Wednesday, January 6, 2010

a treatment worse than the "disease"

An acquaintance who I have seen at the gym for the last, oh, 7 years commented today that he only uses machines, "because he has a bad back."

Except for bicep curls. For bicep curls he uses free weights. His bicep curl form is remarkably similar to the dippy bird: 99% lower back / hip thrust.

I have to wonder: does he lift using machines and dippy-bird form because he has a bad back, or does he (still) have a bad back because he lifts using machines and dippy-bird as his coach?

I'm always chagrined when exercisers claim that they can't use free weights because of a joint injury, whether it's a bad back, knee pain, or a hurt pinky.

Machines put you in ergonomically incorrect positions, unless you happen to be one of the 10% of the population for whom machines are sized correctly. (Hint: none of the 10% are women).

They don't work the stabilizer muscles that are so critical for preventing and recovering from joint injuries.

They allow you to slip into bad habits. Leg extensions hurt your knees? (Which machines often do.) No problem, just don't work your legs at all! Your legs get weaker, they hurt more, you work them less, they get weaker. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Yes, machines have their place. But most recreational lifters would be far better off if their workouts used free weights 99% of the time -- albeit not with dippy-bird form -- rather than the reverse.

Don't fear the free weights. Free weights are our friends!

Not that dippy birds aren't, mind you.

b. strong //

1 comment:

  1. Just dropping by from Skwigg's page. And I have to agree with you - this love affair with machines is one of my pet peeves. As you mentioned, the stabilizers are not getting worked...and also the proprioceptor cells are missing a valuable workout. It is so important to work in ways that require balance so that you don't lose it one day.

    Funny you have the dippy-bird thing as a picture, tonight we were doing one-legged deadlifts in the body boot camp class I lead and were commenting on how everyone looks like those birds that sit on the end of a glass and bob up and down. Everyone is certain there is a "real" name for those darn things, but we can't figure out what it is.