Many years ago I started my gym routine using strength machines and did circuit training.
I was extremely intimidated by the free weights area and the people who worked out in it. Those people looked strong, were moving around big weights, and the women looked fierce and powerful.
I was afraid to even pick up a dumbbell because of what other people will think of me if I didn’t know what I was doing with it.
Would they be laughing at me behind my back?
Would they make fun of my form with other people on the floor?
Back then YouTube and Google didn’t exist yet. (I know I’m probably dating myself here…)
I started to develop anxious, self-defeating thoughts about lifting weights when I walked from the parking lot to the entrance of the gym.
After years of just doing cardio I became skinny fat. Although I could still fit into the same size clothes I wore in highschool in college I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I was extremely self-conscious about my body and insecure about it.
I knew I had to start doing weights in the gym but I had no clue where to start. The amount of gymtimidation I felt while at the gym had me hiding and working out on the strength machines for years.
That was the BIGGEST MISTAKE I made when trying to get toned and strong. It set me back from getting results for many years.
Here’s why using strength machines stopped me from seeing results.
Machines have you sitting down to focus on isolated muscles.
First you do enough sitting everyday why are you at the gym to do more sitting on a machine? Aren’t you supposed to be moving around and be active?
In life your body and all of its muscles are designed to move together as a unit. They are connected and function together. When you isolate to work on one muscle group on the machine you don’t burn as many calories and you definitely do not get as toned and strong if you worked out with free weights.
Because you are mostly sitting down on machines you don’t have the opportunity to work on your balance, engage the surrounding muscles, and engage your core abdominal muscles. You want to build a base foundation of overall strength and muscle. Machines will not give you that.
Machines are awkward and limited.
When I walk past the machine section at the 24 Hour Fitness I think why does the design of the machines have to be so complicated? It’s like the engineers who created it thought it would look cool not thinking of how many ways it could break down and how users would feel on the machines. I’m betting that the people who designed these machines don’t even use them themselves!
The machines mimic human movement but it’s not actually how we move. The motions machines have you doing is not how you move in real life! They don’t capture the entire range of motion of the human joint which is what you want in order to build true strength.
Why would you keep putting in repetitions for a motion that you’re not using in real life?! It doesn’t make any sense but it makes you feel like you’re getting a good workout with no results to show for it.
Machines are designed for one size fits all.
I totally get that you can adjust the seat height and that there are a number of adjustments you can make on a machine to make it more suitable for you but they are not designed to be customized for everyone.
During those years I spent on the strength machines it didn’t really occur to me that the machines weren’t suited for someone my size. I was a petite 5’4” women with narrow shoulders. The chest press handle widths were too wide though I could adjust the seat. That didn’t do me any good.
The range of motion of the leg press had the weights hitting the weight stack before I was in full squat stance because my legs were shorter. That didn’t do me any good either. Machines were full of limitations that I was unable to spot at the time and didn’t understand.
If you head straight for the strength machine area at the gym understand this...
Machines are bulky and not effective at working your muscles or building strength.
But they are inviting and not as intimidating as the free weights area because gyms are not in the business of making you healthier, they are in the business of making money. And if having machines invite more members in then that means it adds more money to their bottom line.
For novice lifters like yourself using machines is not the best use of your time and energy.
I wasted years on machines only to get discouraged, frustrated, and feel defeated because I wasn’t getting results I wanted.
I busted my butt in the gym on these machines only to see no visible progress.
Learn from my mistakes - free weights is the key to building toned muscles and getting strong.
I invite you to do something different
If you aren’t confident about where to start with free weights or you’re feeling discouraged because you’ve been battling with the same 5-10lbs and plateauing on your weight loss journey then I strongly recommend you do something different.
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Einstein