and move your body… right now if you want to get a head start. Why not do a Daily 100 (100 seconds or 100 reps of an exercise) now that this article is done. How about 100 seconds in Plank or 100 Jumping Jacks?