The average gym has a few hundred pieces of equipment designed to tone and shape the body, but some of them can be downright harmful. Some of these machines can be used as long as they're handled with extra care and attention, but others, you might want to skip altogether. Here are eight of the gym’s most dangerous machines .
- The Smith machine: It’s a bar built into a machine that locks it into a vertical path and prevents it from tipping to one side or the other. These machines are dangerous because of their restricted motion. they can be used for shorter range-of-motion exercises like calf raises, but for compound movements like overhead presses, they should be avoided.Leg extension machines: They interfere with the natural rotation of your shin bone when your leg is extended.Lateral machines: Doing lateral raises with your arms straight is safe, but doing them with bent arms increases the risk of injury to the rotator cuff.Cable row: Rowing is a safe exercise, but all rowing machines have the same issue – at the beginning of the move, you are forced to reach so far forward that you risk overextending your lower back muscles. Over-extension carries with it the risk of spinal damage; injuries that rarely heal correctly.
Ergo benches: Ergonomic equipment is only effective if it’s personalized to YOUR body, and so called “ergo benches” are customized to an arbitrary average. Unless your body fits that narrow assumption, you risk injury when using the bench.
Ab twist machines: The spine was never intended to twist; doing so can damage your disks. A yogic spinal twist is safe because it’s done in a slow and controlled manner, but a twist against resistance is more violent and carries a higher risk of spinal injury.
Crunch machines: They do encourage the growth of the rectus abdominis (the six-pack), but they also flex the spinal erectors and put pressure on the lower back. Over time, disk injury can occur. Most of us can’t see our abs not because they’re underdeveloped, but because they’re hidden by a layer of fat. Try getting rid of that beer gut before you worry about what is or isn’t underneath.
Standing calf raise machine: The calf is one of the strongest muscles in the body, and working both at one time can involve the lifting of several hundred pounds. Heavy weight like that can compress the spine and put stress on joints. Try doing regular calf raises instead; they’re still effective and with proper form, perfectly safe.
If you’ve used any of the machines above for years without injury, you should consider yourself lucky – and find other ways to work the same muscles. As always, you should check with your doctor before you begin any new fitness program, and you shouldn’t jump in with free weights if you don’t know what you’re doing. You can tone and shape your body without injuring yourself; just use the safer machines and free weights, and ideally seek the help of a personal trainer – at least until you can confidently say you know how to exercise safely and effectively.