Guest blogger: Bonne Marcus
A fitness industry expert for 27 years, Marcus holds numerous certifications from the Aerobic Fitness Association of America (AFAA), including Step, Spin, Bosu™, Pre/Post Natal, Youth Fitness, Aqua, and Personal Training. She has taught for New York City’s top health clubs, including Crunch, New York Health and Racquet, and Reebok Sports Club. A recognized name on Long Island, Bonne has taught at Dany Holdstein’s Two Worlds, North Shore Health Club, LA Fitness, Sport time, Equinox and currently teaches at the Sid Jacobsen JCC in Roslyn. Learn more at getfitwithbonne.com.
Fitness is all about muscle. Strength training builds muscle tissue, which in turn boosts metabolism, burns fat, and gives the body tone and definition. One of the most convenient strength training methods is using your own body weight as resistance — take your body anywhere and you’re ready for a workout. But is it better to use free weights or machines?
Free weights are portable and a lot more versatile than machines. With just one pair of dumbbells you can do hundreds of exercises. Weights require you to use several different muscle groups to move, balance and steady the body as you lift and lower.
Overall, beginners will benefit from using machines, which help isolate muscle groups and ensure proper form. They require little coordination, support your body in position and guide you through the motion. However, there are hidden risks to some of those seemingly-innocent exercise machines at the gym. If you're going to use machines in your pre-wedding workout routine, here are a few that you may want to avoid since they put stress on your joints, which could lead to injury.
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1. Seated Leg Extension/Seated Leg Curl
These machines train the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and the hamstrings (back of the thigh). Most trainers agree that they create a motion that your legs aren't designed to do, which can put undue strain on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the kneecaps.
The step-up is a safer alternative to try. This is one of my favorite exercises because besides working your quads far better than any machine, step-ups also train your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. They strengthen your knees as opposed to wearing them down.
Seated Hip Abductor/Adductor Machines
These machines are designed to train the outer and inner thighs. Not only can using them look awkward but because you're seated, these exercises train movement that has no functional use. When used with too much weight and/or bad form, they can put damaging pressure on the spine. These machines will work the abductors and adductors in isolation, which is bad because these muscles are actually meant to work in coordination with the rest of the body to stabilize the legs.
A better exercise to try is the side lunge. Side lunges allow a more effective way to work your hips, glutes and thighs by targeting the major muscles of the lower body, including the abductors and adductors.
3. Seated Chest Fly Machine
The chest fly machine is designed to train the chest and shoulders. However, it can put the shoulder in an unstable position and place excessive stress on the shoulder joint and its connective tissue.
Instead, try doing push-ups. Check out more workout moves to get your arms and upper body ready for a strapless dress.
4. Seated Crunch Machine/Rotation Machine
It may seem like adding weight to your crunches is the best way to six-pack abs but this isn't the most effective or safest way to develop the core. Think twisting on a machine will get rid of love handles? Think again! This exercise can put excessive twisting forces on the spine because your hips stay in place as you rotate your upper body.
You’ll get a better workout using a stability ball for your crunches and rotational exercises. The secret to efficiency is to make sure you engage your abs (as if you’re about to be punched in the gut) and hold them that way as you do the movement.