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Are you training your body the way you move in life?

     I was recently at a health club and like to play “fly on the wall” and observe the patrons exercising and listen to the trainer’s with their clients.  We trainer’s and exercise enthusiast need to question the “general protocols” of common fitness regimens. According to research performed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, isolated strength/machine training decreases the co-contraction ability of joints, ligaments and muscles movement, which can increase your chances for injury.  In another recent study comparison of free motion (cable equipment, air cable equipment, dumbbells and barbells) to fixed range (selectorized strength training machines), this study illustrated free motion to be superior in strength and balance outcomes.  Fixed range machines are the majority of machines commonly used in conventional health clubs.  Additionally, in this 16 week study selecorized equipment participants reported increased pain levels compared to lower levels in the free motion equipment users.   The majority of selectorized machines do not address human movement; they address isolation muscle movement in one direction.   

     The typical health club setting can cause a user for a less functional moving body and possibly injury. Ones’ training should correlate to their living or sporting environment, unless you move in life sitting or play sitting then ask; “why should the majority of my training be sitting or lying”?  The majority of human movement is; standing, ground based, and resisting gravitational pulls in 360 degree movement paths.  So, one can either prepare the body for the daily encountered demands of life/sport(s) or avoid what your body will encounter.  Too often in today’s world of fitness, trainers and fitness enthusiasts succumb to going with the general flow of routines and machines and not asking “why”.  Too often protocols of exercises stem from a sheet full of exercises taken from several past years of bodybuilders saying they did this or that.  I am all for bodybuilding, if that is your goal.  To use the right tool for the right job, unfortunately the industry of trainers/fitness enthusiasts have sometimes applied that approach as a cookie cutter approach to all.  .  This “1” type of training has too often become applied across the board to all individuals who choose to exercise as the way to train.  The general approach of bodybuilding can be very beneficial for people who are looking to enlarge their muscles as much as possible.  I myself have performed and competed with bodybuilding approaches/exercises and to this day integrate some principles with myself and “some” clients who are interested with that goal.         

     What type of training is right for me, bodybuilding, strength endurance, functional, balance, Pilates, yoga etc…? They all can be right!  The question should be what is your desired outcome?  We all squat daily in life from the must mundane tasks of driving, sitting getting up from the chair, and going to the bathroom to the sport oriented task of a basketball player squatting and jumping up to get a ball.  I can not squat because of my knees, I say “how do you go to the bathroom” “or how do you sit down” or how do you pick something up off the ground?  If you can do that, you can squat!  We all rotate/twist.  When we walk or run the torso rotates slightly/significantly, to the more extreme when we play golf, tennis, ski, jog etc. the torso is constantly rotating.  We all balance on one leg!  When we walk for a split second the swing leg is in the air leaving the stabilizing leg alone on the ground.  To the more complex of running and any sporting event of stopping, twisting and turning left or right.  We all push and pull.  Ex. shoveling snow, gardening, picking up luggage or groceries etc...  And the majority of the previous mentioned human movements are performed while standing, not sitting or lying down.  So how is your training routine designed?  Is it designed as the majority of selectorized one directional (forward/backwards) machines are sitting down or lying down?  You should ask, since the majority of your living is performing tasks in the standing position, why then are you training sitting down or better yet why is the majority of “conventional exercise machines” designed to “de-train” your body.  Not to mention you will burn fewer calories in a seated/sitting down position as opposed to standing.

     When exercises are performed sitting down the majority of them take out a lot of accompanied muscles used in life.  The body works in unison with many muscles during human movements, not in isolation.  Therefore, think of training human movements of muscles, not muscle isolation movements.  That does not mean sitting or lying down exercises are all wrong.  So JD, remember this, when training for life and human movements think of the 80/20 rule 80% of the training should be standing and ground based and 20% if willing, seated or lying down.




Clark A M. Lucett C S. Corn J R. National Academy of Sports Medicine; Essentials of Personal fitness training 3rd edition 2008

Spennewyn C K. Strength outcomes in fixed versus free-form resistance equipment Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Vol 22 Number 1 Jan 2008


By: J.D. Reber MS & BS Exercise Science and health promotion CSCS, NASM-CPT