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Which is the Best Exercise Tool, High-tech Machines or Free Weights?


Which is the best exercise tool, high tech machines or free weights?

You may find this information laborious; however, it is necessary to outline the differences between high-tech and non-high tech equipment for the purpose of producing maximum fitness in minimum time.

Much of the equipment on the market is virtually useless. Only by knowing the basic principal of design and function - of not only the human body, but also equipment, can one decide the most time efficient means to exercise. With that goal in mind, we offer the following:

Once upon a time, the horse was the fastest form of transportation. If one's goal was to get from point A to point B, the horse was faster than walking.

Those without much time to waste took a horse, arriving quickly at the destination. Others has walked and eventually reached the destination.

Presently, the fastest form of transportation is a jet airplane.If one's goal is to get from the East Coast to the West Coast, as quickly and safely as possible, the airplane is the best choice.

So it is in the choosing between non high-tech exercise equipment and high-tech equipment.

Non high-tech is today's equivalent of the horse. High-tech equipment is today's equivalent of jets. This is not to claim that, the proper use of free weights and other non high-tech equipment cannot be beneficial; however, for maximum results in minimum time there is no comparison.

The functions of the human body demands you use of an exercise tool design that includes certain biomechanical parameters lacking in non high-tech equipment. Function dictates design.

One major reason is the body stability provided by high tech equipment. We are all aware of the laws of force-counter force and the stresses placed on the body during exercise.

The support supplied to the body, when lying or sitting, during high tech exercise, helps stabilize the body, absorb counter force, and allows one to monitor and maintain proper body position.

This effectual eliminates unwanted stress to other body segments and eliminates injury during exercise.

Free weights, when used with various benches and seats can help modify some of the problems associated with force counter--force. However, not as well as machines do.

There are also many other bodily requirements for productive exercise, which only properly designed high-tech equipment can provide

Barbells were a quantum forward leap, because they allowed the basic requirement of productive exercise: Resistance, to be applied to a contracting muscle, with greater effectiveness than previously existing tools.

In truth, it does not matter to a muscle if one is lifting a 50 pound sack of sugar or a 50 pound barbell. The major difference is the comfort factor.

Performing a barbell exercise is easier. One major reason is one can grip it better than a sack of sugar. To the muscles doing the work, it is still 50 pounds. The amount of resistance used determines the amount of muscle fibers contracted.

Just as barbells were a quantum leap, so is high-tech equipment when compared to barbells. Application of resistance (the basic principle of progressive exercise and pro-active physical therapy) improves to a contracting muscle.

However, not all high-tech equipment incorporates all the requirements of maximum progress. Some of the requirements' one should consider are:

Positive and Negative Resistance

A properly designed exercise tool MUST provide two aspects of resistance. Resistance provided as one lifts and resistance must be supplied as one lowers the resistance.

Sometimes called concentric or positive resistance, this aspect takes place when one is contracting or shortening a muscle. Lowering resistance or eccentric, negative movement and takes place as one uncontracts or allows the muscle to lengthen.

Along with positive and negative resistance potentials, the ability to stretch and pre-stretch a muscle is essential with an exercise tool.

Pre-stretch and Stretching

Stretching is pushing or pulling a body part into a position temporarily exceeding the existing "normal" range of motion. It relates to the angels of the joints, muscles, and connective tissue.

Pre-stretching takes place when a muscle moves into a position of increased tension just prior to the start of a positive contraction. Pre-stretch has two effects that result in greater benefits:

(1) The muscle is elastic, just like a rubber band, and stretching it slightly, just before movement, actually produces elastic energy that can be used in the contraction and help you use more resistance.(2) Pre-stretch ignites a nervous system stretch reflex that calls upon additional muscle fibers, for use in the upcoming movement

Now, we have established four requirements for full range, maximally productive exercise. They are:

1. Positive work: Lifting the resistance.

2. Negative work: Lowering resistance.

3. Stretching: A slight lengthening of a muscle groups.

4. Pre-stretching: Takes place in a slightly extreme range just before the stretch. It must be done carefully and with minimal speed.

5. Balanced Resistance and Variable Resistance

As muscles contract and move through a range of motion, they do so with varying degrees of movement and strength potentials. This is a natural consequence of muscular contraction and human movement.

You are aware it is possible to handle more resistance in some exercises than others. You may not be aware that as one performs an exercise, the muscles involved, are also changing strength levels as they move.

That's one reason why some positions of a movement feel easier than others, although the weight remains constant.

Because muscles have a variable strength potential as they move, it logically follows that, the resistance should vary according to the actual muscle strength potential.

This is termed automatically variable resistance when incorporated into a high-tech machine design. When referring to the various muscle groups and varying strength potentials, it is termed balanced resistance.

High-Tech equipment should provide automatically variable resistance and balanced resistance. The resistance should vary automatically, and according to the strength potential, as one move through a range of motion. With barbells, the resistance does not vary.

We have now established, two more requirements for a superior exercise tool, neither of which barbells supply:

6. Balanced resistance: Resistance that is neither too light nor too heavy.

7. Automatically variable resistance: The resistance varies within the range-of-motion and in accord with a particular muscle group's strength potential.

8. Unrestricted Speed-of-Movement

Although it should be possible to perform exercise movements at various speeds for high intensity contractions, throwing the resistance is not beneficial. However, unrestricted speed of movement is a requirement. Barbells supply this requirement as does high-tech equipment.

For best results, perform movements rather slowly. As an example: the positive portion of the movement should take about 4 seconds, the negative portion about 4 seconds (as a safe example).

By controlling the movement, the muscle is contracting always. A fast speed of movement to is potentially dangerous.

It compounds the force. First at the sudden, jerky start. Then again, as the resistance bangs into a body part, at its final destination point.If a muscle is not prepared for the beginning sudden jerk, injury is a possibility.

9. Resistance In The Fully Contracted Position

Unless resistance exists in the position of full muscular contraction, it is impossible to exercise a muscle through its full range-of-motion. That is basic premise of full-range exercise.

Many but not all high tech machines provide proper variable and balanced resistance, in the position of full muscular contraction. Other forms of exercise tools, such as barbells, do not. Therefore, it would indicate that resistance is not supplied full-range, only partial-range. This lessens the exercise potential.

For instance, in the two-arm curling motion using a barbell, there is no affective resistance supplied to your biceps muscle in the fully contracted position.

With properly designed high tech equipment, there is resistance in this position.

We already understand that resistance, properly supplied, is the key to maximum results in exercise.

10. Direct Resistance

When possible, resistance must exist directly to the muscle under contraction to insure best results. Two similar exercises we can compare are the two-arm chinning movement and a high-tech pullover machine.

When performing a two-arm chinning movement, you will provide resistance to the latissimus dorsi and biceps of the upper body (among other muscles). During the movement, the biceps will fatigue before the larger, stronger back muscles.

Therefore, you would not exercise the latissimus dorsi muscles as effectively, because of the weak link.

High tech pullover machines supply resistance of a higher quality to the latissimus dorsi muscle groups. By removing the weak link, in the two arms chinning movement and applying the resistance pads to the upper arms near the elbows' one works the back muscles thoroughly.

When one fails to continue movement, due to muscular fatigue, the primary muscles fail, not a weaker link in the chain.

11. Full-Range Resistance

Muscle contraction provides movement of one or more body segments. These segments have what can be termed a complete or full-range possibility.

Ideally, one should be able to exercise a body segment through a full-range of movement. Naturally, an injury may prevent this from happening; however, the goal is too to improved full-range movement.

This requirement rotary form movement is the hardest to visualize. In simple terms, it is: Resistance moving on a common axis with a body segment being moved by muscle contraction.

One excellent invention in the history of exercise is a device called the cam. It is a cam that allows the experienced of maximally productive exercise.

In simple terms, the function of a cam is as follows:

A cam redirects resistance, so it travels in the same strength curve as the exercised body segment. The resistance is re-directed to travel in a rotary motion and in the same strength curve of the moving body segment. At the same time the resistance is directly OPPOSITE the intended movement.

This assures resistance, typically provided by a weight stack. The lifting of the weight stack takes place through either cables or chains attached to it.

The cables or chains attach to the cam system and as the cam rotates, the cables or chains wrap around the cam. The radius of the cam that the chain wraps into varies.

The distance from the center mark of the cam radius, to the point where the chain touches as it wraps, determines the varying (and supposed balanced resistance). The touching point of the chain is directly opposite the direction of muscle contraction.

Barbells and some other forms of exercise equipment do not supply resistance in this manner. They supply resistance in a straight line manner, always directly down toward the ground, always depending on gravity.

Effective resistance is when you are moving the barbell vertically, directly opposite the pull of gravity.

A cam changes straight-line resistance (gravity) into rotational resistance. This allows the resistance to travel in a curve always pulling directly away from your movement.

Because barbells and some exercise machines can meet only some of the requirements we have listed, it follows that high-tech has the potential to improve one's fitness results.

The QUALITY of the resistance is the final determining factor, determining which exercise tool provides best results.

Calisthenics and aerobic dance supply minimal resistance (arm legs, torso, and lower body).

Gymnastics type exercise can be more productive because a larger body mass is moved; therefore more resistance is handled by muscle groups.

Barbells, pulleys and the like are more productive than either of the two mentioned because, resistance adjusts according to one's fitness level.

The most effective method of exercise are High-Tech Machines, because they meet the requirements of offering the primary exercise needs of the body, full-range progressive resistance.

Author of numerous books, and national magazine articles with appearances on many radio and television programs.

Former Producer of Televison Programming for Nautilus SportsMedical Industries and former Regional Director of Northern California for MedX West Physical Testing Rehabilitation Equipment.

Former owner of numerous total fitness and physical therapy centers.

Former IFBB and AAU physique judge.

Former competitor and title winner in Strong Man Contests.

Latest book: The Da Vinci Fitness Code

Veteran U.S Air Force


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