Exercise Machines to Avoid for Fat Loss

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I am surprised everyday when someone asks me what machine is best for building their abs, arms, legs, butt, you name it and the person wants to know what machine is best for it!

I am astounded that more people don’t know that using free weights and bodyweight exercises are much more productive and safer than any machine.   I might be preaching to the choir on this but I have a sneaky suspicion that many of you are still climbing onto a machine to get in some of your strength work.  Heck, we don’t even use a machine for 90% of our cardio because it is a waste of time in my mind.

Here are my top  stupid machines:


Leg extension machine:  In this machine you sit down and lift weight by extending your knee.  This is supposed build the quadriceps muscles but in actuality it places unneeded stress on the knee and causes more problems than it is worth.   Most of us are too tight through our quads and hip flexors.  The last thing that we need to do is sit down (shorten the hip flexors) and extend our legs (work the quads in isolation).


My suggested alternative would be the split squat.  We are going to perform a movement that uses more than one joint, works on mobility and strength and we have to use our body weight and possibly some externally loaded weight via dumbbells as well.

The split squat works ankle mobility, hip mobility and will stretch the back


side quad as we work the front quad and hip.   This is a big bang for your buck exercise.  Tack on the core strength to hold your body upright and the added benefit of not having to sit your lazy butt in a machine and we have a winner!


2)      Leg Press- This is a great one!  It is supposed to be safer than squatting or deadlifting for your legs but I ask you if having a load compress you from the top and bottom while most people go into lumbar flexion (rounded lower back) is a safe position?    This one is a recipe for disaster and gives too many guys a big ego and hurt lower backs!

The alternative is the goblet squat.  You can start doing this to progress to the front squat and back squat.  It is a completely safe position and movement for those with no contraindications and it helps mobility and stability.   I really don’t care how much weight you can lift while lying on your back! Especially if you are an athlete.  I want to see how much weight you can support and move in an upright position.

This movement works the hips, quads, core and upper back.  Another huge big bang for your buck exercise that will take you farther than any machine.


3)      Seated Any Type of Press- This is a big category.  Any type of pressing movement that has you seated and places your arms and shoulders in a fixed plane is a piece of carp in my book!   First off all we are seated again?  WTF!  Why are we infatuated with sitting on our fat butts all day long?  You sit in the car, you sit at work, you sit and watch TV, so we might as well sit while we exercise.  The people that came up with this stuff should be punched in the face.

The big issue with this movement is the fixed plane that it places us in.  There is only one path that we can take- whichever one the machine lets us.  This is bad for your shoulders if you don’t fit the mold for the machine.  I don’t care how much you adjust the seat (and most people are too lazy to do that) it will most likely place you in a crappy position.  You want the scapula and shoulder joint to be able to move freely through the range of motion and in the plane that allows you to do this safely and effectively.

If you can’t do presses standing you can do them from a half kneeling position to take stress off your back.  You will challenge your core and get much more out of the exercise.  If you do a bench press obviously you will have to lie on your back but you still have to control the weights in all planes and can move freely.


My alternatives are just as listed above.  Half kneeling, tall kneeling and other presses that don’t include a machine.

4)      Smith Machine anything- This thing is good for hanging your coat on and maybe doing inverted rows if you don’t have a TRX or other suspension device.   I could go on and on about how stupid this machine is for squatting and pretty much doing anything out of.    It locks you into position you have to move how it wants you to move and it is terrible.

My alternative is to hang your coats on it, perform inverted rows, or do incline pushups on it.  Just don’t squat in it or press or row or deadlift or….you get the point!

Unless you strive to look like this guy, don’t do stupid smith machine stuff! (Nice neck pad by the way!)

5)      Pretty much any isolation machine that you can name!

If you haven’t figured it out yet I am not a fan of machines.  I don’t like them and I think that they are for people that have no clue about training and those that are too lazy to care.  I have a hard time thinking of any reason that I would use a machine outside of a rehab scenario.  Even then would be pushing it.  I can come up with creative and innovative ways to get you to use your own bodyweight to do the same thing and get way more out of the exercise.  A good trainer will have modifications and progressions for you to follow so that you can do the things you need to do to move well.

I also can put together a workout that hits every muscle that the machines say they work and get it done in probably half the time.  The reason is that we use big muscle groups and compound movements to train our bodies the way it was meant to move.

I will take squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and pulling over machines any day of the week and you will get better results from your workouts if you do the same.

Don’t waste your time with machines and stuff from the dark ages of fitness.  Pick up a pair of dumbbells, perform the basic movements, and get results.  It isn’t much more difficult than that!


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  • bb

    Excellent. Thanks for posting this Ryan. Before I joined BeForcefit, I use to use a lot of these machines for years. I didn’t have a clue either, that these machines do more harm than good.

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