Old-fashioned fix to problems of our machine-age era

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Words by Simon Margheritini for The Australian

Weight machines—the complex cable-and-pulley contraptions that dominate most gyms—are a practical and safe means of resistance training.

They're easy to operate and they isolate the muscles you want to work on. But that very isolation could be the factor that means weight machines actually hinder your progress in the gym.

With machine weights, there is no transfer of load to other muscles. This means that with an exercise such as the leg extension, there is contraction of your thigh muscles (quadriceps) with no contraction of the hamstrings. This promotes a shearing force through the knee.

It is a type of exercise that does not replicate everyday life. Compare that with a squat and lunge, where all muscles are working in harmony, just as they do in everyday life.

It is important to note that we must continue to exercise as if we were hunter-gatherers and perform big-muscle exercises such as push ups, pull ups, squats, deadlifts and lunges.

Of course, it's important to keep good form and seek professional help to make sure you learn correct techniques. But often you don't have to go too far for inspiration.

Take a look at children between the ages of 3 and 5. They have an incredible ability to perform these actions.

A four-year-old picking up a basketball from the ground will generally have perfect posture. But as people age their posture begins to diminish. As adults we slump in front of the television, sit in front of computers and behind steering wheels for hours each day — all of which erode good posture.

Doing exercises that replicate the activities of our hunter-gatherer ancestors will help to dramatically improve posture and will give you better results in a shorter time — a major help for those of us who are time-poor.

And such exercises are simpler and much more effective than using weight machines.

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