Most people don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to training – life for many is so busy that when they actually get a chance to do some exercise (not necessarily at the gym) that they make the most of it. To me effective training means being efficient – being efficient is being smarter. One of my favourite mottos is “Work smarter not harder.”
Today I want to talk about free weight verses machines. Most gyms today are packed with 100’s of machines – Leg Presses, leg extensions, leg curls, seated rows, bicep curls machines, pec decks, well you get the picture – if you have ever had gym program I am sure that I just rattled off many of the exercises you have done. While these exercises might seem good are they the most effective? My answer is no. Let me list some reasons why:
- Most machine exercises are fixed angle – which means that prime mover muscles are isolated. This means the stabiliser muscles of the joint aren’t required, which is bad and can often time lead to an injury. Yes you might be able to bench 30kg on each side of the Hammer Strength chest press but your shoulder stabilisers probably won’t be able to stabilise 30kg dumbbells and that could end in disaster.
- I really need to be careful when talking about functional training – many Personal Trainers talk about functional training as getting their clients to perform squats on Bosu (half ball) that may look cool but that doesn’t mean that it is actually a function exercise for that person. Functional training in its true definition is an exercise or exercise program especially designed to improve individuals work or sporting endeavours – and also needs to match their skill level. Training movement patterns (Squat, Push, Pull, Bend, Lunge and Twist), restoring proper posture and improving joint range of motion cannot be done on machines.
- Machines often only move in one plane of motion. There are 3 planes of motion the human body can and is suppose to move in. Sagittal (up & down), frontal (side to side) and transverse planes (rotation) – nearly all gym machines are saggital plane movements. Most injuries occur in frontal and transverse planes the ones people have never exercised in.
- When you train on machines zero core function is required. Core function is extremely important – and it is a very misunderstood set of muscles. The core has many functions from breathing, and stabilisation of the spine, rib cage and pelvis to being responsible for powerful dynamic movements. Every movement in real life requires some form of stabilisation – that you don’t get when you sit on machines. For more info on training core / abdominal muscles please read http://elevationperformance.com.au/the-biggest-training-mistakes-part-1-the-abdominals/
- People can get sucked in by being able to lift heavier weights on machines – thinking that will burn more calories. BS!!! Only 1 muscle is working! If you replicate the same movement with free weights the prime movers, antagonist, secondary muscles and core are all activated – giving you more bang for your buck (or exercise) so to speak!
So you can see that training on machines isn’t the best way to train. Some so called experts say that beginners should use machines – which hopefully from the points above you can see that isn’t true. Great you can leg press 400kgs – when in life do you have to perform a leg press? See it is a waste of time and you are probably not too far away from getting yourself injured. Use the time you do have in the gym wisely – train your body the way it is meant to move! Use free weights (dumbbells, barbells, cables) train your stabiliser muscles and train in all three plans of motion. You will burn more calories and your body will look amazing!