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Fitness myths that need to go – pt. 3

I’m continuing my series on fitness myths. Last week I discussed the myth that pulling exercises improve posture.

This week I want to dismantle the myth that free weight exercises are better than machine exercises.

Sometimes when opinion changes the pendulum swings way too far.

This is definitely true with machine based exercises.

Somewhere along the line, machines were demonized as “not functional” and left by the wayside for free weight exercises.

While free weight exercises typically provide a great stimulus to multiple areas (strength, stability, balance, range of motion, etc) machines can provide a more controlled, safer option in some scenarios. Rather than think about which is better, just think of these two modalities as DIFFERENT.

In particular, I think machines are useful when an individual cannot safely execute proper technique without dangerous compensation. Let me show you an example.

In the first picture, the woman cannot lift the free weights above her head without serious compensation in her lumbar spine. Ouch, it just hurts looking at this picture.

Conversely, the man has his spine fully supported by the bench allowing him to safely press overhead without additional strain through his low back.

This is just one example, but there are countless depending on the individual. A good rule of thumb is this: If you’re struggling to do a free weight exercise or you have pain doing the exercise, there’s a good chance a machine based exercise might be a better option.