The 7 Worst Gym Machines Your Workout Does NOT Need

Exercise machines are nice. They’re comfy, beginner-friendly, and you may usually discover one in most gyms for almost any train beneath the solar. Does that imply that they’re with out weak point, or that each workout machine in your fitness center is value your time?

No means. Plain and easy, some train machines are extra helpful as a spot to relaxation your smartphone than a device to develop muscle or get stronger with. Different machines make lifting too simple, reinforce dangerous habits, or are simply flat-out badly designed.

man peforms seated shoulder press on smith machine
Credit score: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

In case your workouts include plenty of machine-based exercises, it might be time to reject modernity and embrace custom. These are seven train machines you would possibly wish to take into account chopping out, plus methods to change them with one thing higher.

Worst Fitness center Machines

Editor’s Word: The content material on BarBend is supposed to be informative in nature, however it shouldn’t be taken as medical recommendation. When beginning a brand new coaching routine and/or weight loss program, it’s at all times a good suggestion to seek the advice of with a trusted medical skilled. We’re not a medical useful resource.

First, a Disclaimer

Labeling an train or piece of kit “dangerous” doesn’t imply it’s essentially ineffective. Furthermore, there are very, only a few modalities within the realm of health that aren’t relevant to somebody, someplace, for some purpose.

If you happen to discover a piece of train equipment to be comfy, pleasant, and efficient, you will have each proper to maintain utilizing it, even when it might not be strictly “optimum” on paper. 

Not each piece of fitness center tools is well-designed, although, and you must maintain your thoughts open to creating some focused adjustments as properly. 

Leg Press

Favored by plate hoarders {and professional} bodybuilders alike, the leg press is second to none on the subject of loading up your knee extensors with probably the most weight attainable.

Nonetheless, loading potential is just one dimension of the viability of a bit of fitness center tools. 

Woman Using Leg Press Machine
Credit score: SOK Studio / Shutterstock

And, sadly, the leg press doesn’t have all that a lot going for it outdoors of enabling you to carry actually, actually heavy. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

Whereas loadability is improbable for creating progressive overload, the leg press is a bit missing in ways in which different actions excel:

  • You could discover it troublesome to get a superb vary of movement occurring the leg press in the event you’re on the bigger facet, as your thighs will collide along with your torso.
  • The angle of the foot plate could make it troublesome to sink into deep flexion when you’ve got restricted ankle mobility.
  • If you happen to go ultra-heavy, you might encounter some uncomfortable compressive pressure in your pelvis and decrease again. 

As a substitute, Strive…

You could find a leg press in principally each industrial fitness center on the market, however there’s additionally normally a hack squat machine proper subsequent to it.

You most likely can’t carry fairly as heavy on the hack squat as within the leg press, however the design of the machine helps you to squat a lot deeper, which might offset the diminished load. 

The hack squat additionally supplies loads of help to the torso and pelvis through the again seat, making it pleasant to inexperienced persons. 

If you happen to don’t have entry to a hack squat or don’t get pleasure from utilizing the machine, you too can experiment with:

Dip Machine

Dips, even with your individual body weight, may be deceptively difficult. That there’s a machine particularly designed to duplicate the motion sample is a big boon to those that are nonetheless engaged on their calisthenics recreation.

The dip machine, although, is admittedly much less of a typical dip and extra of a close-grip pressdown movement. It really works your chest and triceps to a level, however lacks most of the qualities that the dip itself affords. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

To dip freely (or use a machine station), it’s important to have sufficient shoulder mobility to tolerate loaded hyperextension — your higher arm drifting behind your torso. 

Whereas this posture isn’t intrinsically harmful, it may be difficult in the event you’re rigid, working by way of an harm, or have a low tolerance to the vary for one more purpose. 

  • The mounted handles pressure you to press down in a means that will not align along with your construction.
  • If you happen to load up heavy sufficient, you would possibly discover it troublesome to maintain your behind planted on the seat.
  • Your higher arm drifting behind your torso could also be an uncomfortable or painful posture in some circumstances. 
See also  Why Planks Hurt Your Back (& Easy Ways to Fix It)

As a substitute, Strive…

If you happen to benefit from the motion sample however don’t have it in you to carry out customary dips, you possibly can go for the incline hex press as an alternative, so long as you will have entry to a pair of dumbbells.

The hex press works the identical muscle tissue by way of a really related vary of movement because the dip machine, however permits you to transfer your arms based on your particular person construction. 

Alternatively, you possibly can blast your chest and tris with the next actions as properly:

Ab Rotation Machine

Successfully focusing on your obliques may be an arduous expertise, since most indirect actions (consider the facet plank, as an illustration) require you to stabilize your complete physique from head to toe.

The ab rotation station, or torso tornado, is a intelligent answer to that drawback. Nonetheless, the contraption is way from sensible or useful, and might in some circumstances be harmful. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

To be clear, the oblique-focused ab machine, the place you sit in a seat and switch your decrease physique back and forth, gained’t essentially trigger you harm. Your backbone isn’t the joint that twists; your pelvis does.

  • The setup of the machine isn’t transferable to many real-world eventualities.
  • Twisting your pelvis beneath load isn’t a motion sample most gymgoers are accustomed to, and will lack the management to execute it correctly.
  • There’s a level of torsion (twisting pressure) positioned on the backbone in the course of the train, which can be a purple flag for sure populations. 

As a substitute, Strive…

There are many methods to coach your torso that don’t contain cramming your self into a sophisticated piece of equipment. 

The windshield wiper is a improbable early alternative. It requires solely your body weight, so you possibly can carry out it anyplace, whereas additionally mirroring the motion sample of the machine. 

In lieu of that, you too can practice your obliques by using these strikes as properly: 

Preacher Curl Machine

The preacher curl is flat-out probably the greatest biceps exercises on the market, and the machine variant isn’t half-bad both. That doesn’t imply it’s the easiest way to explode your arms, although. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

The preacher station is way from the worst machine you could find in most gyms. Most of its weak factors contain the development of the station itself.

  • Biceps activation drops off dramatically within the high half of the motion. (1)
  • Most preacher curl machines have stationary handles, which removes the flexibility to supinate your palm as you curl — one of many biceps’ predominant anatomical capabilities. 
  • You would possibly discover the arm pad to be at too slight of an angle to essentially interact your biceps to their fullest.

As a substitute, Strive…

If the preacher station is comfy in your shoulders and the handles will let you absolutely level your palms on the ceiling, it’s a superbly superb biceps motion. Barring that, you would possibly discover extra success from the dumbbell spider curl

It’s the identical posture as you’d take for the preacher station, however dumbbells afford you extra freedom of motion on the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Or, you possibly can check out:

  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl
  • Standing Cable Curl
  • EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

Smith Machine

In the correct contexts, the Smith machine is a particularly high-value piece of kit. Versatility apart, there’s no ignoring the truth that its design leaves one thing to be desired as properly. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

Far and away the biggest situation with the Smith pertains to its on-rails, actually, design. This rigidity not solely limits the scope of its usefulness, but in addition makes the Smith a poor device to study to carry with. 

  • The locked-in path of the bar prevents you from shifting freely with the load in a means that aligns along with your anatomy. 
  • The bar solely strikes up and down, which limits your entry to exercises carried out in different planes of movement. 
  • You possibly can’t actually carry out standing overhead urgent of any variety because of the top of the body.

As a substitute, Strive…

Whereas the Smith machine definitely has its makes use of — it’s first-timer-friendly and is fairly handy to arrange and work with — you’d be higher served working with a trusty barbell for many exercises. 

Particularly, you would possibly wish to take into account going straight for the barbell for actions like:

See also  What, Why, and How to Use Them

Chest Press Machine

For a motion so simple as the chest press, you would possibly suppose that the machine variant is completely okay — and it’s, it’s superb, particularly if chest improvement and energy is a low precedence for you.

man exercises on chest press machine
Credit score: Ajan Alen / Shutterstock

However the machine does go away quite a bit to be desired, and there are higher methods to train your pecs. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

Your shoulder anatomy and bone construction strongly impacts the way you press. No two gymgoers will take the very same path, however the chest press machine places your pecs on rails. 

  • Most chest press machines have a slim higher again pad, which makes it troublesome to stabilize your scapula.
  • The handles of the machine might not be set at an angle that’s comfy to your wrists or elbows.
  • Many press machines merely transfer ahead and backward, which omits humeral adduction completely — drawing your arm throughout your physique, one of many predominant capabilities of the pecs. 

As a substitute, Strive…

If you could find a pin or plate-loaded chest press machine that aligns properly along with your physique, energy to you. Barring that, you must most likely ditch the factor altogether if rising or strengthening your chest is a precedence within the fitness center. 

The dumbbell flooring press is a cheerful center floor — you’ll get a greater contraction for the pecs since you possibly can press each up and in, whereas lifting from the ground supplies ample stability to your again.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you too can go for:

Sit-Up Machine

Aspiring to abs might need you caught on the sit-up machine, pondering it’s the easiest way to disclose a decent and toned midsection. The sit-up machine may match your core to a level, certain, however it’s removed from the easiest way to coach these muscle tissue. 

Why It’s Unhealthy

Most sit-up or crunch machines have a foldable bench that’s meant to maneuver with you as you flex your backbone, in addition to a pair of handles so that you can seize onto. 

Neither are conducive to getting the most effective core workout attainable.

  • The design of the again pad might not align properly with the way you truly curl your backbone if you carry out a crunch or sit-up.
  • You could be inspired to drag on the handles along with your arms as an alternative of specializing in contracting your abdominals.
  • The handles make it very simple to load up on an excessive amount of weight and switch the motion into an isometric arm train as an alternative. 

As a substitute, Strive…

There are numerous, many various viable exercises you need to use to develop your abs. To switch the machine sit-up, you would possibly wish to give a shout to the weighted train ball crunch as an alternative.

The setup and execution of this motion are each fairly much like the machine sit-up, however the drugs ball supplies a softer floor so that you can curl your backbone in opposition to. 

Furthermore, holding the resistance aloft in entrance of your physique makes it not possible to drag your self up along with your arms. 

However, these actions do a superb job as properly:

Machines vs. Free Weights — What the Science Says

Make no mistake, train machines have their place within the fitness center (actually, they have a tendency to cowl a majority of the fitness center flooring in most services, so that they have to be doing one thing proper). 

That doesn’t imply your train routine want essentially begin and finish with them. Understanding the “when” and “why” of machine work might assist you optimize your workouts and get higher outcomes long-term.

Machines Are Extra Newbie-Pleasant

Exercise machines are improbable in the event you’re new to resistance coaching. Not solely do most if not all train machines include directions for correct use on them, in addition they take away the necessity to stabilize the load so you possibly can give attention to squeezing your muscle tissue as an alternative.

You possibly can consider machine work as“coaching wheels” within the weight room. They don’t pedal for you, however they assist you keep away from toppling over as you study. 

In actual fact, some literature has noticed that inexperienced persons will usually make comparable energy and muscle positive aspects from working with machines as an alternative of free weights. (2)

Machines Are Much less Purposeful Than Free Weights

In the true world, you don’t usually have the posh of lifting one thing on rails. From grocery luggage to packing containers of christmas decorations to a wheelbarrow packed to the brim with filth, real-life lifting isn’t one-dimensional.

A place paper by the American Faculty of Sports activities Drugs argues that train machines are inferior to free weights on this respect — they’re much less “useful” and gained’t enhance your bodily coordination the best way a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell would. (3)

See also  How To Lose Thigh Fat — 7 Effective Exercises and Workouts

Free Weights Increase Testosterone Extra

You could not practice for higher hormone ranges, however there’s some proof suggesting that opting to work with free weights can enhance your free testosterone focus to a better diploma than machines. (4)

Word that this proof is way from universally-applicable and that the diploma of distinction might not be important sufficient to warrant making a choice over. Nonetheless, it seems to be one other level in favor of the barbell. 

Machines Activate Much less Muscle

When utilizing a free weight like a dumbbell, it’s important to each transfer the implement in house by way of the correct vary of movement and stabilize any undesirable or errant motion within the course of.

This isn’t the case with train machines, that are fairly actually on rails and solely transfer in a single route. 

elderly man performs workout on leg extension machine
Credit score: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock

Eradicating the necessity to stabilize the factor you’re lifting will usually lead to much less total muscle activation, (5) significantly for secondary or supportive muscle tissue. 

Free Weights Reinforce Higher Method

Good kind within the fitness center can speed up the speed at which you make progress and make your motion extra fluid and fulfilling.

To that finish, free weights win out over machines. Some literature has found that free weights educate motor patterning higher than machines — they could be tougher to study initially, however you’ll develop higher and extra refined lifting method over time. (6)

Machines Are Extra Handy

One of many worst elements of train machines is that they’ll solely be utilized by one fitness center patron at a time — however the identical is true of a pair of dumbbells. Machines earn plenty of factors for his or her ease of entry total, although.

Establishing for an train just like the dumbbell bench press can, at occasions, be extra bother than it’s value, in the event you’re attempting to carry in a really crowded fitness center or are tight on time.

Train machines are available clutch on this regard. So long as the station is open, coaching with them is as simple as sitting down, adjusting the pin (or loading the stems with plates), and attending to work. 

Your Takeaways

Industrial gyms are riddled with an array of equipment designed that will help you lose fats, achieve muscle, or get stronger. Some train machines simply don’t minimize it for these objectives, and won’t be value together with in your program.

  • Train machines place your motion “on rails”, forcing you to carry in a means that will not align along with your physique.
  • Some machines aren’t well-made for the train, whether or not by offering inadequate help, improperly-designed handles, or different options.
  • Machine work requires much less stability and is extra handy than utilizing free weights, however you lose out on some muscle activation and real-world carryover as properly. 

Terminate the Machines

Train tools shouldn’t be a “this or that” state of affairs, not less than not on a regular basis. A sensible and productive gymgoer — which you definitely are — ought to perceive that workout machines, like dumbbells or barbells, are instruments. Instruments that, in the correct context, may be fairly helpful.

Nonetheless, high quality does matter, and never all train machines are value their salt. Some are awkward, clumsy, or inefficient, and there’s nothing to be gained by leaving them in your workouts in the event that they don’t serve your wants. 


  1. Oliveira, L. F., Matta, T. T., Alves, D. S., Garcia, M. A., & Vieira, T. M. (2009). Impact of the shoulder place on the biceps brachii emg in several dumbbell curls. Journal of sports activities science & drugs, 8(1), 24–29.
  2. Aerenhouts, D., & D’Hondt, E. (2020). Utilizing Machines or Free Weights for Resistance Coaching in Novice Males? A Randomized Parallel Trial. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being, 17(21), 7848. 
  3. American Faculty of Sports activities Drugs (2009). American Faculty of Sports activities Drugs place stand. Development fashions in resistance coaching for wholesome adults. Drugs and science in sports activities and train, 41(3), 687–708. 
  4. Schwanbeck, S. R., Cornish, S. M., Barss, T., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Results of Coaching With Free Weights Versus Machines on Muscle Mass, Energy, Free Testosterone, and Free Cortisol Ranges. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 34(7), 1851–1859. 
  5. Schick, E. E., Coburn, J. W., Brown, L. E., Judelson, D. A., Khamoui, A. V., Tran, T. T., & Uribe, B. P. (2010). A comparability of muscle activation between a Smith machine and free weight bench press. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 24(3), 779–784. 
  6. McCaw, Steven T.; Friday, Jeffrey J.. A Comparability of Muscle Exercise Between a Free Weight and Machine Bench Press. Journal of Energy and Conditioning Analysis: November 1994 – Quantity 8 – Problem 4 – p 259-264 

Featured Picture: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

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