Frontier Movement, Health and Healing in Action

What's Wrong with Machines

I have always loved the gym and I have done a gym workout routine for forty years. Six years ago, my gym was home to one of the largest, most unique collections of equipment in the Southeast, from state of the art modern pieces to 50-year-old pieces that are widely considered to have never been improved upon. Today I use none—not a single one and today there are thousands of trainers who are coming to the same conclusion.

The manufacturers of gym machines are responding to the demand for more functional, real-life movement, but a machine, by design, will always have great limitations. Workout without limitations—that sounds good, right? Well that is exactly what the global movement is all about.

Just as when children are left alone with a big cardboard box to play with, only their imagination limits the possibilities. Machines will always have their place as it will be very tough for commercial facilities to integrate this wide open, new world of fitness and health. Also, in the face of the big change, gym memberships have become quite cheap. Many people will also feel more comfortable using machines, as the wide open work requires a wide open mind. People often find this work intimidating as they must frequently face their own fears when operating “out of the box.”

Weight machines most often require us to sit down or lie down to work. Whether we are working the legs, chest, back, or arms, we are seated or lying down. Both positions create a disconnect. We disengage the core, which effectively negates the functional training connection that directly links upper body to lower. The purpose of these machines is to train muscles in isolation, which by design, eliminates the muscle synergy created in “real life” situations. The lying and seated positions also deliberately create STABILITY but injuries most often happen due to INSTABILITY because we slip, stumble or step on uneven ground.

Let us look at the movement we call “rowing.” We sit at the rowing machine and pull a handle (or rope) to our torso. A functional use of this motion might be to rake the yard. When we rake the yard, our whole body from our head to our toes is performing a symphony. The arms and shoulders reach and pull, the abdominal muscles contract and twist, the hips rotate and your legs constantly move and plant into a strong position to resist the pulling and twisting.

If you train each of these muscle groups in isolation they will only be strong in isolation. You will not have trained the synergistic muscles that functionally connect your lower, middle and upper body. In addition, you will not have learned to stabilize your body while working. This requires constant footwork on the ground and a neural imprint of precisely where your feet are and where they are going.

If you train these muscle groups together, they will be FUNCTIONALLY much stronger. Outside of the gym we do nothing with our muscles in isolation. The symphony is always playing. If you are a weekend athlete you will be stunned by the improvement in your game, no matter what game. Not only will you perform better, your risk of injury will be substantially reduced.

In my example of raking, Frontier Movement would greatly reduce the risk of back injuries commonly associated with this chore. If we row at a machine and we become strong while seated, we automatically think we can pull a bigger load but the bigger load will likely expose the weak link, in this case the back or core which has not been trained as an integral part of the relevant movement.

Using a chest machine while seated or lying down also gives total back support and disengages the core while a push up or standing cable chest press totally engages and challenges not only the core but the legs as well. Unless you are extremely strong and forgot you car jack, you will never need a pushing motion where you will have total back support as on a machine. It is more likely that you may participate in pushing a car one day (or a lawn mower) and you will find that functional training movements serve you best.

I can go through an entire fully loaded commercial gym and show you MANY non-machine movements that will give you all the benefits of ANY machine PLUS integrate that isolated movement into a functional real life movement that has an entire package of benefits for the whole body.

I had the great fortune of guiding 40 clients through six to ten years of primarily machine training and then taking those same clients directly into “machineless” training. The healing results defy the imagination. The same clients whose bad knee, shoulder, ankle, and (especially) backs persisted through all workout and healing modalities were totally healed while working without machines. Learn more in our Self Healing section.

Furthermore we all have improved our sports and recreation abilities. The greatest testament of all would be to speak to my clients, who have participated in a great clinical trial as we moved from traditional gym work to the ultimate workout. Their Testimonials tell all.

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