Popular Exercises That Are a Total Waste of Your Time (Warning: Low Calorie Burn)

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While no exercise is a “waste of time” entirely — any bodily movement is better than none — the fact is, some forms of exercise definitely torch calories and burn fat faster. And whether your goal is to shed pounds, build muscle, increase your endurance or a combination of all of those things, you probably don’t want to work harder than you have to.

 It’s easy to get swept up in the promises of fad workouts, but the truth is, some of them don’t burn as many calories as you might think. However, that definitely doesn’t mean they’re a waste of your time. These popular moves, however, you may as well skip.

The seated thigh machines at the gym

 seated thigh machines at the gym

Don’t waste your time on this machine. |

Those seated thigh machines at the gym may seem like they’d be easy leg toners, but they aren’t very effective — and “spot reducing” doesn’t help you burn fat.  Instead, do lunges regularly (front, back, and side lunges). They’ll tone and strengthen your entire body, not just your thighs.

 Classic crunches

woman exercising crunches

There are far better ways to get strong abs. |

You may have heard the expression “Abs are made in the kitchen,” and while that’s partially true, you should always do ab-toning exercises as well. Sadly, classic crunches just aren’t effective. You don’t have to skip them entirely, but do work them into abdominal workouts that include planks, bicycle crunches, and other moves that work as many core muscles as possible.

Straight-leg deadlifts

Man performing leg extension

Leg extension machines are tough on your joints. |

When you lock your knees while performing straight-leg deadlifts, your lower back rounds and does all the work to move the weight, and that increases your injury risk (and does’t give you an actual workout). Instead, try a Romanian deadlift, which allows for a bend in your knees and hinging forward in your hips. Plus, your glutes and hamstrings get a killer workout.

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Man walking on pavement

A nice stroll won’t burn nearly as many calories as you’d like. |

Make no mistake about it: Walking is good for your health. But if your only form of exercise is slow-paced walking and you’re hoping to lose weight and get in shape, you won’t have any luck. In fact, a leisurely stroll doesn’t burn many more calories than sitting on the couch.

A brisk run or jog will burn more calories — but if you really want your walk to count as a workout, incorporate as many short sprints as you can.

The elliptical

people at gym in elliptical bike

The elliptical isn’t as effective as you might think. |

It seems like the ideal scenario: You can put the elliptical machine on your desired settings, pump your legs, and read a book or veg out to music while torching calories. There’s just one problem: You’re phoning it in, and that’s wasting your time.

Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels is a known opponent of the elliptical, claiming that it doesn’t burn enough calories to aid in weight loss. It’s better than nothing, but since your time is limited, you’d be better off spending those 30-45 minutes doing something else.

Exercise bikes

Man riding on exercise bike

This exercise only works if you are a beginner. |

The exercise bike is a great way to warm up for a workout or if you’re very overweight and just getting started. But they typically only work the largest muscles of the legs, while you can find plenty of other exercises that will work more muscles and burn calories faster.

The lying leg curl machine

Man performing laying leg-lifts

Lunges will work better than this. | iStock

This machine involves lying on your belly and curling your legs toward your butt. But lying down to exercise means your core isn’t engaged, so again, you’re only working a few targeted muscles.  Instead, do lunges, deadlifts, jump squats, and plenty of other leg moves that also work your core and your glutes. You’ll see results much faster.

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