With so Many Exercise Variations, Which Ones are the Best? Part II

People usually say it’s better to do something instead of nothing. That’s true, but what if that something was the least use of your time.

In my previous article, I mentioned why some exercises for the legs and the back are better than others. This time, I’ll focus on three other common exercisethat aren’t the best choices -- but people still do them.

Know when to balance

There’s nothing wrong with stability balls. They have a place in many routines. But if given a choice, really stressing the muscles is your best bet for getting toned, stronger and maximizing caloric burn. In order that achieve the right level of stress, you need to lift heavy, which is hard to achieve on a Bosu ball.

A study from Appalachin State University, North Carolina, found that a stability ball may not provide sufficient stimulus for increasing muscle strength.

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Switch it: Instead of doing lunges and squats on a stability ball, do them on a regular surface. If you want to add greater engagement of the core, use dumbbells or barbells instead of the Smith Machine.

Take a vacation from the triceps machine

I’m sure that you’ve seen this machine where you sit, put your elbow over the pad and extend the arms to contract the triceps. The machine works the triceps as long as you can fit your body properly and have such a strong core to control the resistance. This is because it’s really hard for most people to anchor their body in place and have to round their back to resist the weight.

Switch it:  Lying triceps extensions. Make sure when you do this exercise that you vary where you lower the bar.

Dumbbell side bends: Who doesn’t want ripped abs? In particular, women like to work the oblique (side of the abdominal) in our quest to get rid of the fat to get a “Barbie waist.” But as you should know by now, no abdominal exercise will get rid of the body fat. Nevertheless, some exercises will emphasize the internal and external oblique more than others. This is critical not just for appearance but also for performance and spine hygiene.

The problem with side bends is that to really engage the muscles, people usually have to use heavy weights, which can develop the external oblique easily. As nice as this may sound, you may end it up with the look of a wider waist, which defeats the goal.

Switch it: The Russian twist. This exercise focuses on the same problem areas, but since you have to engage other muscles for stabilization, it’s hard even without weight.  The muscle fibers of the oblique runs in a feather shape, which the Russian twist mimics. Make sure that you move one side of the abdominals to the other side and contract. Don’t move the upper body, specifically the shoulders. The effort must be coming from the oblique muscles. You also don’t need to reach out further that 45-degree angle when keeping the arms extended. You can increase the difficulty by adding more resistance. Keep the back slightly flexed.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.

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