Due to the popularity of high intensity group conditioning programs many fitness facilities are adding equipment and changing facility layout to make room for these kinds of workout programs. Yes, high intensity conditioning programs can deliver benefits like burning calories and improving overall fitness, but when it comes to the types of workout programs that grow the attention-getting muscles that members want, nothing beats good, old-fashioned strength training using Nautilus equipment.
Although many of your fitter members and personal trainers may like using barbells and kettlebells for their workouts many club members are always more comfortable using strength training machines when exercising on their own. More importantly machines can help club members become stronger, demonstrating almost immediate results, while establishing the healthy behaviors necessary to make exercise a consistent part of their daily routine.
Even with the recent trend to high intensity conditioning many health clubs still have traditional weight-lifting machines, however many fitness fitness professionals overlook the benefits for clients. It’s important to remind your teams that the modern fitness industry evolved from the bodybuilding subculture where the goal is to create sculpted, defined muscles that look better than anyone else on the judging stage. To help meet this need the late Arthur Jones, inventor of NautilusTM equipment, designed exercise machines focused on strengthening one muscle at a time. Strength training provides a number of benefits and the primary feature of machines is that they use cams and pulleys to place the greatest amount of resistance where a particular muscle is in its strongest position helping that muscle to develop to its fullest potential. If the goal of an exercise program is to create large, well-defined muscles then machine training can be an extremely functional way to achieve that outcome.
If you are looking for different ways that you can engage your members here are six benefits of machine-based training that can help you reconsider whether it’s worthwhile adding machine-based programming to your facility.
1. Controlling mechanical overload and path of motion. Mechanical overload is the amount of physical force placed on a muscle and is essential for stimulating muscle growth. Compound barbell lifts require optimal range-of-motion from a number of joints, if one of those joints does not function properly it could cause an injury. Because they control the path of motion and place the greatest amount of force where a muscle is the strongest an exercise machine can be a safe way to apply the overload necessary to stimulate muscle growth.
2. Placing resistance specifically on the contractile element of muscle. There are two components of muscle: the elastic component of fascia and connective tissue responsible for providing shape and transmitting forces from one section of muscle to another and the contractile element of the actin and myosin protein filaments responsible for controlling muscle contractions. Improving muscle size and strength requires using external resistance to stimulate the contractile element to become capable of generating higher levels of force and machine training can be extremely effective at achieving this outcome.
3. Creating metabolic overload. Metabolic overload occurs when a muscle is required to work to a point of momentary fatigue and does not have the energy to generate another contraction. Muscle growth occurs either as a result of mechanical or metabolic overload. A long-time bodybuilding secret for achieving rapid muscle growth is through the use of drop sets which requires doing an exercise to the point of momentary fatigue, immediately lowering (dropping) the weight and continue to the next point of exhaustion. Machines provide the safest and most time efficient means of being able to perform drop sets to the point of complete fatigue which ensures that all fibers in a particular muscle have been engaged.
4. Time efficient solution for circuit training. Circuit training requires transitioning from one exercise to another with a minimal amount of rest and can be effective for creating both a mechanical and metabolic overload for your clients. Circuits featuring barbells, kettlebells and weight sleds push members to work to the point of fatigue in a group workout, however, it can be intimidating for members to use this equipment on their own. The solution is to design a machine-based circuit for members to follow so they can experience the benefits of circuit training.
5. Focus on developing definition in specific muscles. Let’s face it, despite many benefits including improved metabolic efficiency, enhanced neuromuscular coordination or stronger muscles many members exercise for the vanity of simply looking better. Muscle definition is the result of a muscle remaining in a state of semi-contraction, because machines are designed to create mechanical overload in a specific muscle they can help improve definition in that muscle. One unique programming strategy is to do a compound, multi-joint exercise, for example a barbell squat, followed immediately by a muscle isolation exercise like a machine-based hamstring curl to continue using a specific muscle to the point of fatigue which results in greater definition.
6. Safety. Freeweight equipment like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls can be extremely effective when used properly but if an individual lacks a base level of strength or a foundational amount of movement skill then using this equipment could increase the risk of injury. Even if an individual is strong sometimes the ego might be stronger and a lifter may try to lift a weight heavier than his or her existing level of strength. Overloading a barbell for a squat or bench press could cause serious injury, however machines allow a user to lift with maximal loads with a minimal risk of injury from falling weights.
Machine-based strength training programs deliver results. Members that combine machine training with other programs like high intensity conditioning or yoga can see numerous benefits that will help improve the retention at your facility. The bottom line is this, you can have the most progressive facility layout with the latest types of functional training equipment like large medicine balls or kettlebells but if members don’t feel comfortable using the equipment without a trainer then is it really providing the greatest level of service. High intensity conditioning is great when coaches can supervise workouts, machine strength training can help deliver the results when members want to train on their own.
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Pete is an ACE and NASM Certified Personal Trainer, consultant and host of the All About Fitness podcast. In addition, Pete is a CSCS with the NSCA and holds a MS in Exercise Science. Pete is a blogger for ACE, online instructor for NASM, teaches group fitness and is an author of numerous articles and textbook chapters. Currently, Pete is a well-respected adjunct faculty at Mesa College and a proud SCW Faculty member having created and contributed to multiple SCW Certifications.
Pete’s professional highlights include:
• Consultant and host of the All About Fitness podcast
• Blogger for ACE and online instructor for NASM