I have been doing some thinking recently and I have come to the conclusion that weight machines are garbage and should not be used. Any machine you have to sit at and push, pull, extend, curl, press, adduct or abduct is terribly dysfunctional. They all go against your natural movement patterns and keep you fixed in a locked and seated position. If in your workout, you have to walk to a machine, sit down at it and perform the machines function then you are not using your body to the best of its fully functioning capabilities.
Let me remind you, I am talking about machines not dumbbells, free weights, kettlebells,, bands or the TRX. I am talking about machines such as: leg curl, leg extension, leg press, inner and outer thigh machines(don’t even get me started on these two), seated chest press/fly, seated row and seated overhead press. All these machines have one thing terribly in common: they are all done in the seated position.
When in the natural environment, do you find yourself in a seated position like on a rock or log and find yourself really needing to extend your knees against resistance? Hardly ever. We as a society are already in the seated position for too many hours out of the day, so why would we continue that pattern into our workout routines? Because we are lazy and we like to do what is comfortable. The sitting posture and position is slowly deteriorating our bodies and creating great havoc day in and day out. Let me break down what happens with the seated position:
- Your butt turns off. Glute amnesia we like to call. Your Gluteus Maximus(your butt) becomes inactive and has a hard time contracting to its full potential due to all the sitting. One of the main reasons for low back pain is because the glutes are turned off forcing the low back to do their job. Your glutes are your largest muscle in your body, are very powerful, and are responsible for most of the actions of the hip.
- Your hip flexors become super tight. For every action there is always an equal an opposite reaction. Glutes off hip flexors on. Your hip flexors are responsible for raising your knee up to your chest.
- Upper back becomes rounded and the muscles become stretched out. This is why you will see many people hunched over and look like they are walking into a head wind.
- Chest muscles become tighter. Here is that action reaction law again.
Basically, all the muscles on the front side of your body become super tight and over-active while all the muscles on the back side of your body become stretched out and not firing properly. Not a great problem to have. So why should we exasperate these dysfunctions even more with seated machine based exercises? We shouldn’t.
I say it is time to break away from ALL machine based exercises. Dumbbells and free weights are still fair game because at least when you are lifting free weights you are hopefully not in the seated posture, use more muscles for stabilizers, and are able to move the weight in your bodies natural movement pattern. I love lifting, always have and always will.
I believe everyone can be strong. There is no excuse for weakness.
The best piece of equipment you will ever own is your body. Body weight training is THE BEST form of exercise hands down. It is a complete, natural, healthy, functional and primitive workout. You can get a workout in anytime, anywhere with no equipment needed. Primitive exercise is designed to incorporate full body, natural movements using mainly body weight, locomotion, the environment and whatever tools need carrying.
Let me give you a sample of all the body weight exercises you can do:
- You can: run, walk, jog, skip, side shuffle, carioca, sprint, hop, jump, bound, leap, bear crawl, inch worm, crab crawl, seal walk, duck walk, monster walk, step ups, forward lunges, back lunges, side lunges, transverse lunges, squat, one leg squat, jump squat, jump lunges, push ups, explosive push ups, pull ups, explosive pull ups, handstand push ups, twist, rotate, climb, transverse, etc
Now remember you can do all that listed above and vary it just by adding a medicine ball in there. Next time you are at the gym, think about trying to do as much exercise as you can without sitting down. If your gym has exercise bands or tubing, these are great to use because it forces you to perform in the upright standing position. You can still push or pull using a squat stance(feet side by side) a staggered stance(one front in front of the other) or a single legged stance. You can take the same exercises and make combinations out of them like: Squat and row- squat down holding your bands, stand up and pull or Squat and press- squat, stand and press. All of these can be done using any various types of lunges and/or single legged stance.
Think outside the box, what type of workout would you do if you were outside? In the wilderness? Or on a farm? More than likely you would be walking and hiking quite a bit, you may have to jump over some trees or across a creek, climb a tree to gather some food or escape a predator. Think about incorporating real movement into your everyday routine.
Its a new year, so why not think about making a new you. Mix up your workouts, stay away from the machines and use your body.