July 11, 2014
4 Exercises That Don’t Do What You Think They Do
Oh yes, crunches. Are you doing crunches because you want to challenge your stomach muscles? If you answered “yes,” then you get a high five. Are you doing crunches to burn tummy fat? If you answered, “heck no, spot reduction does not work,” then you get another high five. You may want to burn the fat around your middle, and if you do, crunches are about the lease effective exercise you could do. As a trainer, I would recommend squats over crunches any day to help burn the fat around your middle (and squats are not particularly effective in that regard, either.) When your body burns fat, it sends out hormones to your fat cells to signal the release of fuel in the blood stream. This is not a local event (not just one muscle that gets this signal.) Body fat is lost all over, and cannot be targeted. If you would like to lose fat around your midsection, you have to be willing to lose it everywhere else, as well. Also, crunches would not be my first choice when working your abs; try choosing planks instead.
Kettlebells are those awesome cannonball-looking things with a handle attached to them. Have you seen people swinging those things around? They are not doing a shoulder exercise. It surely appears like they are using their shoulders to lift the kettlebell into the air. This is trickery, as they are actually using their hips. You might call this cheating, but the purpose of the exercise is to use the hips to pull the kettlebell into the air. If you have not tried this exercise, please find a trainer or skilled kettlebell practitioner for instruction. Swings are an amazing exercise to add to your arsenal, but there are a lot of little things that can greatly affect how you feel and perform while going through the movement.
Leg lifts are done by lying on your back and raising and lowering your legs. This is a great core exercise when done properly. The reason why it is not doing what you think is because most people do this exercise to work their lower abs. I have sad news, though: there is no such thing as lower abs. Yes you have segments of your rectus abdominis (6-pack) muscles that are above or below another segment, but you cannot technically focus on just one segment. They are just one long muscle group. This is like trying to do different exercises to work on upper and lower glutes. It just doesn’t work that way. But still, it is a good exercise, so keep doing it! Just make sure you are doing it for your entire core, and not just those lower abs.
Sitting on a stability ball
While this is technically not an exercise, there is a common belief that sitting on a stability ball while you are at work will work your core and keep you healthy. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. To stay healthy, you have to move. And sitting is not moving. Sitting on a stability ball may be challenging at first, but once your body learns how, it will effectively limit all excess motion and effort so that you are not wasting calories. Also, you are STILL SITTING! A much better alternative would be to get a standing workstation.
All of these exercises noted above are not wrong. What is wrong is expecting an incongruent result. This will only lead to frustration and the thought that “these exercises don’t work.” You don’t use your microwave to make toast, so don’t do those crunches to lose fat.
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