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Thread: Training Advice please

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by CL View Post
    Indeed. I'd like those who preach the superiority of free and body weights to show me an exercise that will work the calf muscles harder than a calf raise machine; or an exercise that works the quads harder than a leg extension machine. And so on......

    Then there is the safety factor. Those who don't have the assistance of spotters never push themselves hard enough with free weights in some exercises. Look at the bench press. People stop far short of fatigue in that exercise because they don't want a big weight stuck on their chests. No such problem with a good quality bench press machine.
    I don't think anybody would try to suggest that machines don't work the muscles. Of course they do, as you quite rightly say. However our bodies work in a chain of connecting muscles, joints, and other bits (as you can see I'm not being too scientific here!).

    Using a leg extension will undoubtedly strengthen the quads, but if you only strengthen the primary muscles and nothing in between, this is not how the body works. Which is why, for example squats would be a better general excercise as it works the full leg to various extents, as well as the arse, and the core.

    You may well lift more with a bench press machine, but doing a free weight bench press at potentially a lower weight will (in my opinion) be a better exercise for your body overall. I would suggest that doing the bench press with free weights has pinpointed somewhere in the chain where you are not strong enough to lift heavier, and you are just bypassing this by using a machine all the time.

    I certainly use machines to target individual muscles occasionally, but your day-to-day set of exercises are probably best off being compound type movements with free weights where possible.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by CL View Post
    Indeed. I'd like those who preach the superiority of free and body weights to show me an exercise that will work the calf muscles harder than a calf raise machine; or an exercise that works the quads harder than a leg extension machine. And so on......

    Then there is the safety factor. Those who don't have the assistance of spotters never push themselves hard enough with free weights in some exercises. Look at the bench press. People stop far short of fatigue in that exercise because they don't want a big weight stuck on their chests. No such problem with a good quality bench press machine.
    My two-penneth worth.

    Agree that the calf raise machine is excellent for a straight leg calf raise.

    Completely disagree on the safety of free weights. You can very safely push yourself (without a spotter) with free weights if you use correct technique and the intended safety equipment - mainly a power cage. If you are unsure what this is or how to use it then ask an instructor to show you, or take a look at stronglifts.com.

    In my opinion the leg extension machine should be avoided or used with extreme caution. There are a number of problems with it; any machine with a hinge is unlikely to line up precisely with your own joints (think of the implications of that when using heavy loads to the point of failure), even when perfectly aligned it places shear forces on the knee joint, it is an isolation exercise (generally not brilliant for functional strength and can create muscle imbalances) and can put the back into an unnatural position.

    If you follow a proper strength training routine built around the free weight squat I can guarantee you won't be worrying about not pushing yourself to failure on isolation exercises!
    Last edited by Robola; 12-05-2017 at 12:14 PM. Reason: grammar

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travs View Post
    I don't think anybody would try to suggest that machines don't work the muscles. Of course they do, as you quite rightly say. However our bodies work in a chain of connecting muscles, joints, and other bits (as you can see I'm not being too scientific here!).

    Using a leg extension will undoubtedly strengthen the quads, but if you only strengthen the primary muscles and nothing in between, this is not how the body works. Which is why, for example squats would be a better general excercise as it works the full leg to various extents, as well as the arse, and the core.

    You may well lift more with a bench press machine, but doing a free weight bench press at potentially a lower weight will (in my opinion) be a better exercise for your body overall. I would suggest that doing the bench press with free weights has pinpointed somewhere in the chain where you are not strong enough to lift heavier, and you are just bypassing this by using a machine all the time.

    I certainly use machines to target individual muscles occasionally, but your day-to-day set of exercises are probably best off being compound type movements with free weights where possible.
    Neither does the squat work all the chain of muscles. It hardly does anything for the hamstrings and calf muscles. It also does very little for the quads in the top part of the movement. To train these muscles effectively so an imbalance of strength doesn't occur you have to use machines for best results.

    I was never suggesting that you could use a leg extension to train the hamstrings or calves or buttocks. Or even that you should avoid a balanced routine. I'm saying that some machines should be used if you want to develop optimal strength throughout the body. In fact free weight and body weight exercises used in isolation create the very problems you wrote about.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robola View Post
    My two-penneth worth.

    Agree that the calf raise machine is excellent for a straight leg calf raise.

    Completely disagree on the safety of free weights. You can very safely push yourself (without a spotter) with free weights if you use correct technique and the intended safety equipment - mainly a power cage. If you are unsure what this is or how to use it then ask an instructor to show you, or take a look at stronglifts.com.

    In my opinion the leg extension machine should be avoided or used with extreme caution. There are a number of problems with it; any machine with a hinge is unlikely to line up precisely with your own joints (think of the implications of that when using heavy loads to the point of failure), even when perfectly aligned it places shear forces on the knee joint, it is an isolation exercise (generally not brilliant for functional strength and can create muscle imbalances) and can put the back into an unnatural position.

    If you follow a proper strength training routine built around the free weight squat I can guarantee you won't be worrying about not pushing yourself to failure on isolation exercises!
    Are you arguing that the leg extension puts more strain on the knees than squats?

    I'm not against free weight exercises and I'm aware of the safety measures when using free weights. But the average trainee will not have access to these in most gyms. Therefore to train safely whilst keeping the intensity and confidence high one must use machines.

    Just one other point. In most cases using a cage with free weights nearly always decreases the range of motion in an exercise. That can happen with machines but its more easily compensated/adjusted for.

  5. #15
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    It's not just about strengthening the muscles though. What about everything between your muscles.

    Although I tend to agree with you in part... If you are a regular runner then you are probably doing enough during the runs themselves to strengthen your joints and ligaments, and some supplemental machine work is only going to benefit you.

    Think you'll find if you go "arse to the ground" on your squats, you'll be bringing your hamstrings into play quite enough.

    I can completely understand the need to target specific muscles, hence the need to use machines, and not everybody has the knees/mobility/balance to perform a correct squat.... But to a newcomer to strength work, I would always point them in the direction of working on light squats before pointing them towards the machines.

    For the record my leg specific strength workout includes only squats and standing calf raises, although admittedly I do sometimes hit the machines for a quick blast. Although I come from a kickboxing background so I do already have a decent 'base' of strength in my legs.

  6. #16
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    Yes, a correctly performed squat puts very little stress on the knees. If somebody is unable to perform a squatting motion correctly then they would arguable benefit far more from mobility exercises than lifting weights of any description.

    I would say that for some people machines give a false sense of confidence and that they don't really need to concentrate on form at all. The number of people I see in the gym on phones etc while performing exercises is increasing all the time. This applies to both machines and free weights, but if you're holding a barbell you can't fiddle with a screen!

    The bars on a cage do require careful placement but they should not restrict your movement at all.

    I guess the message is that they all have their place, learn to use the stuff correctly, build up very slowly and don't spend too much time there as running is more fun!

  7. #17
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    Leg extension machines are rubbish, too much shear force on the knee joint. I've always liked the 45 degree inclined leg press personally, less stress on the lumbar spine, but that's just me and my bad back!
    Can't climb for toffee...

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travs View Post
    It's not just about strengthening the muscles though. What about everything between your muscles.

    Although I tend to agree with you in part... If you are a regular runner then you are probably doing enough during the runs themselves to strengthen your joints and ligaments, and some supplemental machine work is only going to benefit you.

    Think you'll find if you go "arse to the ground" on your squats, you'll be bringing your hamstrings into play quite enough.

    I can completely understand the need to target specific muscles, hence the need to use machines, and not everybody has the knees/mobility/balance to perform a correct squat.... But to a newcomer to strength work, I would always point them in the direction of working on light squats before pointing them towards the machines.

    For the record my leg specific strength workout includes only squats and standing calf raises, although admittedly I do sometimes hit the machines for a quick blast. Although I come from a kickboxing background so I do already have a decent 'base' of strength in my legs.
    But in the low part of the squat you're not working the hamstrings in any meaningful way. If the squat is an exercise for the quads and lower back it won't being doing much for the hamstrings except a little towards the top of the movement.

    That's the problem. If you do only squats you've created a weak link in the hamstring area and for a runner that is a bad thing because running makes good use of the hamstring area. The only way you can strengthen the hamstrings effectively is with machines. Not even straight leg deadlifts contract the hamstrings fully.

    Leg extensions and leg curls are superb exercises which should complement a free weight workout on the legs.
    Last edited by CL; 15-05-2017 at 08:02 PM. Reason: rearrange wording

  9. #19
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    One other thing on my mind. This argument that you shouldn't do leg exts but you should do squats because leg exts produce shearing forces but squats don't isn't true. What's the difference between the two exercises? The leg ext rotates the lower leg about the knee. The squat rotates the upper leg and body about the knee. The leg extension has the weight at the end of the rotating part and so does the squat. The rotating weight arm on the leg ext is fixed but the rotating weight arm (your body weight plus a barbell) on the squat isn't.

    It's clear from this comparison that any loss of balance on the squat can have serious consequences. But you can't lose your balance on a leg extension because the movement arm is fixed. That's why machines are safer. There are no significant balance issues to worry about.

  10. #20
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    I've no formal qualifications in physical training etc, can only go on my experience and what I've been taught. And I have to disagree with some of your points. I think that's pretty clear from the previous posts, so I'll refrain from going round in circles!

    But go out and do a heavy session of hamstring curls on a machine. Then attempt to do your usual level of squats. Then re-assess whether your hamstrings are needed for your squats.

    I think the best case scenario is to have squats as your go-to exercise, and yes certainly some supplemental machine work, if necessary, to help with any specific weaknesses. But I guess most runners have limited time in the gym and want the most "bang for their buck" and in their case I'd point them in the way of squats. The additional benefit being they can be performed without access to a gym if necessary.
    Last edited by Travs; 15-05-2017 at 09:15 PM.

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