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CGR279 CGR279
Sun, Jun 20, 2010 12:06
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Why all the machine hate?
In searching for workout routines on this and other sites, I have noticed that "gym people" say a lot of bad things about using gym machines for strength training.

I'm new to the gym scene having just joined for the first time EVER last month, so for me I'm more comfortable going down the line of machines, then struggling with cables and pullys and junk.

My question is why are they even there if they're not as good for working out? To make people like me me comfortable? Here's what I use the below 3 times a week - is there a problem with this?

Hip abductor (inner and outter thigh)
Leg extentions
Leg curl
Glute press
Leg press
Calf raises on leg press
Shoulder press
chest press
lat pull down
sitting row
pec flys
preacher curls

CarolynDiets CarolynDiets
Sun, Jun 20, 2010 20:06
Machines vs. Free Weights
This discussion has been going on for a long time in the weight-lifting community. (I remember these discussions from the early 80s.) It really boils down to this: Machines will help you build muscle by isolating the muscles you are working on. The good of this is that you are able to build the precise muscle you wish to work on and it is somewhat safer than free weights. You can use heavier weights with machines because you are isolating the muscle so your weaker muscles can't hold you back.

The bad is that machines do not work the smaller "helping" muscles. This means that your functional strength (the strength it takes to do something in the real work as opposed to the gym) is not as great. So you might have great looking thighs and quadriceps and be able to move a lot of weight in the gym, but be unable to hike up a mountain trail because your helping muscles give out. The other disadvantage of machines is that they are not perfectly adjustable for all people of all sizes. So if you're a small woman or a very large man the machines may not adjust to your needs.

Gyms often arrange their machines to help people structure workouts. So when you talk about going down the line with the machines, that is a sensible strategy. It is often why they are arranged in the way they are.

My strategy has been that I use the machines to build a base of strength and then mix in free weights to build the other muscles.

I really can't comment on the workout you have. It seems to me that any workout you do that balances the various parts of your body will work fine.


CGR279 CGR279
Mon, Jun 21, 2010 20:06
Thank you
Thank you for taking the time to explain that to me Carolyn.

lelogosdemoi lelogosdemoi
Charlotte NC
Wed, Jun 23, 2010 09:06
This is one of my favorite topics, so here comes a long one!

There's no problem with using the cables and pullys like for lat pull downs, seated rows, cable crossovers, etc. There are some machines like the hip abductor that actually just don't do you a a lick of good and are a complete waste of time. The primary purpose is to make money - for the makers and for gyms. They look less intimidating than free weights so gym owners fill the floors with them so people who aren't 100% sure what to do for weight training feel comfortable. They are made to fit an average size (generally male) body and have limited adjustability. Also most machines do not allow you to do isometric work meaning - you can be pushing with your right arm or right leg harder than your left and the machine only registers the total pressure to lift/move weight so they aren't good for developing balanced strength on both sides of your body. Also - generally you're sitting or lying down in a machine, cutting off many parts of your body from engaging in the exercise. (This is true for free weight work as well - a seated matchine shoulder press works shoulders a little bit, a seated dumbell shoulder press works shoulders a lot and back, arms and abs some also, a standing dumbell shoulder press is the best because now your arms, back, abs and even glutes are all engaged keeping you balanced as you push weight up and bring it back down.) It is much more common for people to injury themselves working out on machines than free weights b/c you conform your form to the machine rather than the range of motion to your own body.

I spent a lot of my early years in the gym doing only machines and they never got me anywhere close to the body and strength I have now. I also don't know anyone I consider to be in great shape who uses machines exclusively or for over 50% of their workout. I did have to suck up my pride and insecurities to ask for help with learning to lift (from a bunch of old male bodybuilder types) and deal with being the ONLY chic in the weight section, but the awkwardness of that didn't last long. Nowadays, there are a lot of great books out there about lifting for women so you don't even have to ask for help!

I do also second Carolyn's point that machines tend to isolate specific muscles more - in my view that isn't a good thing b/c working less hard (working only biceps instead of the whole arm) in a range of motion means less results. It's also less like the motion you'd use in real life so you get less practical application from your work outs.

It's not that machines don't do any good (except for the hip abductor! lol), it's that they don't do as much good as free weights. So, for maximum return on your gym time, and the least risk of injury, it's best to use free weights and cables. HOWEVER, if you are so intimidated by the gym and weights that the choice is between working out or working out with machines - please by all means rule those machines like a champ! It is always better to work out than to not. Nit-picking about the finer points of form and variation is moot if you're not going to the gym at all!

If I was given the opportunity to rearrange your workout based on what you are doing now, here's what I'd recommend:

Side to side lunges with dumbbells (these WILL work your inner and outer thighs)
Full squats (quads - primary, hams and glutes and calves secondary)
SHELC on ball (suppinated hip extension with leg curl) (hams and glutes)
Deadlifts - single leg bent knee or standard (glutes, hams, lower back)
Standing dumbbell shoulder press (shoulders, upper back, arms)
Flat or incline bench press w/ dumbbells or bar (chest, back, arms) (I cannnot BEGIN to tell you how much more beneficial it is to bench with free weights than with the machine. You will probably never be able to do pushups or chinnups with ease if you only do machines)
Pushups (back, shoulders, abs, triceps)
lat pull down (wide or close grip) (back, shoulders, abs)
standing single-arm row (shoulder, back, bi/tricep, abs)
reverse bent over dumbbell flys (back, shoulder, pecs)
tricep bench dips (triceps, shoulder, abs)
Plank hold (core)
Russian twist w/ medicine ball (core)

I would not recommend doing all of those in 1 day - split them into 2 days - do 1/2 on A day and 1/2 on B day and perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise. so you'd do ABA one week and BAB the next week.

If you decide to stick with machines for a while until you get a little more confidence, add something in for your lower back (like seated back extension, or do lying back extensions on a mat - hold for 60-90 seconds, you may have to work up to that) and something for core. There aren't any good machines for core so get down on the floor and do some jacknives, russian twist, ab rollouts, planks, ball pass, crunches seated on a ball, your choice for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Have fun and welcome to the gym!

CGR279 CGR279
Thu, Jun 24, 2010 19:06
Wow lelogosdemoi, thank you for the insight. I think I will stay with the machines until I get more comfortable, but I'm saving your workout so I can ease into it. Very sad on the hip abductor I thought that would do me some good.

LadySmith LadySmith
Las Vegas NV
Sat, Jun 26, 2010 22:06
hip abductors
why don't the hip abductor machines do any good? i have a hard time believing that, because everytime i get done using those two machines, my thighs FEEL every one of the 150 reps i did on them.

i've only been going to the gym two weeks, and have lost an inch from my thighs, and two inches from my hips. i do use some of the other machines also, but the two hip abductor machines are the ones that i do the most work on.

given the results i'm having, i just can't agree that they don't do a lick of good.

lelogosdemoi lelogosdemoi
Charlotte NC
Tue, Jun 29, 2010 17:06
If the question is - will using the hip abductor do me more good than doing absolutely nothing, the answer is yes. Doing something is ALWAYS better than doing nothing!! So in that sense, I can't say it won't do any good at all. However, there are many, many other things that will do much more good, especially when it comes to firming your legs - inner and outer thighs and all over. So from an efficiency perspective, it is a waste of time. And it puts an un-naturally amount of the weight pressure on the outside or inside of your knee joint (designed to support weight vertically not pushing/pulling sideways) and on the hip joint as well. It's not a natural motion and can lead to chronic pain if you do significant weight over time on that machine.

I personally put in time on the hip abductor machine when I was first learning how to work out and it didn't change my legs, and I don't know and haven't heard of a single woman who got hot sexy lean firm legs from doing the hip abductor.

Side-to-side lunges with dumbells in your hands WILL work the muscles that you intend to work with the hip abductor (as well as the whole leg, butt, lower back and abs) and it's a more natural motion.

This is a good blog (not mine) on why hip abductors are a waste of time and gives excellent suggestions on what to do instead:

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