Exercise Selection Myths - AnabolicMinds.com
    • Exercise Selection Myths

      by Charles Poliquin Iron Magazine

      Exercise selection is a critical but often misunderstood aspect of developing strength and muscle mass, especially when it comes to program design. Commercial gyms are part of the problem, because they often have many more exercise machines than free weights, thus limiting the ability of trainees to experiment with new exercises. Also not helping are the many mistaken ideas people have about selecting the best exercises to achieve their training goals. Here are five of those myths:

      Myth #1: Strength developed with machines transfers directly to free weight exercises. Training with exercise machines has value, especially for improving body composition, but the strength developed with machine exercises may not transfer well to performance in equivalent free-weight exercises. Case in point: Smith machine squats.

      With a Smith machine, the bar is on a track, so the increased stability creates less demand on the body’s neutralizer and stabilizer muscle functions. Therefore, the strength developed on such machines has minimal carryover to a three-dimensional, unstable environment such as occurs during a freestanding squat.

      The bottom line here is that free-weight exercises should always precede machine exercises, and athletes should limit their machine training to no more than 25 percent of the total work performed.

      Myth #2: If an exercise is good for a beginner, it’s also good for an advanced athlete. Just because an exercise is effective for a beginner, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good for an advanced athlete. This fact is part of the concept of specificity. In this particular context it means that, as an athlete progresses in training age, their exercises have less carryover to their sport.

      Examples include pulls, such as the snatch-grip and clean-grip pulls used in weightlifting. The problem is that weightlifting requires precise attention to actively getting under the bar – you have to pull the weight and then catch it. By fully extending and using your traps and arms, you essentially have to drop under the bar using the force of gravity, as these muscles are done working.

      Another problem with pulls, and this is backed by Soviet research, is that the technique of pulls changes dramatically from that of the classical lifts when weights are used that exceed the 1RM of the classical lifts. Essentially, the maximal weights prevent the hips from moving as quickly during the part of the pull after the bar passes the knees. It’s not surprising that the problem with pulls has created disagreement among coaches: the Bulgarians say to not do pulls at all; others, particularly some Russian coaches, advise minimizing the poor carryover to performance in pulls by not exceeding 90 percent of the 1RM in the classical lifts.

      Myth #3: The repetition protocol doesn’t affect exercise selection. If you are committed to performing specific set-rep protocols, you may have to limit your exercise selection. For example, it is difficult to maintain proper form with certain exercises for high reps, thus affecting the training stimulus and increasing the risk of injury. It is difficult, for example, to maintain proper form for more than 3 repetitions in the clean and jerk or more than 6 reps in the front squat.

      Myth #4: There isn’t one single best exercise for a muscle group. The squat may be considered the king of exercises, but there is no such thing as a “single best” exercise. Relying on only a few exercises for a workout can lead to overuse injuries, muscle imbalances and slower progress. A great success story about the effectiveness of variety is Larry Scott.

      In 1965 Scott won the first IFBB Mr. Olympia contest; he defended that title the following year. Although Scott was known for his amazingly full biceps, which resulted in his favorite exercise, the preacher curl, being nicknamed the Scott curl, much of Scott’s success was attributed to overcoming the challenge of having relatively narrow shoulders.

      Scott believed that working the many different “heads” and functions of the deltoid muscle requires a large variety of exercises. He was right. Rather than the three heads of the deltoid that are often described by many trainers, the muscle actually has seven heads (deltoids 1-7, anterior to posterior), which perform these functions: abduction, flexion, horizontal adduction, internal rotation, extension, horizontal abduction and external rotation. If you look at Scott’s training programs, you’ll see that he tried to work all areas of a muscle’s strength curve with a variety of implements, including dumbbells, barbells and pulleys.

      Myth #5: Machines are easier on the body than free weights are. Despite the best efforts of machine designers, some machines place considerably more stress on the body than free weights do. For example, the leg extension creates unnaturally high shearing forces that try to pull the joint apart. Likewise, the Smith machine squat can be very hard on the patellar ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament, both of which act as stabilizers for the knees. Although some individuals can perform these exercises without any problems, this is more the exception than the rule. Further, and this especially applies to the leg extension, these exercises have little carryover to athletic performance.

      When determining which exercises to use in your workouts, the question you must ask is “What is my training goal?” Answering that question, while keeping these myths in mind, will help you design workouts that are best for you!

      Source: http://www.ironmagazine.com/2014/fiv...ise-selection/
      Comments 5 Comments
      1. bannosantoro's Avatar
        bannosantoro -
        Fair points. Smith machine squats ruined my right knee and it makes me shudder when I see others squatting on the smith. Tbh I think fixed smith machines are horrible full stop! The 360 smith is a little better but really, what's the point in them?? Get rid and install a power rack instead!!
      1. hardknock's Avatar
        hardknock -
        Yes but why does myth 1 and myth 5 contradict each other.

        Anyway, typically speaking, machine exercises are much easier on the body than free weights. However, in some cases (smith squats), they can be more detrimental than free weights....
      1. bannosantoro's Avatar
        bannosantoro -
        For me there are only a small handful of machines that are less stressful. All bicep curl machines are painful for me, shoulder press machines and most bench press machines feel unnatural and awkward, and as I mentioned before Smith Machines are the devil! When I work away, which is quite a lot these days, and I walk into a hotel gym with tons of machines and just a handful of girly dumbbells, my heart sinks! I don't think most machines have any real value in a gym. Yeah maybe they get a novice used to pushing weight, but for how long?? A month or 2?? I find machines put an awful lot of stress on joints and muscles that they shouldn't?! Free weights, though you often need to reduce the weight a little, are much easier on the joints as they are not forced into unnatural or uncomfortable positions. The only machine I use in my gym is leg press! And this is only because I can no longer do traditional squats due to 20% mobility in one ankle from a motorcycle accident years ago, it just won't bend anymore so I can't squat past parallel :-( There can be no disputing, you should always use free weights when possible. Free weights promote true strength and balance. Machines cause imbalances, weaknesses and injuries. Little girls and small children should be the only exceptions!!
      1. hardknock's Avatar
        hardknock -
        Not specifically true to the exception of kids and girls always. I'm in the 300+/450+/450+ club all for reps of no less than 5, by no means great numbers compared to many; however, I have used machines for 3-6 months at points during rehab from car injuries, sports injuries, etc. The hammer press, hammer strength, leg curl, seated leg curls, shoulder presses, assisted pull up, leg press, abduc adduc, pulley, lat pull down, seated row, cable cross over, all are considered machines in my book. If it is connected to an apparatus then it is a machine though cables are quite different than being "stuck" in a specific position like traditional machines where they allow more natural movements.

        But machines are typically less stressful on the body with a few exceptions of which smith squats is one of several. They are overall safer. I agree with you though, they can put your body into unnatural positions but that depends on the machine itself. All machines are not made the same. Different gyms will have very different equipment. I can vouch for several machines that kill my tendons at one gym yet give me NO pain at my other gyms. Several individuals that I train will say the same. It is all in the construction and leveraging system. I would NEVER advocate JUST using machines unless you are in a injured state or just learning some basics exercise routines for the first time. I would rather someone start with free weights.

        Bodybuilders have used machines very often for decades, both natural and enhanced bodybuilders. Professional athletes use them consistently throughout the season. I once worked for the Atlanta Falcons franchise, I have seen these guys use machines on a constant basis. I love free-weights, don't get me wrong but I am just saying there is a place for them in all routines if someone chooses to use them.

        Free weights do promote true strength and balance due to taxing the CNS, strengthening tendons and teaching us how to recruit motor units for a lift, I will agree 100% with you there. But, using a machine in your routine isn't going to magically rob you of anything.
      1. hardknock's Avatar
        hardknock -
        Again, I am not disputing what you are saying but only adding that they can be used in specific situations and are used many times by people far superior in conditioning, strength, stability, and speed than many of us.

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