What is behind the desire to participate in an exercise program for building strength and conditioning your body?
What do you define as strength?
If there is a notion of needing to build strength, this implies that you are not feeling strong enough. For what are you not strong enough to be able to do in your daily livelihood?
What do you wish to be able to accomplish with improving your strength?
How will you maintain your improvements in strength and conditioning? What will it require of you?
One of the simplest, time efficient, optimally outcome-based activity for strength, flexibility, core strength and spinal health, cardiovascular benefits, coordination, agility, and athleticism is a body weight-based training model. Static and dynamic movements can incorporate the above elements into a single movement or activity, such as a squat or press up. Many parts and systems can have demands placed upon them for improving their efficiency and function, therefore requiring less time promoting the outcomes you desire. Progression is dynamic, variable, creative, and often fun to participate in how to travel along your path of success.
Dance is another activity that can incorporate the above mentioned outcomes. It is a dynamic movement sequence that often requires some initial steps, foundations, and awareness exercises to be able to perform the activity without a great deal of un-necessitated compensations. Foundation practices and fundamentals are essential to the dance providing the best optimal outcome you desire without susceptibility to injuries or overuse conditions.
The use of machines with fixed axes of motions limit the mobility variations in every body. By fixing the leverage around an axis that mimics joint motion is a false sense of security or safety. In fact, it actually can cause harm over the long term if the use of the equipment is not in “alignment” with your body’s needs or does not adapt to your compensatory nature of movement. Efficient strength and conditioning is based on optimized movement versus “normal” movement practices.
Also most of the machines are in a seated or supine position which physiologically limits the utilization of the body’s full systems of biomechanics and functions, coordinations, and agilities available with standing activities.
Furthermore, the positions of performing the motion in the machine are within a base of support often not moving a limb outside the base of support causing a fixed pattern of movements close in. Core activity and implementing axial support requires the limbs to move in motions distal and in ranges away from narrow based support activities. The machines are engineered for a “normal” movement patterns and do not allow for variability in movement required for optimal function. The carryover of performing activities in the machines is that they have very little integration or application to real life activities.
If improving strength is a necessity in life and you wish to accomplish that through some external resistance, the best optimal activity with real life application would be with pulleys and cables. Diagonal patterns with different stance positions will give the individual the greatest results for time spent trying to improve strength.
It has been well researched that standing activities facilitate and coordinate a greater number of muscles for both the contraction and elongation responses to loads placed upon them. Also in place are balance mechanisms, foot and ankle strategies and core stabilizing facilitation using pulleys and cables. Angles can vary, and the freedom of a joint to be mobile and dynamically stabilized versus a fixed axis of motion will give the best possible integration and utilization of many body parts and systems to accomplish the demanding task. There is great carryover into real life activities.
A more dynamic approach to the cables and pulleys would be the use of Gyrotonics. These devices incorporate the above mentioned possibilities along with great dynamic challenge, core facilitation and freedom from fixed movement patterns to broaden the range of adaptability and mobility for true neurophysiological training that has the greatest potential, beyond body weight based training methods, for progression in coordination, agility, and athleticism.
If there is going to be a contractile strength building program, one key factor to consider is the necessity of implementing flexibility and fluidity training. This will require more time than a body weight based program because the activities performed are usually shortening muscle motions, or concentric contractions, which by nature are a shortening activity. If you’re going to incorporate a contractile strength building program, how do you hope to keep your strength or optimize your desired workout outcomes? And, what are you willing to give up to participate in a strategy that will require time, energy, and attention to keep up what you are trying to gain?
This article is not a “no go, don’t do it message” about your need to be stronger. Rather, I am writing to ask you consider the desire, the story you tell yourself behind the notion of not being strong enough. And consider what is required of you, and how you wish to participate in the feeding of the drive and expectations you set for the outcomes you desire.