Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Not Weight Machines?

I often get asked about training on machines.  The clients and athletes I work with notice that, with very few exceptions for specific circumstances, we don't use any of the numerous selectorized resistance training machines that take up the majority of floor space in the "strength" area(s) of most gyms.

The full answer is really a longer discussion that can't be fully hashed out in the short break between sets. And since I often don't get to see my clients and athletes outside of training time, I feel that I never really get the chance to give them a fully satisfactory answer.  I've posted on this topic - not addressing it directly, but essentially talking about it - a while back here and here.  But I still have yet to address it in full here on this blog.

So, to this point, I probably have not yet given most of my clients and athletes a fully satisfying answer as to why we don't use machines.   Enough of an answer to satisfy them for the moment?  Probably.  But not to fully explain in all detail.

Thanks to a former colleague of mine, Andrew, I had the opportunity to put together a succinct "elevator pitch" answer to this question.  Andrew posted this link on his facebook page, and commented: "or you can just deadlift, military press, and squat?"

Of course, I couldn't agree more!  One of Andrew's friends, a woman named Patricia who I don't know, then asked: "Why not? (This coming from someone who only ever went to a gym for physical therapy from an injury, but it seemed like the machine exercises helped.)"   And later in the discussion, followed up with: "Because the specific planes & axis of rotation are incomplete? or they create their own problems later? or they're just not the way we naturally move?"


Both are very valid questions, and I formulated the following answer.  It had to be short enough to be appropriate for a facebook comment, but long enough to cover the topic.  I thought it was pretty good.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments section!


Patricia - I won't claim to speak for Andrew, but I think he'd agree with me: the idea is that human beings live, move, and interact with a 3-D environment. We can train this way, and thus become better at moving in this environment through loading natural human movement patterns with external resistance. The Deadlift, Press, and Squat that Andrew mentioned are exactly that - loaded human movement. Machines, by their very definition, are not "human movement." Loaded - yes. They will work "muscle groups." But the aim of proper fitness is not to "work muscle groups," but to do loaded human movement, in order to maximize our ability to interact with the environment in which we live, and perform all our activities.

No Excuses: 1-Arm Edition

Ok, so I don't really recommend people do what this lady did:


With one arm in a sling, there are plenty of useful exercises you can still do.  While most barbell work is out, a lot of cable and dumbbell work can be done while working around the injured arm.

With that said, pulling a heavy deficit 1-arm straddle deadlift with one arm in a sling is probably not the best idea ever.  But you can't argue with her intensity, dedication, and effort here.  What's YOUR excuse?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interesting Fitness Stuff to Read

1. Dean Somerset recaps his weekend with Charlie Weingroff - For those who don't know, Charlie Weingroff is, to understate the case, a very smart individual when it comes to Strength & Conditioning.  He's a practicing Physical Therapist, a damn strong competitive powerlifter, and has led S&C programs at the highest levels.  Dean summarizes his top takeaway points from his "Weekend with Charlie."

2. Weightlifting: Triple Extension or Catapult? - To a weightlifting nerd like me, this was an important article.  There is a lot of debate in the current world of weightlifting regarding the most efficient set-up and pulling style.  You'd think, considering that unlike most sports, the lifts are ALWAYS exactly the same, that we'd have a consensus by now as to how they're best performed.  But we don't.  This article by Sean Waxman debunks the claim made by some coaches that the lifts are not a triple extension, but a flat-footed "catapult."

3. WOD Stupidity

Want to see a display of unbelievable workout stupidity?  Watch the video on that link.  Courtesy of some Crossfitters.

4. Chad Waterbury Interviews Dr. Stu McGil - Dr. McGill is one of the foremost experts in the world on spine safety and health.  He's interviewed here by Chad Waterbury, a well known strength coach, and anyone interested in learning more about health of the spine in relation to lifting heavy things, should check this out!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deadlift Progress Video

I haven't posted anything in a while - those long distance running posts made me tired!  (See what I did there?)  Seriously though, I was mentally exhausted and that soon became physical as well.  I've been under the weather for several days, and just not fully functioning.  I seem to be back at it today, and pulled this 460x3 to proved it (video below).

A 460x3 Deadlift at a bodyweight of about 240 is not really impressive for a serious lifter, but considering that I couldn't DL for 6 months, and had to start back again at about 275 in November, this is some good progress.

More content coming soon!  DL video below.   The best part is that the bar settled right between 2 rubber squares of the gym floor (oh how I’d love to have a good platform!), and I had to move it.  I didn’t realize the video was already recording, so you can hear my talented videographer, annoyed, say “Ya, I’ve been recording this entire time.” 


Looks like my bar placement relative to mid-foot could have been a bit better, and my chest squeeze-ups/isometric back extensions a bit stronger, but nothing glaringly bad about my form in these reps.


video