Fit 4 Life | Machines: the pros and cons
While the versatility and effectiveness of free weights are well documented, exercise machines also offer several benefits worth exploring.
There are machines designed to target every aspect of training. The main advantage to be derived from (most) exercise machines is safety. In fact, many machines are specifically designed to improve safety while maintaining the effectiveness of an exercise.
Stair climbers and elliptical machines, for example, are supposed to provide the training benefits of climbing stairs without the stress that that activity places on the joints, especially the knees.
Machines provide much more than safety though. They are:
EASY TO USE
Unlike free weights or body-weight movements, the range of motion is generally limited when using machines. As a result, most machines are easy to use. Beginners who struggle to find proper form using other training technologies tend to feel at home using most machines.
GREAT FOR MAXIMUM ISOLATION
A controlled range of motion means less reliance on other muscles for stability and limitation. The target muscle is, therefore, allowed to work as much as it can without being aided by other muscles and the exercise less likely to be derailed by another muscle becoming fatigued.
REDUCE TRAINING STRESS ON JOINTS
One issue common to many movements used in training is excessive orthopaedic stress. Machine design reduces this stress, thereby cutting the risk of injury.
CONVENIENT TO USE
Machines allow you to use training methodologies that would usually be limited by space, time of day, weather, and other factors, from the comfort of your home or gym.
Treadmills allow you to run without setting foot outside; stair climbers let you climb all the stairs you want without touching any actual stairs at all. From rowing machines to exercise bikes, machines offer convenience.
Machines do have their issues, however.
The first thing to consider when exploring exercise machines is the cost. Machines are generally expensive - a problem you do not have to worry about if you are a member of a large gym. The disadvantages go far beyond price, however. You can have too much of a good thing, and this quickly becomes the case if your training is solely machine based.
ISOLATION CAN BE A PROBLEM
Isolation becomes a problem if all you are having is isolation. Compound and functional movements, as well as variety, are required to develop synergy and functional strength, without which training quickly become stale and ineffective. Isolation also means machines cater specifically to either a movement or muscle group. The problem here is that you now need several machines to target more areas of the body. That, or one machine so big it might as well be five separate pieces. Neither is ideal where space or budget constraints exist.
CAN LIMIT TRAINING
Machines sometimes limit the very training they were designed to improve. Controlled range, plane, and speed of motion can rule out many useful training techniques; such as compensatory acceleration training (CAT) or partial rep training.
CAN BE DIFFICULT TO USE
Because machines are designed for the average person, if you are taller, shorter or otherwise different, you might also find them difficult to use.
With the pros and cons in mind, it is up to you and/or your trainer to develop a programme that carefully utilises different training technologies and methodologies to achieve the desired results.