Why “Doin’ the Machines” Sucks

“I can really feel the burn!”

So let me qualify my bold headline by saying, I don’t think there’s any form of movement that’s wrong per se. Some are more efficient than others.  Some carry more risk than others.  And some are probably not creating the response in your body you think they are (ie crunches to get rippd abz when your body fat’s around 25%).  But I can’t say something is “wrong” because I don’t believe movement by definition can be “wrong.”

The main reason doin’-the-machines almost always sucks is that its rarely truly serving the machine-doin’ person’s goals.  

Machines are often a safe haven for new gym goers; you may feel like an idiot doing a bodyweight squat, but you will feel marginally less foolish in the abductor machine (that’s the machine in the pic above).  Now that’s honestly a big deal; the gym can be scary, so believe me, I’m not knocking on that psychological component.  

Unfortunately… machines suck.  Allow me to call on someone far smarter than I, Dr. Charlie Weingroff, one of the most brilliant physical therapist/ strength coaches in the industry.  This was posted on his blog a few weeks ago as an explanation for why he doesn’t like lying leg curls and totally reflects my own thinking.  When he gets all science-y, I’ll translate in italics…

“The bottom line is that all machines create irrelevant strength.  There is no ability to recreate the expressions of force capabilities of the limbs without the supported environment.  The arms and legs are writing checks that the body’s stability mechanisms such as the spine can’t cash. (you can’t use that strength in the real world because your body doesn’t know how to do it without having your core locked up in a machine supporting you).  

Is there a metabolic response?  (Will it burn calories?)  Yes.  Is there a hypertrophy response?  (Will it build muscle?) Yes.  Can I go on?  Yes.  Do these responses challenge my claim of irrelevancy?  Probably, but there is nothing I can’t accomplish without a machine that I can with one.  It will take more teaching, a slower and more authentic progression, and a lifetime of fitness possibilities.  

God made machines to make life easier.  I don’t want easy when we are training. I want authentic and and natural so whatever we build will be a foundation for anything else we do.

Train on machines and maybe be safe, then get hurt in the real world.  Stop it.

(OOOOOOH, here comes my favorite part; he’s gonna call out an intellectually lazy trainer; BOOYAH)  And don’t go telling me you don’t see 911 showing up every 10 minutes to your gym.  You only know how to look for car accidents. Try learning how to look for the tread on the tires and alignment of the axles and see where people wind up when they are 40 and 50, and you’re out of the profession (people start aching and moving funny because over time the machine training has done funny things to the way their body works; I know you’ve seen those old bodybuilder types who look like they’re in pain just getting water from the water fountain).  If you are a serious bodybuilder, then go get ‘em.  Otherwise, enough please.”

For my professional colleagues (and clients and family and friends) interested in reading the whole post, its great.  Have at thee.

Well there you have it.  Again, machines are not “wrong”; I have in certain (VERY FEW) situations used machines when training clients, and reserve the right to use any tool I think will provide the greatest benefit towards each client’s unique goals and needs with the least amount of risk.

And I’d be lying if I said they were definitely 100% fo’ sho’ going to leave you a mess down the road.  But the bottom line is they really could, and regardless they’re almost certainly not the best use of your time.  (remember: big mo fo rocks).  If you’re afraid to leave the machines because you feel awkward doing strength training with just your body and or weights, I’m gonna give you some tough love… ready for it? SUCK IT UP.  

I don’t mean to be harsh.  Truly I mean that with all the love in my heart and I’m only being tough on you because I love you (in a fraternal mankind way, not creepy stalker-y way).  

You only get one body.  Yes it may take a little time at first (and possibly the help of a qualified fitness professional), and yes you may have to push through some awkwardness and conquer a fear of feeling foolish.  It’s worth taking the time to learn how to take care of your body properly so you can be healthy and hot in a time efficient manner and in a way that allows you to maintain quality movement over your life so you can play with your grandkids.  And great grandkids.  

Also, when robots try to take over in in the near future, you’ll have a better chance of defending yourself.  Good luck.

“HUMANS!  Bring us your thighmasters or DIE!!!

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