Admit it: When your daily to-do list is more than three pages long, you check off “gym” with no intentions to actually go. (We totally do this, too. Hey, life is hectic.) So when a day frees up and you do slip into your sneakers, your precious time at the gym better be time well spent, and science shows there are a few moves you could do without. We turned to experts and found the ones to drop and which to swap, so you know you’re always making the most of your efforts.
Not only do these seriously strain your neck, they don’t tighten up all of your ab muscles as well as other exercises do. “You’re really better off just doing a standard sit-up because your abs are going to work much harder from the top to bottom,” says Jamie Easton Middleton, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert. Place your hands on your chest when you do them—that way you’re way less tempted to yank on your neck as you sit up.
2. Bench Dips
This classic triceps move is meant to tone up that unwanted underarm jiggle that happens when we wave. But this exercise—where you hold yourself up at the edge of a bench and, using only your arms, lower yourself up and down—is a really unsafe and unnatural position for your shoulders, especially since most of us don’t have much flexibility there, says Middleton. Opt for presses with a weight instead. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold the weight above your head with both hands and slowly lower it behind your head. Be sure to keep those elbows close to your ears—that will really firm all over—then lift back up.
3. Adductor and Abductor Machines
While these machines seem like a great option for trimming your inner and outer thighs, the unnatural position they put your body in is all the more reason to skip ’em. They’re considered accessory muscles, meaning they’re smaller and support the larger leg muscles, like your quads and hamstrings. “So when you add weight to them, you can actually strain them,” says Middleton. She recommends doing clockwork lunges instead, which will tone all those hard-to-hit areas and give you more flexibility. Start at 12 o’clock and do a lunge to the front, a side lunge, and a lunge to the back (so you’ll end at 6 o’clock) on each side three times. Step-ups are a great option, too, especially if you’re looking for more stability while you rock a favorite pair of heels. (We know, it’s harder than it looks!)