“What is the best machine for me?” “What is the best machine for this or that body part?” With the exception of a few specialized pieces of functional equipment, machines in your gym or home are designed to fit the mass population. So we go to exercise and are forced to contort ourselves into a machine that forces us to move in a specific pattern. The unfortunate fact is these patterns are almost always single joint movements (bicep curl). The problem with single joint movements is life involves multiple parts of the body functioning together. Any time isolation exercises are performed the joint and surrounding tissues are exposed to high stresses and loads. These stresses cause injurious forces to the tissues exposing the exerciser to joint and soft tissue damage.
Sadly some of the most loved machines actually don’t work. The most common ones folks seem to zero into in the gym are seated inner/outer thigh machine. What is not understood is the inner and outer thigh musculature are primarily stabilizers, and stabilizers need to be weight bearing to contract effectively, sitting to exercise them actually makes them weaker and does nothing for toning and shaping. Turn on the TV and you will see ad after ad for abdominal machines. Much research has been done and machines will make your abdominal muscles work, but the price is high. Abdominal machines cause very high stresses on the spine which will cause damage to the disks. No machine can ever make the core contract properly because machines isolate and the abdominal wall like the hips was designed to stabilize and that is hard to do laying down.
Protect your Spine
One of the most dangerous machines in the gym is the back extension. The spine has very little ability to move on its own, it is influenced strongly by the hips and abs. The spine musculature consists of stabilizers that serve to protect the disks, and the extensors of the lower torso. Just like the abdominal machines performing a hyperextension on a machine or bench can cause up to 1000lbs of compressive force on the spine, there are better and safer exercises.
Free Weights and Body Weight
A rare commodity in health clubs today is floor space, and that is just what is needed for the best and most efficient types of exercise. Many fitness enthusiasts fail to meet their goals, despite all the effort and time they put in. Your body was made to function as a whole, not in isolated pieces. This is the reason why many exercisers repeat the same exercises again and again, on machines, without success. Unless you are training as a bodybuilder where isolation training is key, try functional training, core conditioning, Pilates or boot camp types of exercise.
The greatest piece of equipment is you. Learning how to control your body in various positions and movements is what will create a strong and balanced you. The popularity of Pilates, Yoga, Cross Fit and p90X are all examples of programs that teach learning how to use you first. Functional Training is fun, requires no machines and best of all will encourage rapid calorie burn to shed those unwanted pounds while toning and shaping, all without isolated machine exercises.