Fitness experts reveal the moves that you need to stop doing at the gym if you want to see results 

When you're busy as hell and - let’s face it - would really rather be binge-watchning Netflix and eating cake than, well, doing literally anything else, motivating yourself to exercise can be tough. And it doesn’t get any easier when you feel or look hardly any different despite slogging your guts out at the gym for hours on end.

But it might not entirely be your fault. It turns out that not all exercises are created equal. As trainers develop new regimes with the help of research the unlocks more information about how our bodies work, some of us will be left behind. We're the ones still repeating the moves we learned in school without realising they are totally outdated. Take the sit-up: once a go-to for abs, no personal trainer worth their salt would be encouraging the average client to do them, unless they have very specific needs. 

So, we asked some intimidatingly fit people, from professional weight-lifters to the editorial director of Men’s Fitness, to learn how to make our workouts more efficient. 

Joe Warner, Editorial director of Men’s Fitness and Iron Life

Wrist curls

You still occasionally see a guy in the gym bent over a bench using a barbell to rotate his wrists up and down. Let’s be honest: it looks pretty silly and worst of all it isn’t even that effective at building wrist strength. When people talk about wanting greater wrist strength what they really mean is greater grip strength. A stronger grip is beneficial in the gym for almost every lift, because you’re only ever as strong as your weakest link and for many people they have to stop a set due to their grip failing long before their muscles do.

More significantly, a four-year study of more than 140,000 adults in 17 countries published in the Lancet found a direct correlation between a strong grip and a lower risk of heart disease, and that grip strength was better predictor of cardiovascular disease than blood pressure.

Strengthen your grip, work all your major muscle groups, and improve your cardio fitness by ditching wrist curls for loaded carries. This is when you hold either dumbbells or specialist strongman equipment in each hand then walk back and forth a set distance. It might sound easy but give it a go and see why so many ripped gym-goers and pro athletes swear by this intense and effective form of conditioning. Done properly it melts away body fat.

The new work out class to make you look irresistible

Nick Mitchell, founder of the Ultimate Performance personal training gyms

Bench press

Bear with me, I’ve not lost my mind. Yes, the bench press is one of the three 'big lifts' in the sport of powerlifting, and it’s almost every gym bro’s favourite move, but if you want to build a bigger and stronger moves there are better options than the barbell bench press. If you perform the bench properly - and that’s a big “if” based on what I see in most commercial gyms - then you predominately work your anterior delts - or front shoulder muscle - and triceps.

That’s just the simple biomechanics of the lift. It’s impossible for most people to get a full and hard contraction of the chest muscles when bench pressing. One of the main purposes of the pecs is to draw your humerus, or upper arm bone, across the front of your body. This simply does not happy when pressing a bar straight up and down.  A better option for developing chest size is the flat bench dumbbell press. You get a far better range of motion, you can get a full contraction in your pecs because of the extra movement of the upper arms when your hands come together, and it’s generally a far safer lift, especially for people just getting into weight lifting.

Max Bridger, co-founder of LDN Muscle 


Max Bridger, left, and the LDN Muscle team 

Lateral raises

Lateral raises are an okay exercise, but easy to do wrong and hard to move a weight through properly. A great alternative would be a squat and dumbbell press, whereby you squat as low as is comfortable and then press the weights overhead when you're standing tall. This uses the whole body, more weight and burns a lot more calories.

Abdominal crunches with deadlifts

Abdominal crunches are a good exercise to use as part of a circuit, or with added weight. However, a deadlift engages the entire core and works the posterior chain, burning more calories, helping prevent injury and ultimately being far more beneficial than a crunch or sit up for any fitness related goal.

Dumbbell flies 

These are also a good move to use, once you have mastered more effective chest exercises like dumbbell and barbell press and press ups, which use more muscles, more weight and burn more calories. Before using flies in a routine I would suggest a seated row, as this uses more weight, is easier to master and helps improve posture over time, benefiting your full body training and goals more fittingly. 

Competitive weight lifter Carly Tierney, winner of  Ms Bikini Tall Miami Pro UK 


Seated Rotation Machine 

These machines are found in gyms and people use them in the hopes of shrinking the waist line. In fact, you’ll usually see people rotating left and right on these machines for hundreds of repetitions. It does not shrink the waist and can place a great deal of pressure upon the ligaments of the spine.

A more effective way to shrink your waist would be through a balanced diet of whole foods and plenty of water alongside a combination of strength training and High intensity interval training for about 30 minutes four times per week. 

Cardiovascular exercise for more than 60 minutes

The body can only lose up to two pounds of fat per week before it begins destroying muscle, so working out for this length of time is like attempting to lose five pounds per week. I generally recommend working at a capacity of 70 to 80 percent of your target heart rate. If you’re performing cardio more than 60 minutes at this level of intensity, you’re on a collision course for muscle loss which will result in a flabby, soft body, a slower metabolism and decreased strength. 

Stick to short bursts of high intensity training and get a more effective and interesting workout in half the time. 

Adductor Machine

The adductor machine is the exercise unit that you sit in while placing the inner part of your legs against a pad. You then push the legs toward each other, with the goal of reducing your inner thighs. Maybe you perform 30, 40 or even more reps to affect the area. But this exercise will not reduce your inner thighs. You’d need enough resistance to create an impact on the muscle, so more than 15 reps aren’t going to accomplish anything. More importantly, it’s not the best range or plane of motion to affect the inner thigh. 

Compound movements like squats and deadlifts are a more effective way to achieve a great pair of legs. They'll also improve your overall body shape and help you to build strength and lose fat.