The 6 Gym Exercises That Aren't Doing You Any Good | Men's Health Magazine Australia

The 6 Most Pointless Exercises You’re Doing In The Gym

1. Smith Machine Squats

Why they’re pointless

Lifting heavier weights might be perfect for posing, but all true gym-goers know the truth: you’re doing it all wrong. “A smith machine doesn’t activate your stabilising muscles, meaning it slashes your muscle-building potential,” says PT Phil Sims. And that’s not all: the smith machine restricts your body from forming a natural back curve during a squat, which is a surefire way to lower-back problems.

RELATED: double your gains with any exercise by using this simple technique


What you should be doing

The classic squat

Leave your ego at the door and opt for this muscle-building classic with lighter weights. Barbell squats will keep injuries at bay, and supercharge your stability and balance simultaneously. Simple. 

2. Seated Abductor and Adductor Machine Exercises

Why they’re pointless

There’s a reason why you only ever see the weird lycra guy with the pencil moustache in your gym use this machine – it’s not a good look or exercise. Why? Although it puts stress on your IT bands and hip capsules, that’s all it does. “People often use this isolation exercise as they believe it will help melt the fat off their thighs, but compound moves will engage more muscles and burn calories faster,” explains Sims. So all in all, it ‘s a waste of time. And it just makes you look like you’re training for a trip to the gynecologist.

What you should be doing

The barbell lunge

As well as working your adductor and abductor muscles better than any machine, this compound move activates muscles at the top and bottom of your body, spiking your T levels on the way. Plus, you’re not flaunting your groin to the entire gym, which is always a bonus.

RELATED: 5 “bro science” myths – BUSTED

3. Triceps Kickbacks

Why they’re pointless

Simply put: most guys use a dumbbell heavier than they can candle, which leaves them looking like a drunk guy trying to start a lawnmower on a boat. “After a few reps you won’t be able to keep your arm straight at the high point in the exercise, which dramatically decreases its effectiveness,” says Sims. However, lightening the load won’t help either: “no one ever built huge triceps doing hundreds of reps with a tiny weight.”

What you should be doing


Simple but effective, this body-weight staple blows up your triceps (provided you keep your elbows tucked in), while also working every muscle group up top. It’s also one of the few upper-body Close Kinetic Chain (CKC) exercises. These are exercises that move your body while your hands (or feet) are in a fixed position, working opposing muscle groups as you’re lifting and lowering. In other words, add dips to your next workout to get bigger tris in half the time.

4. Weighted Shadow Boxing

Why it’s pointless

If you want to build fight-night muscle then look elsewhere. Whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, this exercise isn’t for you. The largely uncontrolled movement opens you up to injury if you’re using too heavy a weight, yet fail to work up a sweat if you’re using one too light. So how do you find the sweet spot? There isn’t one. Don’t use it.

What you should be doing

Chin ups

If you want to build fight-night muscle then opt for bodyweight moves over weight training. Calisthenic exercises like the chin-up pack much more of punch in the long run, according to Sims. That’s not only because they are a catalyst for larger biceps, but they spike your body’s anabolic hormones like testosterone, which sounds a lot more appealing than punching thin air with your girlfriend’s weights.

5. Wrist Curls

Why they’re pointless

Got your crosshairs on Popeye forearms? Although the spinach might help toning up top, wrist curls won’t. That’s because, you guessed it, it’s an isolation exercise that so specific in its target that it’s a waste of your time. And admit it, any time you’ve tried this you’ve hardly felt a strain.

Fingertip push-ups

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a shaolin monk to nail this push-up variant – just a willingness to upgrade your upper-body. And don’t panic, it’s a lot easier than it looks and engages all muscle groups up top, which in turn boosts your metabolism. There’s a reason why this move appears top in the Navy Seal’s exercise handbook, you know.

RELATED: the push-up workout that’ll shred your core and pump up your pecs

6. Swiss Ball Squats

Why they’re pointless

You know those Youtube videos with an ‘amateur PT’ who swears standing on a Swiss ball is the answer to all of life’s problems? Well, to the surprise of no fitness professionals, this exercise scores a big fat zero on the useful monitor. As Phil Sims puts it: “A squat is a squat, even if  you’re on an unstable surface, so why open yourself up to unnecessary injuries?” 

What you should be doing

Bodyweight squats

Be a real man; drop the balls and squat without the gimmicks. The no equipment squat builds lower-body muscle, increases your strength, charges your metabolism and maxes your mobility – all without a trip to ED.

A version of this story was originally published on

More From