So you have a gym membership? Great, now let’s get to work. And with a plethora of different, cool and interesting contraptions to work with, you’ll be in shape in no time, ready to take on the world.
But all this equipment really just leads to an overload of options. You really need to know what you’re getting yourself into, and sometimes that’s literal. That’s because with all the weird positions and adjustments the machines and equipment in a gym are able to make, it’s hard to figure out what will work and what won’t for you.
You need to get familiar with the intricacies of gym machines and how your natural biomechanics respond to them.
In so doing, you’ll quickly find a vast amount of the machines at your disposal become redundant or even downright detrimental, but we’ll get to that in a minute, first, let’s break down what you actually want to gain from a workout.
A good workout is one that helps you achieve your goals in a way that is significant and measurable over a reasonable amount of time. Those goals can be related to strength and performance, body composition or correction and rehabilitation.
Whatever the case, a good exercise is aimed at achieving those goals. Another important aspect to this equation is that good exercise shouldn’t stunt or diminish other aspects of your health and wellness in place of meeting your goals.
Other areas of your fitness shouldn’t suffer for one to improve. For example, your flexibility and power to weight ratio are prone to decreasing when putting on lean mass. Your strength is likely to decline when losing weight.
All these can generally be avoided with the right approach to exercise. Training in a wholesome, functional way usually takes care of these issues.
When it comes to gym equipment, unfortunately, a lot of the machines taking center stage in fitness facilities offer anything but a functional approach. They often target consumers who are looking for instant aesthetic gratification and neglect to treat the body as a functional unit.
This leads to many imbalances and functional defects over time.
In this article, we’re going to look at a few pieces of gym equipment and machines that actually don’t benefit your overall fitness in the long term as well as provide functional alternatives.
Bear in mind, we aren’t saying that any use of these machines is totally going to wreck your progress, we just want to raise awareness and point out that total reliance on machines is not the healthiest approach to fitness.
The smith press has gained lots of popularity over recent years, especially in the online fitness community and its constituent workout videos. That’s because the smith machine or smith press is easy to use and demonstrate several different exercises.
It’s essentially a barbell on a fixed vertical rail system, which allows you to perform traditional barbell exercises, but within the confines of a fixed movement plane.
This restriction prevents you from engaging the subtle aspects of a real compound movement like a squat or bench press, all of which can be simulated using the smith machine.
We say simulated because these aren’t the real versions of this exercise. You don’t engage your stability functions or synergize your muscle groups to full effect making it a very limited experience.
Go old school and use a power rack with a free barbell.
Drop down and get your eagle on as the saying goes. That’s what you’re getting into with the pec fly machine. This seated chest machine is yet another example of how a fixed plane of movement can greatly limit the effective benefits of an exercise.
Your shoulders are your most complex joint system, and by limiting their opportunity to build stability, you are setting yourself up for imbalance and potential injury in the long run.
Dumbbell bench press and fly.
The seated adductor is probably one of the most egregious examples of a machine to avoid on this list. That’s because exercising this way is pretty unnatural.
Try and think of exercise in the sense of what daily activity corresponds to me doing this exercise? When it comes to a squat, there are numerous daily tasks that benefit from that functionality. Even a simple bicep curl has its real-world application.
But try to imagine hip adduction to the intensity found in the adductor machine. Almost nothing in real life happens to warrant that as an exercise.
Not saying you shouldn’t condition your adductors, but certainly not with a fixed plane machine, unless you just want big inner thighs for some reason.
Lateral leg workouts that target stability, agility, and strength.
The leg extension is not only a bad form single plane exerciser, but it’s also damaging to the knee with prolonged use. That’s because it places undue outward pressure on the tibia, pushing it away from the knee during reps.
This one is certainly great for hypertrophy, but unless that your only concern, which we recommend it shouldn’t be, use the leg extension sparingly.
So there you have it, 4 machines to avoid or at least use sparingly with full awareness of the consequences of prolonged, long term use.
These machines do have their benefits, don’t get us wrong, but those benefits are often outweighed by the negatives if you rely solely on machine-based exercises.
The way to spot if a machine is bad for your all-round fitness is to assess if its too easy to be true, asses if the movement ranges promoted relate to any day to day function, and asses if have multiple planes of movement. If none of these check out, then that piece of equipment should not be a priority.
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