Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Step Away from the Machines

Let's get one thing straight from the very beginning: lifting weights and exercising on machines are two completely different activities. The Nautilus Bench Press machine is not equivalent to the plain ol' barbell Bench Press. If the exercise involves a stack of weights and a pin, or any sort of lever, gear or pulley, then it's NOT WEIGHTLIFTING.
I've posted once already about why free weights are superior to machines, so I won't rehash it all here. The short version: machines control the way you move, enable you to lift more weight without being stronger, increase your risk of injury, and do not build strength that is applicable in the real world.
So why do people continue to use machines? Ego. People want to be able to claim that they can "Bench" an impressive-sounding amount of weight, so they use machines for the simple reason that machines do some of the work for you, thus allowing you to lift more weight than if you used free weights.

I bring this up because Token Asian Roommate was a bit annoyed that a mutual friend claimed to have lifted more weight than TAR can. Of course, this friend was using machines. I told TAR not to worry about it, that the person used machines and that his inflated numbers were just that: inflated.

To drive the point home, we did a little experiment after our workout. We had already Bench Pressed for 5 sets of 5, but I took him over to our gym's Bench Press machine. He got on the machine, and I loaded it up with 140 pounds. He did 2 reps. I moved it up to 160 and he got 1 rep. Not too bad for a guy whose max on the barbell Bench Press stands at 115 pounds.

To further prove my point, I loaded the machine up to its maximum weight of 400 pounds and proceeded to do 5 reps. If I had 400 pounds above me on a barbell, it would crash to my chest the instant I unlocked my elbows, and I'd be headed to the hospital.

So, to conclude: working out on machines is not the same as lifting weights. The "strength" you build on machines will not translate to free weights or to real-life movements. If you're using machines now, switch to free weights. You might have to check the ego at the door and use less weight at first, but stick to free weights and you'll get stronger than you ever could by using machines.

Training 1-30-08

5 x 5 x 255

5 x 5 x 230

5 x 330

12, 9, 7

1 Arm DB Snatch
3 x 5 x 70

Comments: Morning Squats again. Bleh. 4 and 5 were ugly on most sets, but they got done. Bench Press 5x5 felt easy! Solid Deadlifts, the weight came up easy. Glad to continue progressing on Pullups. Again, DB Snatch for torso strength and overhead stabilization.

Friday's a light day -- I'll keep the weight the same and go 3x3 instead of 5x5. Why, you ask? Find out on Friday!


AT22 said...

On rest periods, what do you do on your days off? From your training posted here, it appears you are "training" every other or every third day, as you suggest.

Glad I found the blog! Thanks!

Lucas said...

On my days off, I either do nothing (well, I wake up, go to work, etc., but no workout) or do a bit of conditioning via a Monkey Bar Gym workout or a heavily scaled-down Crossfit metcon workout. Both are good ways to keep a solid base level of conditioning, and if you scale down as needed, they won't interfere too much with your recovery between lifting days.

I'm glad you found the blog, too! It's nice to know that some folks out there enjoy it!