Machines have come a long way over the years. Back in the 1970’s when the first sets of Nautilus machines hit the gyms, they were a revelation. No longer were workouts confined to dumbbells and barbells. From there multiple lines have arisen with their own styles of machines. By now most design are fairly similar and most work quite well.
But there are a few machines you should be wary of.
Along with machines there are also other standbys which can be labeled as machines but have been around much longer than the 1970’s. In all cases it is not that the exercises themselves are that bad. It is more that the position you place yourself in leaves your body, and specifically joints, vulnerable to an injury from repetitive stress and damage.
Use at Your Own Risk
- Seated Leg Extensions – Everyone does these so they can’t be bad right? The actual motion you are performing is quite unnatural considering how the body is built and used. Can you think of any situation where you would do this motion with resistance in that location? It puts a lot of stress around the kneecap especially those people that use incredibly heavy weight. Perform sissy squats or one-legged bodyweight squats instead.
- Seated Shoulder Presses – From a bio-mechanic standpoint the body is designed to use the hips and legs to assist the shoulders with pressing motions. When you are seated this cannot happen and the shoulders can be left in a vulnerable spot. Free weight standing presses using dumbbells or a barbell are much better on the shoulder joint.
- Behind the Neck Pulldowns – Most people cannot master the form on this movement because it requires a great deal of shoulder flexibility. Instead they end up either damaging the rotator cuff by going to heavy or end up pinching the shoulder joints causing issues with the shoulder girdle. The only useful way to do this exercise is slowly with light weight.
- Seated Leg Press – Again from a functionality standpoint this exercise does not allow the body to utilize the hips, glutes, and lower back as much as they should be used when lifting heavy weight. When you squat the body is using all of those muscles plus the quadriceps and hamstrings. But in the leg press people routinely pile on incredible amounts of weight (more than they squat) and expect fewer muscles to lift the weight. At the same time the weight is pushing towards the spine at an angle where it receives little or no support.
- Seated Hip Abductor – This machine states it will train the outer thighs but has you perform a seated motion that is rather useless. Using too much weight and bad technique will result in possible injuries to the hips and spine. Instead do dumbbell lunges which work the thigh very effectively.
It is always funny when you hear people say they won’t do an exercise like squats because it is so dangerous and bad for the back and knees. Yet these same people will pile excessive weight on both leg press and leg extension machines and perform unnatural motions that the body was not built for. Whenever you are using a machine try and see if it feels natural. If the motion doesn’t then there is a good possibility that it is not very effective for you because it doesn’t always reflect a functional use of your muscles.