Specifically, machines are for people who want to lose muscle, joint mobility and flexibility. Fitness, like everything, goes through fads and weight machines (like the leg press, seated military press, lat pull-down and even the venerated Smith Machine) are definitely on their way to the “Don’t” list.
According to this article (thanks, Allison!), you are only allowed to do the hip adductor machine if you wear knee-high socks and pull your shorts up to your bra line. Unless, like at my gym, the adductor machine faces a HUUUUGE window overlooking the basketball courts and you are an exhibitionist. (Seriously, what were they thinking when they put that there??)
Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Machines
The article is titled “Ten Machines You Shouldn’t Use” but should really read “You Shouldn’t Use Machines”. But, why, you say they’re easier? Exactly. And for those of you shouting “But I’ve been doing them since the ’80’s and I loooove them.” Well, then, keep on. And make sure to pump your shoes before you get started.
Weight machines help you and hurt you in the same way: they limit your natural range of motion. If you don’t believe me, try a seated military shoulder press on the machine and then try it again standing on a bosu with free weights. I guarantee you will have to drop your weight. Want to up the ante? Try a one-legged squat with that. (Yeah, I know, it’s not pretty but I just tell people I’m training to be an extra in Karate Kid VIII and they leave me alone. Probably ’cause they think I’m crazy. But it gets the desired results.)
Another way the weight machines hurt is by isolating a particular muscle, they put undue strain on your joints. Try the leg extension and see if your knees don’t give out before your quads.
Weight machines also encourage injuries when you don’t properly callibrate them to your body, thus overextending your tender ligaments.
Plus, if you really have been doing them since the eighties, it’s probably time for a change up anyhow.
So Who’s the New Kid On the Block?
Functional fitness exercises, like the chop and the wall-throw, that mimic real-life motions are now the cool kids in the cafeteria. I love these new exercises but I have to admit I experience a certain amount of cognitive dissonance every time I mimic pitching a bale of hay that I’m actually paying (through the wonders of modern society) to not actually have to pitch. I’m just saying, if we still lived on subsistence farming, we’d all be getting so much “functional fitness” that gyms would go out of business.
Anyyyyhoooow. The article mentions some great alternatives to traditional machine work, like squats, lunges, medicine ball throws & lots of free weights. If their options don’t thrill you, you can always make them more difficult (and activate your core!) by standing on a bosu or sitting on a stability ball or board. Shape magazine has some great videos to give you ideas.
So how do you guys feel about this?
I have to admit that while I love the motion of the new-old exercises (seriously, somewhere my great-great-grandpa is laughing his horse-tanned hiney off), I do occasionally use a few favorite machines. It’s a hard habit to break but I’m working on it, one fake axe chop at a time. Somehow, I think Andrew will have something to say about this. Any of the rest of you care to weigh in? Yeah, you – over there in the socks…