Thursday, August 26, 2010

The War Against Machines

Daywalker is a term usually used in vampire movies, which refers to those we can walk outside in the sun while the rest are hiding indoors. Since i left my full time corporate job, i feel like i am a daywalker. I walk around shopping complexes during the day when they are empty (except for a few other daywalkers like myself), drive on the roads when there aren't many people when previously, i could only do all those things at night like a vampire would. Hence like the vampire, most of us only come out at night, due to our full time job. But now, as a day walker, i have so much more free time on my hands. The freedom of time is amazing. You do what you want to do, when you want to do it.

Anyway the reason i am talking about this, is that i am looking for people to join me in this lifestyle and become a daywalker like me and earn lots of money together. If you are guessing what this is all about, i am looking for people who are passionate about health, wellness and fitness and want to live the life of a "daywalker" and at the same time touch and make a difference in other people's lives. If you are interested in this offer or even remotely curious about this, send me an email at rajan@fitnessmalaysia.com.my and we can discuss further. So get those fingers typing and send me your emails.

OK. Just a little bit of marketing, now down to this weeks post... which is a little late. My apologies for that. I am still adapting to my new daywalker lifestyle. Anyway, this week, i want to talk about using free weights vs machines. Some time ago, i wrote a post on doing squats and mentioned that you should use a power rack instead of a smith machine. There seems to be a growing popularity of people doing squats and bench press on the smith machine these days and sorry to burst your bubble if you are one of them, but these machines are not as effective as free weights and not to mention dangerous as well. Here is why

Smith Machines & other machines in the gym only provide you with a fixed range of motion (ROM) which also means you only train to perform a limited movement. If we were to deviate even slightly from that ROM which you are used to, you will not be able to do the movement or worse, may even get injured. In the real world, muscles work together to accomplish everyday tasks. When you reach down to pick something up, the hamstrings, lower back, glutes, upper back, shoulders, and biceps all work in tandem. There is a symphony of agonist, antagonist, and stabilizers muscles that work together to complete the task.

Muscles must learn their roles as either prime movers or stabilizers. For example, in a free weight bench press, the shoulders and lats “learn” how to stabilize the chest and arms while lift is being executed. In a fixed ROM exercise like the smith machine bench press, none of this happens. As a result, these stabilizers don't get developed along with the prime movers.

When these stabilizing muscles are weak and under developed, or when they haven’t sufficiently learned their roles as stabilizers, the body will not be able to perform real world movements away from the fixed ROM machine. This is why people can leg press 600 pounds but are not able to squat even 100 pounds. I had a friend who routinely used the smith machine for squats in the gym. One day, the smith machine was being used by another gym user, so he opted to use the power rack instead. He loaded up the same amount of weights as he did on the smith machine and he actually fell down when he performed the squat in the power rack. Why? Because the stabilizers are under developed and were unable to compensate and balance him.

You may routinely lift heavy weights on a fixed ROM machines in the gym, then find yourself constantly getting injured at work or at home whenever you try to lift something that’s not nearly as heavy as you are used to in the gym. This is because the stabilizer muscles have remained untrained, and are therefore weak. Hence, machines in the gym which are usually applaud as being able to prevent injury, will actually cause more injury to you.

The same things above applies for the ever popular hammer strength machines available in many gyms these days. These are basically machines with a fixed ROM, except instead of plates and a pin to select your weight, you load up actual weight plates. Just because you are using weight plates, doesn't make it free weights. Now with all that being said, it doesn't mean that machines have absolutely no use at all and should be completely banished from the gym. You just need to ensure that a main portion of your routine should be on free weights and a smaller portion on machines - instead of the other way around. Me personally, I love using machines as finishers to my routine, to squeeze out everything i got at the end. So i do my free weights first and then finish up the routine with some machines. Eg. for my chest, i do bench press, incline bench press and then finish up with the fly machine or cable crossovers. Machines are great for giving you that pump, so i like finishing up with them.

So if you are using the smith machine and / or other machines in the gym, i hope this post will be an eye opener to you. Its never too late to change a routine, so why not start today. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: Any ideas for the next poll? Anything related to fitness that you would like to find out about? If you have any ideas, please let me know. Thanx.

7 comments:

Aizan Suhaira said...

Let's go on a smith machine-burning spree!

ian yusof said...

daywalking huh ... I can't remember the last time I daywalked ... good for you bro. A perfect daywalking for me is to spend the entire day at the beach suntanning with a good book in one hand, and a bottomless cold fresh juice on the other ... heheheh.

Rajan said...

Aizan: You bring the matches, i will bring the fuel. heheheehehe.

But like i mentioned, machines are not 100% bad, so we shall spare them for now.

Ian: I too love the beach. Normally i spend lots of time in the water.

Kasey Brown Fitness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anfield devotee said...

daywalker la . . . fooker . . . rubbing salt into wound . . . (*grumble mumble*) . . .

Rajan said...

AD: heheheheehe. Don't lah like that. You can join me too.. :-)

KevL said...

I find this post informative in a way that you include very little of personal opinions (except at the end where you mentioned that machines give you a pump at the end of your workout) and more on factual knowledge. This post didn't look like you were championing on any ideas, or putting the machines on your 'ban list' just because there are some downsides on them that you made you overlook the good things about these machines.

Anyway, in regards to the smith machines, not all restrict free motion. The smith machine in my gym allows free motion, as you can move it back and forth, left and right; basically there's something that 'hangs' onto the bar, allowing free movement. So it's actually like a power rack with a latch to lock it in place at different levels.

Cheers.