Recently, a client asked me “are we going backwards?”
He was referring to the equipment choices that people make these days. In the 90’s, machines were well in. The aftermath is still present. You can go into various big box gyms and see a line of shiny new treadmills, cross trainers and stationary bikes. You can use many different machines that were designed specifically for 1 exercise only. These machines were manufactured incredibly well.
These days, tyres are in, sand bags are more popular than ever and there is nothing a personal trainer values more than a wide-open space. I’ve even seen a raise in the popularity of Rock Rehab, the process of walking on Rocks to improve proprioception and myofascial release.
Many say that what goes around comes around and that machines will become popular again. I disagree.
Our equipment choices are not becoming more basic because we are devolving. In fact, our knowledge of sports physiology has enhanced so much that we can develop a workout with more basic equipment. Before, we used the machines out of necessity. Our knowledge of exercise physiology was so poor that machines guided our mechanics and heavily simplified exercise for the general population.
A bike with stabilizers is the perfect example. In the 90’s, machines were our stabilizers. We have finally taken them off!
So, do machines still have a place in our world? I am a strong believer in cable based machines. They are brilliant for proprioception, stabilization and practicing specific strengthening exercises for sports. I also love the Concept 2 Rower and the Airdyne stationary bike for High Intensity Interval Training. I’ve also found value in the leg press for developing great strength in a closed chain movement.
Machines that I have a problem agreeing with are ones which fix the movement pattern of your shoulders. I have found that many members of the public struggle with shoulder impingement. This is when the acromion process is dispositioned in a way that causes aggravation on the rotator cuff. Many machines further hinder the shoulder as the movement is heavily fixed. This goes against the instinctive movement plan that the shoulder is designed to do.
No weight training plan is complete without free weights and the variety of free weights is more generous than ever. Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sand bags, medicine balls and so on. By varying the free weights, we challenge our grip and the physics of our movement. Therefore, we must make free weight exercises the foundation of our training regimes.