Aren’t all gyms created equal?

May 26, 2008

To the uninformed person, this question might seem very easy…they would most likely answer yes. However after starting to work at SST last year, it became apparent to me how different that training environment was to the health club gyms I’d been in since I was 16. Here is simply a closer look as to why the answer is really “NO, all gyms AREN’T created equal”

In most health club gyms, there will be a disproportionately large number of weight machines compared to free weights…at SST, this is the opposite. Our equipment is by far free weights, with a couple machines to perform movements which could not be performed with free weights. Now, we do primarily work with athletes at SST, however adults and older adults should not be told their bodies are inferior and relegated to the weight machine culture alive in health club gyms.

The main argument for the use of machines is that they are “Safer” than free weights. Safer because the trainee isn’t in danger of dropping the weight on their body because they are not required to stabilize the load they are lifting while they lift it. On the surface these people are right, however let’s look at it closer:

The proponents of machine-based training are essentially arguing that older trainees are not skilled at using their stabilizing muscles to stabilize loads they are lifting so we are not going to stress these smaller muscles because we could be putting the trainee at risk of injury.

I hope you can see how strange that sounds! Wouldn’t it be safer to TEACH THEM HOW TO STABILIZE loads they are lifting? If a trainee isn’t skilled at stabilizing external loads or their bodyweight, shouldn’t we as trainers be developing this stability instead of ignoring it and crossing the trainee off as a lost-cause?

You can probably tell I definitely think so!

And the only way to train these stabilizing muscles is with free weights…not with any of the numerous machines seen in health club gyms.

…unfortunately this doesn’t even scratch the surface of reasons why all gyms are NOT created equal.

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