While some have tried pretty shocking techniques to lose weight, there are also some common, long-held techniques that seem like a good idea — and may even work at first — but are absolutely going to backfire and end up causing weight gain. If you’re on a quest to a slimmer you, avoid doing these five things.
Having a Cut-Off Time For Eating
If you’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat past 6, 7, or 8 p.m. in order to lose weight, that’s just not true. Food eaten at night doesn’t automatically get stored as fat, as previously believed. What time you stop eating has nothing to do with how much weight you’ll gain or lose — it’s the total calories you consume in a day that matters. If you are a late-night snacker, opt for healthier options that are easy to digest.
Whether it’s all carbs, all gluten, all sugar, all baked goods, or all whatever, certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition believes this is not a life your pizza-ice-cream-pasta-loving self can sustain. After a period of forced deprivation, most people will just throw in the towel and devour an enormous plate of whatever they’re living without, says Langevin. Or, if they are able to go through a period of elimination, once they go back to eating these foods, the weight they lost will slowly creep back on. When it comes to maintaining weight loss, moderation is key.
Subscribing to a Low-Fat Diet
Going no fat or low fat was a huge trend back in the ’90s, a fad that we are glad has mostly passed. Most low-fat foods are packed with sugar to add flavor, and as a result, they end up causing weight gain — especially belly fat. Also of importance is that we’ve since learned that eating healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts can actually help to increase metabolism and can burn away belly fat. Healthy fats also fill you up longer, so go ahead and add nuts to your smoothie, avocado to your soup, or roast your veggies in olive oil.
Skipping Out on Meals
In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. And while reducing the number of calories in your diet is one way to do this, skipping an entire meal is not the way to go. Starving the body can slow down its metabolism and lead to overeating later. And let’s face it, if you’re running on empty, you won’t have the energy for a calorie-crushing workout later. Beyond adopting a healthier diet in general, the best way to reduce your calorie intake is to find ways to make healthy swaps in your favorite foods and also by choosing lower-calorie foods that are high in fiber, protein, or whole grains, which can better keep you full.
Working out is definitely part of the weight-loss equation, but if you think it means you can eat whatever you want, you’re not going to be happy with the results. Keep in mind that a 30-minute run at a pace of six mph (10 minutes per mile) burns about 270 calories. In order to lose a pound a week, you need to burn or cut out 500 calories a day. So that means coupled with your 30-minute workout, you still need to cut out 220 calories from your diet, which most likely does not translate to eating everything in sight. Research actually proves that “abs are made in the kitchen,” which means that what you eat — focusing on eating healthy portions throughout the day — can be even more important than how much you work out.
I spent years trying to perfect my eating. Admittedly, I was a nutritional fundamentalist. There were a few reasons for that, some foods gave me brain fog and I had a bad case of IBS. My bloating would get so past the stage of “has she gained a few pounds?” people would boldly ask me if I was pregnant. But truth is, I feared food, and in trying to keep my symptoms at bay I created a self fulfilling prophecy.
I was not one to sit on the sidelines watching my health spiraling downhill. So I tested, researched, chuck some “nutritional truths” out of the window and made of nutrition my life’s work. Eventually I found that there are as many perspectives on diet as there are people on the planet, but in the end, it all comes down to 3 fundamental guidelines I work with, and suggest you try. Experience tells me they work:
1. Be an emotional eater
In other words, embrace who you already are. We all are emotional eaters, but not in the way we usually speak of, tail between our legs as if it were a shameful thing. Your body is sensitive to the chemistry of your emotions, and very much so. Depending on what’s going on inside you will digest food differently, metabolize differently, burn calories differently and use energy differently. You will be more, or less pone to falling ill, and to developing a health condition.
It’s not about taking emotions out of the equation, it’s about learning to manage them. For this reason, learning to relax your body during a meal is vital for a healthy metabolism, and deep breathing is one of the simplest, most effective ways to relax. Don’t discard simple, it’s often the most powerful.
2. Stay curious about your eating behaviors
Binge eating, overeating, emotional eating, shopping sprees, one drink too many… Our most disconcerting actions can be stepping stones to our deepest insights. Exploring the driving force behind them gives us the understanding, wisdom and maturity we are being called to develop. Addiction taught me that what you resist, persists. Rather than control, observation, curiosity and inquiry will ‘unlock’ an unwanted behavior. Try to beat it it’ll beat you. Invite it to the table, you’ll be surprised at what it has to say.
Staffordgreen0 via Pixabay
3. Let your diet evolve
This — is important. Your health mirrors how you do life and your life mirrors how you care for your health. You move through periods that require from you new choices in food as they do in your life, and the healthy diet that worked miracles 5 years ago may have reached its expiration date.
We can outgrow a diet like we outgrow a jumper. Does this mean the diet was bad? No. Even a life saving medicine works until it does. Your ability to listen to your changing needs and move into what best supports you right now keeps you awake. It keeps you healthy in body and sharp in your thoughts, open in your beliefs and elastic in your ability to change them.
Because a diet made you feel superhuman doesn’t mean it will continue to do so. While there are long term preferences you stick to because they work, it’s important to stay aware of your body senses, keep an open mind and continue to assess whether yesterday’s choice is still the right one.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Which of the above 3 tips did you resonate with the most, and why?
NOTE: I don’t personally believe in coddling but I have to admit that this article perhaps is a bit harsh in some instances. HOWEVER, I can also relate to many of the points so I thought it would be a good share. Read on at your own risk! 😉
If there’s one thing people love doing, it’s making excuses. And if there’s one thing people hate hearing, it’s that they’re making excuses.
That’s why your friends won’t tell you you’re making excuses. They know you don’t want to hear it, and they don’t want you to be mad at them. So instead, they tell you what you want to hear: that you’re doing everything right, nothing is your fault, and success takes only the barest amount of effort.
But I’m not your friend. I’m a fitness coach on the internet, I’m not worried about you getting mad at me, and I’m kind of a jerk. So here are a few blunt truths about fitness that your friend’s will never dare to tell you.
You don’t have a slow metabolism — you’re just eating too much
Contrary to the usual talk about people having fast or slow metabolisms, metabolic rates don’t vary by all that much between individuals. In fact, there’s a pretty narrow range that your metabolic rate tends to fall into — in fact, it almost has to fall into this range. If your metabolism slowed down very much, you would simply be dead, as your body wouldn’t be working hard enough to maintain itself. Conversely, if your metabolism was much faster, you should overheat.
In fact, studies have shown that people’s metabolic rates tend to fall within about 5% of each other when you account for total lean body mass. However, overweight people typically underestimate calorie consumption and overestimate how much exercise they get- by a whopping 50% each. That’s your “slow metabolism” right there.
You don’t have a “natural” body type
When people talk about their “natural” body type, they’re referring to the body type that their genetics tend to push them toward. However, your body type is dictated by a combination of genetics, diet, exercise, and other factors such as sleep and exposure to environmental chemicals that influence hormone balance.
So then, is spaghetti and cereal your natural diet? Is sitting at a desk all day your natural lifestyle? Of course not. And there is no “natural body” type independent of diet, exercise and lifestyle. To the extent that “natural” body types are even a thing, you don’t have your natural body type unless you’re living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, which you’re never going to do.
Everyone wants you to be like them
Christians want you to be a Christian. Socialists want you to be a socialist. Rap fans want you to like rap music. Cross fitters want you to like CrossFit. Thin people want you to be thin, and fat people want you to be fat.
It’s tempting, and comfortable, to associate with people who are at the same place you are- in their health, their career, their personal lives. But they’ll try to stop you from changing, because they want you to continue to be like them. It’s more challenging, but also more rewarding, to surround yourself with people who are where you want to be- people who will pull you up to their level.
Gymtimidation is real — but there’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with it
If you’ve ever watched a Planet Fitness commercial, you’re familiar with the concept of gymtimidation — the sense of intimidation that people who don’t work out regularly feel about going to the gym. Planet Fitness’s solution to this problem is to totally avoid people who are in better shape than you are and stick with other out of shape people- and I explained the problems with that in the last section.
The thing is, people who are in good shape- or successful in any other way- feel intimidated too. They just respond differently. Instead of running from intimidation, they use it to motivate themselves to try harder, and even reframe the intimidation as inspiration.
The next time you feel intimidated at the gym, you can run away to avoid that feeling. Or, you can work harder in order to look good in front of the other gymgoers (who, for the record, aren’t actually watching you). You can also remind yourself that you’ll tend to become more like the people around you, so that you stop thinking of the gym as intimidating, and start thinking of the presence of fit people as a positive that will help you get into shape yourself.
Successful people don’t want to tell you how hard they work- and that’s probably your fault
If you ask a skinny woman what her diet is, she’ll probably tell you she doesn’t really have a diet- just works out a bit, and eats whatever she wants, but makes some effort to avoid junk food. Ask a well-dressed man how he looks so good, and he’ll tell you he just puts on whatever is in his closet. Ask entrepreneurs how they became so successful, and they’ll say they just got an idea, started a business,and it took off somehow. And they’ll all be lying.
The thing is, it’s not their fault they lie. They lie because when they tell the truth, people get mad at them. Just look at the angry comments on this article about Tom Brady and Giselle Bunchden’s diet. Or this story about an entrepreneur who told people how he priorities his time- and became hated for it. People would rather hear that success comes from luck than from hard work.
The next time you hear a successful person say that they didn’t have to work very hard for their success, don’t believe them. They’re lying- not because they’re jerks, but because other people are jerks and will punish them for being honest. If you want to be in amazing shape- or successful at anything, really- you have to work pretty damned hard.
What got you here won’t get you there
I’m constantly hearing people tell me that they started a new fitness program, were excited to make rapid initial progress, but then became disappointed and lost motivation once their progress slowed down. And I hate to break it to you, but it’s to be expected that your progress will slow down over time.
The reason is that fitness exhibits diminishing returns. The better shape you get into, the slower your progress gets, and the more you have to do to make continued progress. If you’re obese, you can lose weight just by cutting out sugared beverages, and you can probably lose upwards of 20 pounds a month if you get your diet and exercise both dialed in. But if you’re in great shape, you might have to cut out almost all carbs and exercise 5 days a week just to lose the last five pounds of fat.
In other words, you should expect your progress to slow down, unless you continually up your efforts to compensate. The diet and workouts that took you from 40% to 30% body fat won’t get you to 12 percent. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the effort to get ripped, or you just want to settle for “better than average,” but it is relatively easy (physically, if not mentally) to at least not be obese.
Even if we have the best of intentions, the goals we set to get healthy (after this last slice of pizza, of course) sometimes fall by the wayside. It can be hard to stay motivated, or even properly informed, since the recommendations for what to eat and how long to exercise can be confusing and conflicting. (Fat, for example, was off the menu for years under official guidance that eating fat makes you fat, and now that advice is getting kicked to the curb.) As a result, truly healthy behaviors can have a hard time cutting through the noise. Despite everything we know about the health benefits of exercise, a recent study found that 43% of employed adults do not exercise often.
Yet getting healthier is still a worthy goal, and many experts in the fields of exercise, health and nutrition have clear ideas about how to get there. Here are some low-stress, bare-minimum ways to become a healthier person, even for those of us who love to eat and hit snooze.
How to eat
Eating healthy shouldn’t be a nutrient numbers game. And no: you don’t have to go vegan or adopt a Paleo diet. Just make sure your plate contains more than two different colors, says Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “If it’s not, it’s boring, and you won’t meet your nutrient requirements,” she says. “If it’s green and red and brown, you can.”
After coloring your plate, make sure to consume it—and enjoy it—with someone else. “Sharing a meal with friends and family impacts our health and how we age and fare as we get older,” Meydani says.
Some countries, like Brazil, follow just that advice. Their government recommends eating whole foods, avoiding processed ones and dining with other people.
How to exercise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that American adults do two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, plus some muscle-strengthening on the side.
Many people don’t do any of that. A 2015 study published in the The BMJ argued that older adults, especially, find it hard to meet that government advice. “Getting inactive people to do a little bit of physical activity, even if they don’t meet the recommendations, might provide greater population health gains,” wrote study author Philipe de Souto Barreto, a researcher at University Hospital of Toulouse, in the paper.
Yet new evidence suggests they don’t need to. Barreto points out that a study of more than 250,000 older adults found that getting less than an hour of moderate physical activity each week was linked to a 15% drop in death, which means that people do benefit from even a small amount of exercise. Studies have also shown significant health benefits fromsimple exercises like walking.
Some researchers are seeing how low people can go when it comes to time spent working out. Enter the one-minute workout, where you work out as hard as possible for 60 seconds, with some warm-up and cool-down exercises thrown in, too. Even though the time spent exercising is minimal, it’s meant to be hard, and is shown to improve health and fitness. “There might be time-efficient ways to get fit,” says Martin Gibala, chair of kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada. “The notion of meeting people in the middle is positive—but there’s no free lunch.”
Stressing out over meeting government numbers—whether for nutrient values of the number of exercise minutes—may not be worth the headache. Getting some exercise every week and eating colorful meals with friends can be an enjoyable way to live a healthier life. Doing something, it seems, is what’s important.
Thanksgiving is practically synonymous with loved ones and giving thanks. But let’s be real: It also means plates piled high with food, a menagerie of desserts, flowing wine, and potential family drama.
For some, it’s the best time of the year. (Who doesn’t love a day of gluttonous eating with all of the people you love?) For others, the beginning of the holiday season marks the beginning of a time of pure stress — for body and mind.
After all, research suggests that the average American could chow down 4,500 calories during a typical Thanksgiving. And anxieties of the season (Aunt Carol needs to quit asking me why I don’t have a boyfriend…) can further that cycle, causing you to eat more than you would when you’re calm.
So what exactly is going on in your body as it’s overloaded with calories, alcohol, and conversation? Read on to find out.
Before Thanksgiving dinner even begins, there’s the anticipation of it all, says Josh Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In other words, that’s when you’re thinking: “Oh, no, I don’t want to see my cousins” or “Ugh, is Dad going to get drunk?”
“Anticipatory emotions can very often set the tone of the dinner,” Klapow tells Yahoo Health. “We rarely go in with a blank slate.” Of course, what you’ll anticipate — and how you’ll react — differs from person to person. Some people will be happy; others, sad or remorseful. A third group may simply think, “Help! I don’t want to be here!” says Klapow.
“You may find yourself in all three buckets over the course of dinner — or just in one — and a lot of that drives your eating patterns,” he says. For example, you could get so caught up in conversation with an uncle that you end up not eating very much; on the other hand, you could use food as a way to check out of psychological distress, he explains. The same patterns can be said about booze. (More wine, anyone?)
Two, three, or four hours of this psychological marathon can build up and cause fatigue. “People’s emotional resiliency starts wearing down,” says Klapow. That could be why you find yourself on edge — or going from happy to sad every other minute. Complete overstimulation can lead to “emotional twitchiness,” Klapow says. “It’s not uncommon to hear that Thanksgiving was either amazing or horrific — it tends to bring out strong reactions, not neutral ones.”
As for once you start eating? Food impacts your brain too, especially as it’s flooded with amino acids from turkey, including tryptophan, says nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD. But while tryptophan is often pinpointed as the cause of post-Thanksgiving-meal sleepiness, it’s actually not the biggest culprit. Instead, insulin released by the pancreas — thanks to all those excess carbs you’ve consumed — stimulates the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone that can make you tired. So, really, it’s the insulin release that’s more likely the cause of your sleepiness post-meal.
Find yourself wanting to keep eating and eating even after you’re full? That may have to do with low levels of — or the overriding of signals of — a brain and intestinal hormone called GLP-1 that cues feelings of satiety, Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, manager of nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, tells Yahoo Health. Docs aren’t quite sure what causes low GLP-1 levels — or the signals to be overridden, for that matter — which can happen at any time. But here’s what they do know: “When the condition is reproduced in rat studies and the animals are driven to overeat, the rats overwhelmingly prefer high-fat foods,” Kirkpatrick says. (One way to prevent this may be to log zzz’s — evidence suggests that sleep deficiency can alter production of these hunger hormones.)
As your blood is flooded with sugar from your feast, your pancreas — which is responsible for getting sugar out of the blood — releases massive amounts of insulin to eat up the sugar, Roussell says. “However, due to excessively high blood sugar levels, your body overshoots the amount of insulin that it needs to release,” he says.
While amino acids enter the bloodstream — and are shuttled throughout your body to repair muscles and tissues — a spike in insulin can cause too much sugar to be pushedout of your bloodstream, leading to low blood sugar, says Roussell. This can make you feel tired. And because your body wants to bring your blood sugar back to balance, you could also be left craving, well, sugar, he says. And so the negative cycle continues.
Have a couple of glasses of wine, to boot? That’ll exacerbate the problem: Alcohol can also cause an excessive release of insulin and impair your body’s ability to recover from a low-sugar episode, Roussell says.
Once food hits your stomach, the digestion process begins with the help of enzymes, says Kirkpatrick. Carbohydrates such as vegetables and sweet potatoes are digested more slowly than regular potatoes or desserts because they are higher in fiber, she adds.
“As you eat, your stomach expands,” says Roussell. Normally, the stretch receptors in your stomach signal your brain that you have eaten enough and you feel full — but the desire to eat a lot at Thanksgiving can override these signals. Your stomach keeps stretching and you continue to eat. (Satiety signals are always there — you just have to choose to listen to them, he says.)
Fat cells and the lining of your stomach also secrete leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite, adds Kirkpatrick. “Leptin sends signals to your brain suppressing food intake, whereas ghrelin signals hunger and activates your brain’s inherent reward system, again perpetuating further consumption.
“When you overeat, your heart has a lot to deal with,” says Roussell. Think about it this way: The food digestion process is supported by your parasympathetic nervous system — “the rest and digest” side of your nervous system, linked with relaxation and a reduced heart rate.
The problem? After you eat a big meal, your body makes digestion high-priority and calls for a lot of blood. “In order to get blood to your digestive system, your blood vessels dilate,” he says, noting that this can cause a drop in blood pressure. (This could lead to light-headedness, fatigue, and nausea.) Scientists call this postprandial hypotension (postprandial means “after eating”) — and the effect peaks 30 to 60 minutes after a meal, he says. So, instead of a reduced heart rate, you’re left with your heart working harder than normal to get blood to your digestive system and an increased heart rate. “For some people, this can be upward of 110 beats per minute, which is essentially low-intensity exercise!” Roussell says. You could feel your heart racing or even feel dizzy because of this.
Since wine — or any kind of alcohol — is a toxin, your body wants to get rid of it pronto, says Kirkpatrick. Sips of Sauvignon Blanc are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and then to the primary site of alcohol metabolism: your liver.
There, your liver converts alcohol from a noxious compound to an innocuous one, says Kirkpatrick. One problem: When alcohol is broken down, byproducts prevent it from properly breaking down carbs (ahem, like that stuffing), says Roussell. “So despite your body having ample carbohydrates (you just ate a ton), your liver essentially can’t access and use these carbohydrates. The alcohol also blocks your liver from breaking down and using fats,” he says.
And as for why you wind up drunk on Thanksgiving — even after chowing down? Your body can only process one drink an hour. “Any remaining alcohol continues to circulate in your blood — thus the genesis of the term blood alcohol concentration (BAC),” Kirkpatrick says.
Keeping healthy and active through regular exercise and eating sensibly is important at any age. But let’s be real — health in your 40s is even more important than your 30s. If you didn’t lay a good foundation in your 30s, you will most likely be paying for it later on in life — or maybe feeling it now… hello, bloat and acid reflux. As we hit our 40s and beyond, it becomes vital to our well-being to eat nutrient-dense foods and move daily. A combination of a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition increases the risk of premature aging, illness and disease — ultimately shortening life expectancy. The good news is, we can reverse the signs of aging through small dietary changes!
There are numerous physiological changes associated with aging. These include a decrease in heart efficiency and bone density, and cholesterol and blood pressure may start to increase, as does your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. No matter how you slice it, none of the above symptoms are good for longevity at any age. So, here are five tips to be fabulous over 40 (or at any age).
1. Ditch the Diet
Diets wreck your metabolism and result in yo-yo weight gain and loss. The key to successful weight management is adopting a healthy eating plan and sticking with it — for life. A well-balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, calcium and water. Eat fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible, since most processed foods will contain calorie-laden, unhealthy ingredients, like saturated fats and sugar. Reduce saturated fat in your diet and include more calcium-rich foods — such as low-fat dairy, spinach and white beans to stay healthy. Stick to low-glycemic foods — nonstarch vegetables and minimal sugar — to ensure long-lasting satiety and minimize the likelihood of hunger pangs or sudden drops in energy levels.
2. Eat for Energy
Eating for energy, rather than pleasure, is key to any successful dietary plan. Being fabulous over 40 doesn’t just happen — we have to make it happen! Pleasure eating happens when foods are available to you, rather than out of real need. Would you really take the time to make and eat those bacon wrapped tater tots if they weren’t staring you in the face on the buffet table? You crave those chips in your pantry because they are there and readily available. You may have kids and may not be able to get rid of all temptations, but why not buy yourself some veggie chips (low salt) so you can snack smartly? Once you begin to think of all food as energy, rather than as cravings, you will be on the cornerstone of health success.
3. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Satisfying your sweet tooth is another great obstacle for many of us. We all have cravings, but it is how we manage and respond to those cravings that keep us healthy. Have an occasional sweet treat, but be mindful and keep your health goals intact. So, choose the pear over the piece of cake. For those times when a piece of fruit simply won’t do (talking to you, PMS), studies show that after three bites our cravings are satisfied. If you must have the refined sugar treat, make it the treat you actually want and have three bites. Test this theory and let me know your results. You will be amazed at how well it works to satisfy your sweet tooth.
4. Hormone Havoc
Hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies — and never is that truer than in our 40s. Most women hit perimenopause (the time four to five years prior to menopause) and start experiencing hormonal fluctuations and symptoms, such as mood swings, low libido, hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness and cognitive problems. Listen to your body. Take note of and avoid your triggers, such as heat, spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Track your emotions and your periods to help determine if the two are connected — there are great phone apps that can help you keep track. Studies show excess weight, stress and smoking can increase the frequency and intensity of symptoms. Listen to your body and your hormones will wreak less havoc on you.
5. Plan and Prepare
The best laid plans are forgotten if you’re not prepared. Has this ever happened to you: It is 4 o’clock and you ate a decent lunch at about noon, but you find yourself starving and know you won’t make it until dinner. You go to the pantry, only to find your kids’ Rice Krispies Treats or other processed treats, and you’re so hungry, you gobble it down in record time. You’re hungry again 20 minutes later. So frustrating, right? The truth is, those empty calories have no nutritional value, so they can’t possibly fill you up. If you have fruit with fiber on hand with a smear of natural nut butter (protein), that will get you through those hunger periods much better. Plan ahead and be prepared for those times when hunger strikes.
The body’s ability to heal and recover can take longer as we age and stress, and lack of sleep can result in faster aging and an inability to fight infection or disease — your body’s way of saying it is at “dis-ease.” Don’t ignore a pain or problem that persists beyond a few days. As always, if in doubt, seek medical advice.
Starting today, you can make small changes so you can live your best life possible and be fabulous over 40. After all, age is just a number, right? We can turn back our body clocks by taking control of our health and making small changes each and every day that make a big impact on our health for our 40s and beyond.
If the Terminator movies have taught us anything, it’s that machines can’t be trusted. This is especially true when discussing the exercise machines in your gym, which aren’t designed to accommodate individual differences in body types, such as limb length and joint structure. As a result, training with machines, unlike with free weights, can fail to stimulate your muscles optimally and put you at risk for injury. The following are three of the worst offenders, per John Rusin, D.P.T., a physical therapist and strength coach to pro athletes (drjohnrusin.com), and our picks for more effective alternatives.
1) Preacher Curl
THE PROBLEM: The free-weight bench version of the preacher curl has its drawbacks, but the machine version is “orthopedically evil,” says Rusin, because you can’t reposition your body to use it safely. It forces your shoulders into a protracted position, “and in some cases even internally rotates and elevates them, putting unwanted stress on the shoulder complex.” It can also lead to an extreme stretch on the lower part of the biceps, where it inserts into the elbow, which can result in a biceps tear.
THE UPGRADE: The prone incline dumbbell curl. Set a bench to 45 degrees and lie on it chest down with a dumbbell in each hand; curl with palms facing up, bringing your elbows forward slightly as the weights rise.
“This movement allows the shoulders to remain in a neutral position,” Rusin says, “while also taking advantage of the more natural movement paths that dumbbells offer.”
2) Seated Ab Rotation
THE PROBLEM: This is the Chubby Checker–inspired ab machine you sit in to do a twistlike dance move. “Combining flexion, rotation, and side bending simultaneously at the lumbar spine is a terrible triad,” says Rusin. Not only do the position and added weight put your back at risk, but the element of increasing speed (the machine allows you to swing your legs violently side to side) and sudden direction changes prompt Rusin to call the ab rotation “the most debilitating machine in the gym.”
THE UPGRADE: The Pallof press. Attach a band to a sturdy object at chest height and grasp it with both hands. Stand perpendicular to the machine and press the band out to arms’ length in front of you. Don’t let it twist your body. Resisting rotation, rather than training it directly, integrates the shoulders and hips to strengthen the core.
3) Seated Leg Curl
THE PROBLEM: Sitting down tilts your pelvis backward, which flattens out the arch in your lumbar spine. An unnatural position to work the hamstrings in, it actually increases the compressive forces on the hams where they insert into the back of the knees. “The heavier you go, the more likely the compensation at the pelvis,” says Rusin—and that could cause a knee injury.
THE UPGRADE: The Swiss ball leg curl. It’s one of the few hamstring exercises that train the muscles’ two functions simultaneously—extending the hips and bending the knees. Lie on your back on the floor and extend your legs so that your heels rest on a Swiss ball. Brace your abs and drive through your heels to bridge your hips up. Now bend your knees and roll the ball in toward your butt. Extend your knees again and begin your next rep.