The Use of Gym Machines
by James Bullock

Using gym machines

I am not a fan of gym machines, but I recognize that they do have their place in the realm of training and even performance.

There are basically two types of machines in most gyms:

  • Selectorized: These have a fixed weight stack, a cable and are very limited in regards to range of motion. In most instances these gym machines specifically were built with little regard to proper bio-mechanics of the human body. Typically these machines are built for an average size person, whatever the hell that means (?).
  • Plate-Loaded: These gym machines utilize a lever system and you add weight plates to them. In recent years, companies like Hammer Strength have made some really great training equipment of this type. Out of all of the plate-loaded machines I have used, there are only about two or three that I wouldn’t suggest anyone uses. The one common problem I have found with all of them is that you are limited to the amount of weight you can physically add, so eventually, you outgrow the machine. There are ways to work around this limitation using bands and such, but in many cases the required set up time is simply not worth the effort.

I can’t remember how many times I would try a new machine and my body is screaming WTH are you doing? It just felt wrong in the muscle, joint or wherever. And NO, IT IS NOT HARDCORE TO JUST SUCK IT UP AND DO IT ANYWAY. IT’S CALLED STUPIDITY.

DO NOT EVER, EVER - did I mention EVER?!? - use a machine exercise as a primary movement, regardless of your training goals! (The only exception in my opinion is if you are injured.) FREE WEIGHTS will always reign supreme in the world of strength and fitness; your primary movements should always be free weight compound movements. Your stabilizers are forced to work and compensate for things when you are using free weights. Machines run on a fixed axis, eliminating the need for the stabilizers. So if you are going to use machines to add more volume or what have you to your workout regime, then add them after your main FREE WEIGHT lifts.

James Bullock

Strength and Honor

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About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

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