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The lexicon of muscle-building, and training - Part 18

Machines aren't elixirs, but the good machines can be useful. Being able to distinguish the good machines from the bad ones is difficult, and the quality of machinery can vary even within the same brand name. For instance, while a lower-back machine may be excellent, perhaps the shoulder press machine in the same line isn't.

With a barbell set you can perform the same exercises anywhere in the world, with consistency, and minimal financial cost to the gym. Free-weights are almost universal, but good machinery isn't. The technique instruction for exercises that use free-weights is the same for all brands of that gear, but not so for machinery, where the instructions for one brand's squat machine are different from another's. As a result of these factors, and others, free-weights are given priority in this book. If, however, you have access to the generally good machinery — for example, Body Masters, Cybex, Hammer Strength, MedX, and Nautilus — substitute it for the comparable free-weights exercises; but tread carefully because even some of the generally good machines can cause irritations and injuries for some trainees even when those machines are used correctly. Of course, exercises that use free-weights can also cause problems, especially if they aren't performed correctly.

Although the theoretical advantages of some features of some machines seem impressive, the practical application often produces little evidence to support the theory. Some machines have been touted as being vastly superior to free-weights, but in practice have not delivered the hyped “superiority.” For example, while altering how force is exerted against the muscles, to try to improve on how free-weights exercises apply it, may seem positive in theory, perhaps in practice it makes little or no positive difference, and the unnatural application of force may even be a step backward in practice. Furthermore, some machines are sticky during use, some don't accommodate trainees of varying sizes, and some have mechanical and maintenance problems.

Features of good machinery include the accurate tracing of the intended muscular function of a given exercise, smoothness of motion, ease of entry and exit, and the ability to accommodate varying sizes of individuals through being able to adjust seats, back pads, and movement arms. Good machines enable trainees who are incapable of performing many free-weights exercises, to exercise safely and well.

The original Nautilus machinery was designed by Arthur Jones, and Hammer Strength machinery was designed by Jones' eldest son, Gary.

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