Monday, 27 August 2012
RISE OF THE MACHINES
More and more, every time I walk into a corporate gym, I feel like I'm watching science fiction. Gym goers encased in machines, running on machines, with the aid of machines, all in order to improve something that was as natural as breathing to our ancestors. From the seated shoulder press, to the leg press, there is a machine for every resistance exercise known to man. These machines, for many of the elderly and the disabled, are they only way they can exercise – their core, their posterior chain, or their joints are compromised and therefore they can't comfortably use free weights – and to those people I say well done for making the commitment in the face of challenge. However, it seems those who have to use machine weights are far outnumbered by those who use them for other, harder to explain, reasons. Mostly, when you ask someone who favours machine weights, why they don't simply do the same exercises with free weights, you'll find them saying that they 'like machines better' or ' can lift more' or ' feel better results'. All those answers are, when boiled down, just another way of saying 'machines are easier'. The hard truth is though, fitness and real world strength, is not easy. Building strength and fitness means pushing your body outside its comfort zone, which means it will hurt, and it won't come easy. The gym goer who can leg press 200kg, can likely not squat even half that, and if you are relying on a machine based chest press to build strength, you'll likely struggle to manage something as simple as twenty push ups. Machines don't build real life strength, and they don't build a strong physique. This is for two key reasons; firstly, machines don't engage your core, secondly, machines only allow you to move the weight in a single direction, in a single plane. Machines are mostly seated and never require you to brace yourself to steady the weight, this neglects your core, and means that this key component to your physique will fail under pressure. All the crunches in the world won't correct this lapse. Machines also require you to move the weight on a single line using a single muscle at a time. Most natural, real world, actions require your full body to move in many different ways at once, some muscles steadying, others exploding, others correcting, machine weights circumvent this, to the detriment of your training. If you want to graduate out of machine weights, and start to realize your actual natural strength, then seek advice, learn how to use free weights, ask the staff at your gym, get a personal trainer, research online, and start to construct a training program where you stay on your feet, keep active and build a strong physique that will both look good, and make you feel good.