I identified the most important question you can ask yourself when working out, which was “what do you want?”
But in walking around various gyms, I also figure that there’s a good runner up to that question. Ask yourself, “what am I doing?” when working out. I won’t because mocking people in the gym is bad form, and I don’t want them using all the good equipment. But seriously, those girls who stand next to the exer-bikes talking for a half-hour are getting a better workout.
I walk around gyms and see people using many of those worthless machines that inhabit a gym, like the leg inductor, the back thing in which you pull your back back in a weighted exercise, and plenty of bench press analogs. So much wasted time on small #muscle exercises or machine assisted BS.
Look, you’re either working out to lose fat or to be more athletically fit. Why are you wasting 5 minutes of your routine on a specious lower-back machine? What do you think that’s going to do for you? Nothing. That’s what.
Hints for you, the machine enthusiast, the small muscle group nerd, and the inchoate body builder.
Exercising small muscle groups…individual muscles…is basically madness. You want to exercise big muscle groups. If you isolate, you will be prone to injury. This goes for the beloved bench press, I’ve experienced shoulder injuries from this, and I’m not alone. Doing a lone muscle in your leg’s muscle chains is the same thing, many muscles are involved in a leg movement. If you isolate, the supporting muscles get overwhelmed by the big muscles and you’ll get an injury.
Don’t body-build. Biceps are not a worthwhile goal while you are unable to do anything else. Build real strength before you go for glamour. Chances are, you’re so high in body fat, that any muscle you gain will be masked.
I generally think that the machine heads are blinded by science. That is, they think that using an #exercise machine is like totally sciencey…and that free weights are scary. Basically, people are looking for a good way to waste 30 minutes to an hour of their day pretending to workout. They aren’t. They are pure marketing. You’re more likely to get an injury from them because they isolate so many muscles. Also, your joints will lose the battle against the machine’s range of motion. Don’t be scared, use the free weights. Just not when I’m there.
Look at this stock photo, see how reassuring it is, the scary gym is made female friendly for you, and you won’t be taxed or hurt, right?
Look, sweetheart, don’t be scared, if you follow a real program, you can do this:
Don’t be scared. That is my impression, that the last thing people want to do at the gym is actually exercise. Even stranger, the one criticism I hear is that “I don’t want to get too big.” Instead of getting too muscular, you’re just wasting your time. I assure you, you won’t get too big unless you want to do so. This is one good answer to that concern:
Probably the worst lie ever. People look at women bodybuilders and say, “Ohmigawd, they’re huge and if I lift anything heavy I’ll look like that too.” Nope. In general, women are not able to build monstrous muscle mass in the same manner as men, due to a number of physiological factors. It’s a rare woman that can become a competitive bodybuilder, and to get that big she has to combine genetics, extensive long-term training, strict diet, and supplementation (legal or otherwise).
So look, get up and use those weights. They will actually help you achieve your real goals. Or to put it another way, one of the most illustrative articles I’ve ever read (and one that I will critique shortly) had this insight:
a piece of paper with Shaul’s strength standards for men (BW = your own body weight):
Front Squat 1.5x BW
Dead Lift 2.0x BW
Bench Press 1.5x BW
Running the numbers in my head — I weigh 205 — I was about to raise my hand. Ahem, Coach? Yeah, I’m just wondering about your strength standards, see, because, uh, yeah. You can’t be serious.
Nobody does crunches training this way, nobody watches television from the stationary bike, and 60-year-old women dead-lift 200 pounds and more.
So, Happy Mother’s Day, mom, now hit the gym and let’s have you build some muscle to keep those bones nice and strong. You won’t break.
So, what free what exercises to do? I’ll leave it at this for now. If your range of movement is like 2 inches, you aren’t really doing anything. Big muscle group exercises are exercises that you can do 5 times for 3 sets. Think squats, presses, and dead lifts. That builds muscle and real strength. That real strength will improve everything about your human machine, no matter how old you are or how scary weights seem.
Therefore, ask yourself, will this machine or exercise help me or hinder me. You want to grow, you want to build power, you want to gain cardio endurance. Small muscle, isolated workouts will not do that.