Weight machines are about as popular as that person who’s morally against deodorant in the gym.
They’ve been booed and shamed as non-functional, and even dangerous, to fitness gurus. Static weight machines bring new meaning to the phrase, ‘dead weight’.
But they’re not the root of evil like gym elitists make them out to be. For someone new to the gym, machines are a fine way to start building strength, as newbies won’t have the foundation to jump right into free weights. People also use them to throw on extra weight near the end of workouts, where they may be too exhausted to maintain proper form with dumbbells.
On the other hand…some gym machines are the root of all evil, and should be ignored like an email from your boss on the weekend. Not only will they yield little, if any, improved performance results, but they’ll heighten your risk of injury.
These are four machines you should avoid like the Terminator (the first incarnate of the Terminator, of course) in your gym.
Adductor / Abductor Machines
This gym machine is about as useless as it is awkward – everyone looks goofy using adductor or abductor machines.
Vanity aside, they’re ineffective at developing and building the area the machine was built to improve: your inner and outer thighs.
The main issue with this machine is, while they do work the inner and outer thighs in isolation, the best practice to exercising your adductor & abductor muscles is to work them in coordination with the rest of your body. Free weight abductor exercises allow you to work these areas in unison with your body, bringing stability to your legs.
What You Should Do Instead: Side lunge variations, as well as skater jumps, are viable alternatives that will have you moving along the frontal plane (or, from side-to-side). Exercises like single-leg squats or pistol squats can also build strength in your hips and thighs.
Seated Rotation Machine
Try this experiment: head to the batting cages and take a few swings, or visit the nearest driving range and launch a couple balls off the tee. Then, go for a set on a seated rotation machine.
We bet you noticed the difference, in that they feel nothing alike.
With the organic swinging motion required in the aforementioned sports, your hips and upper body twist together to create that rotation. In the seated rotation machine however, your hips are locked in place, while your body twists like a corkscrew.
Rotating in exercise or sports involves the hips moving with the upper body, preventing the generated force from being placed solely on your back. A seated rotation machine doesn’t accomplish this, putting all the pressure on your back, making you highly vulnerable to injury.
What You Should Do Instead: If you’re not playing a human corkscrew in a play or film production, opt for exercises that promote rotational movement involving your upper body. A good starting exercise would be cable wood chops, which have your hips and upper body working at the same time. If you’re a golfer, we guarantee you’ll love this one.
The Smith machine is seen as a greenhorn’s substitute for barbell workouts like squats and deadlifts. This is somewhat true, as you can set very light weights to practice form, but for the most part, the Smith machine’s best skill is increasing your chance of injury.
Since the bar in this machine is fixed, lifters are forced to move with the machine, rather than relying on their own natural mechanics. That’s fine if everyone was a cookie-cutter of one another – but everyone’s different, and moves differently, too.
This can force lifters to move abnormally, leading to injury through consistently poor form.
What You Should Do Instead: A Smith machine can bring value to your workouts, you just need to approach it in another way. Consider using it for hurdle drills to warm up your hips. You can set the bar to a specific height, and then utilize it for other drills that involve ducking under the bar, preparing your hips for real squats or deadlifts.
Seated Crunch Machine
This is the most tempting weight machine to use for a lot of gym goers, lured by visions of perfect abs. And at face value, it seems like that’s exactly what the seated crunch machine can deliver…
…if it weren’t for two major flaws.
For one, a lot of people sit for the majority of their work day, usually in a hunched position if you’re on a computer. The natural tendency to sit with a rounded upper back is negatively reinforced by seated crunch machines, meaning it can make bad posture even worse.
The second reason is straightforward: research suggests that crunches are ill-advised for good lower back health.
What You Should Do Instead: Forget sets upon sets of crunches that’s old school, Rocky Balboa-like training. Instead, try alternative abdominal exercises that pushes your core strength and stability, like plank variations.
If you’re unsure of which weight machines are safe, and where free weights are optimal, SEMI’s professional fitness trainers in Toronto can devise a workout circuit to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Join us in our modern studio settings, and take advantage of the private environment, so you can focus entirely on your exercises zero distractions.
Call us at 1-855-572-9177, or book an appointment today!