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Smart Exercise ReplacementsWe all do a few exercises that aren't really the best choice, but we do them because they're easy, they're all we can do, or they're all we know. If you want to increase the effectiveness of your workouts, it's best to replace these inefficient, potentially dangerous exercises with a better option. Here are a few smart exercise replacements to make:
Behind Neck Military PressThis exercise is often used to focus on your posterior deltoids (shoulders), but you run the risk of serious shoulder injury. Your shoulders are not designed to strain in this way, and you could end up suffering from shoulder impingement. Replace with: Military Press -- You may not hit the posterior deltoids as effectively, but you can do another exercise to focus on the posterior shoulder muscles. The regular military press will still hit the anterior and lateral delts, giving you those rounded shoulders you want!
Behind the Neck Pull DownThis is meant to work out your lats, but really all you do is hurt your shoulders. Unless you have perfect form and do not move at all, your risk of shoulder impingement is much higher. You could even cause damage to your spine if you accidentally pull too hard and slam the bar into your neck. Replace with: Wide Grip Pull Downs -- You won't get the same angle for your movement, but this will hit the lats in exactly the same way as the behind-neck pull down. The wider grip changes up the muscle recruitment and reduces your risk of shoulder injury.
Upright RowStand straight, grip a barbell or dumbbell in your hands, and pull them up to your chin. This is a classic exercise for your shoulders, but it's one that could lead to the same shoulder injuries as the two exercises listed above.
Replace with: Front and Lateral Raises --Raising dumbbells to the front and side will give your shoulders that same sculpted look, but with a far lower risk of serious muscle or joint injury.
Smith Machine SquatsA surprising number of people do squats on the Smith Machine, but you'll find that it's actually quite dangerous. The angle of the squat places a lot of pressure on your knees and back, and you run the risk of incorrect form thanks to the squat posture. Replace with: Squats -- Get out from beneath the Smith Machine and do squats with nothing to support you. This forces your core and secondary muscles to work, giving you a better workout and helping you to build more functional strength.
Leg Press (Incorrect Form)You'd think that the leg press would be fairly safe, but only if you do it right! If you bend your knees too far (past the 90 degree angle) and bring them too close to your chest, you run the risk of lower back and knee strain. Replace with: Leg Press (Correct Form) -- Don't let your knees bend beyond the 90 degree angle, and try to stop your butt from lifting off the bench beneath you. You'll find that the movement is actually more challenging if you do it like this, giving you a better, safer workout!
Poor Form on Cardio MachinesThis means hunching over, supporting your weight on the handrail, or slouching as you walk/run. If you have poor form on the cardio machines, your risk of elbow, shoulder, back, hip, and knee injury is much higher. Replace with: Proper Form -- Stand up straight, hold your head high, and swing your arms by your side as you walk/run. Make sure to stand properly on the elliptical machine, letting your legs do the work instead of your arms.