Content of article
1. Controlling mechanical overload and path of motion
Some coaches/trainers stay away from these thinking that ‘it’s too simple’ or even ‘I’m not needed’, due to the ease of use and minimal technical coaching required compared to the impressive, more technically advanced, barbell work you can do.
Definition here is ‘weight which is not connected to a fixed machine’. I have included accessories in this category as they are adding load to the body like a barbell, just with less weight and a different shape.
Free weights are seen by most as the ‘king of the gym’ for strength training, however, again, they should only be used when needed. Not everybody needs to do a barbell squat.
Mechanical overload is the amount of physical force placed on a muscle and is essential for stimulating muscle growth. Compound barbell lifts require optimal range-of-motion from a number of joints.
If one of those joints does not function properly, it could cause an injury. Because exercise machines control the path of motion and place the greatest amount of force where a muscle is the strongest, it can be a safe way to apply the overload necessary to stimulate muscle growth.
There are two components of muscle: the elastic component of fascia and the connective tissue responsible for providing shape and transmitting forces from one section of muscle to another, and the contractile element of the actin and myosin protein filaments responsible for controlling muscle contractions.
Improving muscle size and strength requires using external resistance to stimulate the contractile element to become capable of generating higher levels of force. Machine training can be extremely effective for achieving this outcome.
You will find weight machines at every health club but some people find them really complicated. This article explains what these machines are, how they work and what their advantages are.
Weight machines are easy to operate. You start by adjusting your seat and then either push or pull a bar or a set of handles. The handles are connected to a chain, cable or lever that are connected to a stack of rectangular-shaped weights, weighing 5-50 pounds. To lift 20 pounds you simply stick a metal peg through the hole of the 30-pound weight.
Here are some of the reasons why you should use weight machines in your workout:
- They are safe. They are ideal for beginners because if you run out of strength during an exercise you can let go without fear of a heavy weight dropping on your body.
- They require little balance or coordination. Most weight machines hold your body in the correct position unlike «free weights.» For example, if you do a shoulder press on a weight machine you just sit on a chair and push the handles up but with a barbell you have to not only push the bar up but stay steady and balanced at the same time.
- You can work on specific muscles. Traditional weight machines let you focus on one muscle, which is great if you’re trying to correct a specific weakness. An example of this is where you want to strengthen your hamstrings or rear thigh muscles. There is a weight machine that holds your body in position while you bend your legs and target your hamstrings. If you use free weights to accomplish the same task you’ll probably end up working your front-thigh and butt muscles too.
- Faster workouts. With weight machines you can set up the exercise much quicker than you can with free weights. You simply adjust the seat (if necessary) and stick the metal peg through a hole instead of removing free weights off a rack and sliding them on and off a barbell. Also, gyms and health clubs usually have weight machines grouped together, which make it quick and easy to move between them and enables you to complete a whole body workout in about 20 minutes.
- Can be boring. After a while, you and your muscles will probably get bored of using machines. So, mix in some free weights after a while and learn to strengthen the same muscles with different exercises.
- Don’t fit every body. Most machines are designed for people who are between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 2 inches tall. So, if you’re outside this range the machine may feel uncomfortable. If that’s the case, try another machine or choose free weights to target the same muscle group.
- Isolate each muscle group. This can be an advantage (see above) but it can be a disadvantage because it’s not how our muscles work in our daily lives. In everyday life, our muscles work in groups so it makes sense to work them in the same way in the gym.
- You can’t take them with you. If you’re going away on business or vacation you won’t be able to take weight machines with you, so take some free weights with you and you’ll have no excuse not to workout!
Hopefully, after reading this article you’re not intimidated by weight machines, are persuaded that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and are ready to incorporate them in your workouts.
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3. Creating metabolic overload
Metabolic overload occurs when a muscle is required to work to a point of momentary fatigue and does not have the energy to generate another contraction. Muscle growth occurs either as a result of mechanical or metabolic overload.
A long-time bodybuilding secret for achieving rapid muscle growth is the use of drop sets, which involves doing an exercise to the point of momentary fatigue, immediately lowering (dropping) the weight, and then continuing to the next point of exhaustion.