Tuesday, May 5, 2015

10 Exercises You Hate The Most—And What To Do Instead

 CINDY KUZMAAPRIL 10, 2015WRITE A COMMENT
PUSH UPPHOTO BY LWA/GETTY IMAGES
It's bound to happen at some point during your workout. The moment you always dread: Your instructor or workout DVD announces that it's time to do your LEAST favorite move. You know, the one that always makes your back ache, your knees hurt, or makes you feel like the most uncoordinated person in the room. (We're looking at you, squats, planks, and burpees.)
People often hate certain exercises simply because they're challenging, says Emily Hutchins, trainer and co-owner of On Your Mark Coaching + Training in Chicago. Since you need to push your limits to boost your fitness, sometimes you should just suck it up and give tough moves a shot. But in other cases, your anatomy or problems with form lead you to do the motion incorrectly, triggering a pain that's more physical than psychological. Pushing through this kind of discomfort could mean you'll risk injury without even reaping the desired benefits, Hutchins says. If that's the case, here's what to swap your problematic moves for.
1. You hate it: Mountain climbers
It's hard to visualize yourself scaling Kilimanjaro during this core- and arm-strengthening move when you're distracted by your popping hips. That snapping sensation serves as a sign you're using your hip flexors—the muscles that lift your knees and allow you to bend at the waist—to stabilize yourself instead of engaging your core, Hutchins says.
Replace it with: Toe Dips
toe dips
Turn things around for a move that isolates your abdominal muscles and works your hip flexors without overloading them. Lie on your back; take a deep breath and focus on contracting near your belly button to activate your transverse abs, the deep muscles you use to push air out or go to the bathroom. Alternate driving your knees up toward your chest—your feet won't touch the floor in between reps, unless you need to modify—feeling your hip flexors controlling your knees while your core stabilizes your pelvis. Don't allow your ribcage to arch away from the floor or your lower back to flatten out. Start with 15 knee drives on each side. 
2. You hate it: Push-ups
Sure, it's a tried-and-true way to tone your upper body. Still, the push-up can seem intimidating at first and then become boring over time.
Replace it with: Plank-ups
plank up
Spice things up with a sequence that engages your arms, shoulders, core, and your brain as you change directions, advises Jessica Matthews, MS, senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise. Start in a forearm plank position with your arms planted directly under your shoulders and your abs engaged. Press your right hand into the floor, then your left hand, until you're stabilized in a high plank position on your palms. Keeping your hips and shoulders squared to the ground as much as possible, lower back down one arm at a time in the same order. Then reverse the movement—rise from your forearms to a high plank starting with your left arm. Continue alternating sides for 8 to 10 reps.
3. You hate it: Deadlifts
Don't let the terrifying name scare you—but do skip this hamstring-strengthening move if it makes your back hurt, Hutchins says. You may lack sufficient core strength or have hamstrings that are super-stretchy, so instead of using the muscles in the back of your thigh to pull up the weight, you might end up over-recruiting your lower back (ouch). 
Replace it with: Hamstring curls on a ball
curls ball
Flipping over lets you work your hamstrings from a shortened position rather than a lengthened one, which will keep the pressure off your back. Lie on your back and place your ankles and lower calf muscles on an exercise ball. Lift your hips off the ground, then pull the ball toward your glutes by flexing your hamstrings. Return to starting position. Repeat 15 times.
4. You hate it: Planks
Despite the name, you don't feel light as a feather or stiff as a board. Instead, you get the serious shakes or a sore lower back.
Replace it with: Modified planks
modified plank
Most fitness pros stand so solidly behind planks they suggest tweaking the original version rather than going with an entirely different move. Hutchins advises lowering to your knees, focusing on keeping your shoulders stacked over your elbows and your hips low as you brace your core. Another option: Rise up, says Amie Hoff, a trainer in New York City and co-founder of the fitness equipment company FitKit. Oddly enough, you might actually find it easier to hold a plank on your palms than on your elbows, since you recruit fewer core muscles to do so. Start with 20 to 30 seconds and work your way up.
5. You hate it: Overhead triceps extensions
Everyone wants to banish upper-arm fat. But if you've had a shoulder injury or lack full range of motion in the joint, you might feel pain or discomfort when lifting a weight above your head, Hutchins says.
Replace it with: Triceps push-downs
tricep
Connect a resistance band to a door anchor above your head (or use the machine at the gym, as shown). Step back until you feel a pull in the band and grab the handles, palms down and hands shoulder-width apart. Start with your upper arms tucked closely to your sides, your elbows bent at about 90 degrees, and your forearms parallel to the floor. Push the band downward, moving only at your elbows, until your arms are fully extended (the handles may touch your thighs). Choose a resistance you can do for about 12 to 15 reps.
6. You hate it: Bicycle crunches
You might feel the burn in your abs and obliques, but these pedal-pushers can also pinch your spine, Matthews says. If you've ever coped with lower back pain, you're probably better off taking another route to core strength.
Replace it with: Dumbbell woodchops
wood chopper
Work your core the way you use it in real life—to stabilize yourself while you twist and turn—and you'll actually minimize rather than increase your risk of back problems down the road, Matthews says. Grab a dumbbell and stand in a split stance, with your right foot forward and left foot back. Extend your arms and raise the weight just above your right shoulder. Fire up your core and draw the weight down and across your body toward your left hip, aiming to keep your arms extended and your hips still. Do 10 to 12 reps on one side, then switch to the other.
7. You hate it: Dumbbell front raises
Your mission: to sculpt sexy shoulders. However, execute it incorrectly and you increase your risk of shoulder impingement—a painful condition that occurs when components of the joint rub each other the wrong way.
Replace it with: Dumbbell shoulder press
shoulder press
Go for a science-backed solution—a study done last year by the American Council on Exercise found this move to be one of the most effective for strengthening shoulders. Start seated, with your back firmly against a chair or bench, or stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bring your upper arms to shoulder height, palms facing forward. Engage your core and press upward, extending your arms overhead, then slowly lower back to starting position. Repeat 12 to 15 times (choose a weight that makes the last 2 reps feel challenging to complete).
8. You hate it: Squats
No matter how many times you've checked the alignment of your hips and toes, your knees and back still ache during or after squatting. Or, you feel so intimidated by the lengthy lists of squatting dos and don'ts that you give up before you ever try.
Replace it with: Glute Bridge
glute bridge
It's one of the most effective exercises for your hamstrings—and you don't even have to stand up. Lie on your back with knees bent and hip-width apart, feet flat on the floor. Keeping your weight in your heels, lift your hips to the height of your knees. Pause for 2 seconds, squeezing through your glutes, then lower hips to the floor to complete 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
9. You hate it: Burpees
Maybe it's the gym-class flashbacks, or maybe it's the jostling up-and-down motion. Whatever the case, you feel the urge to hurl at the mere thought of this multi-step move.
Replace it with: Squat thrusts
squat thust
Target your shoulders, abs and quads without all that awkward leaping around. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them just above your shoulders, palms facing each other. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and engage your core. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to lower into a squat, then straighten your legs while simultaneously extended your arms overhead into a shoulder press. Return to starting position, then repeat 12 to 15 times (use a weight that makes the last 2 feel challenging to complete). 
10. You hate it: Bench press
First, you have to make it to the weight room. Then, you have to ask the guy chatting on his phone between sets if you can work in. We don't blame you for saying "no, thanks" to this one.
Replace it with: Wall or incline push-up
wall push up
Target your chest, shoulders, and core, no equipment required. Stand facing a wall with your hands against it at shoulder height, Danberg says. Bend at the elbows and keep your torso straight as you bring your head and nose close to the wall, then push back until your arms are straight. Do 2 to 3 sets of between 10 and 20. Or do the same motion in a horizontal position, placing your hands underneath your shoulders on top of a bench or even the side of your bed. Start with 3 sets of 5 and work your way up to 10, Hoff suggests.

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