Joining a gym can be a daunting time – the choice of equipment, the weights area, the workouts themselves!
In this article I’m going to tell you why often, the shiniest, smartest looking equipment, isn’t often the best to use for results, or when choosing a gym.
Gym machines, or the smart, shiny looking kit that look like something out of a sci-fi film were first developed properly in the 1970’s for bodybuilders looking to focus maximum effort through a range of motion.
Yes, the look great, and are often the centrepiece of any gym induction, but here’s why you should minimise the use of them if you want any kind of results.
These machines often work in a fixed range of motion – meaning the arms that you are pushing or pulling will follow the same line of movement every time you push or pull them. This is great if you’re a bodybuilder and trying to exert as much effort as possible to a muscle through a fixed range (often the quickest way to expel maximum force), but in everyday life, it’s a recipe for injury, or a waste of time.
You see your muscles never work by themselves – you have a large number of muscles known as synergists (think in synergy – together!) often smaller muscles assisting the larger ones to stabilise around a joint, both for protection and stability.
You may have heard the term “functional training” spoken around fitness training. What this means is something that mimics normal movement, or will assist daily life movements and activities. Let’s take for example some who works in a shop, or even yourself putting something up in the loft, or getting an item down from a kitchen cupboard etc These boxes will not slide up/ down, off a high shelf in a “fixed range of movement” like these gym machines, it’s likely to drop down, your arms will waver, as the box tries to go backwards over your head, or to one side etc.
Now, if you’ve been working continuously on these gym machines and pushing weights up and down in a fixed range, chances are this “wobbly” box is going to move in a way you’re not used to “working in” and you’ll either drop it, or worse, strain a muscle or worse, as these synergistic/assisting muscles have not been trained for this “irregular movement” – CRASH….or INJURY!
Now, if you trained with dumb bells (also knows as free weights), bodyweight exercises (pressups, lunges, squats etc), kettlebells or other equipment which moves in a different plane every time you move it, you’ll work lots of muscles including these asssistors, and events such as the falling box, are likely to be less of a challenge, and less likely to cause injury.
I call this “smart” training, or as many people call it, “functional training”.
Don’t be fooled by the aesthetics of equipment – be more interested in movements and exercises that can help you as a person and your daily activities, and you’ll find you’ll become functionally strong.