Which is the best exercise tool, high tech machines or free weights?
You may find this information laborious; however, it is necessary to outline the differences between high-tech and non-high tech equipment for the purpose of producing maximum fitness in minimum time.
Much of the equipment on the market is virtually useless. Only by knowing the basic
principal of design and function - of not only the human body, but also equipment,
can one decide the most time efficient means to exercise. With that goal in mind, we
offer the following:
Once upon a time, the horse was the fastest form of transportation. If one's goal
was to get from point A to point B, the horse was faster than walking.
Those without much time to waste took a horse, arriving quickly at the destination.
Others has walked and eventually reached the destination.
Presently, the fastest form of transportation is a jet airplane.
If one's goal is to get from the East Coast to the West Coast, as quickly and safely as
possible, the airplane is the best choice.
So it is in the choosing between non high-tech exercise equipment and high-tech
Non high-tech is today's equivalent of the horse. High-tech equipment is today's
equivalent of jets. This is not to claim that, the proper use of free weights and other
non high-tech equipment cannot be beneficial; however, for maximum results in
minimum time there is no comparison.
The functions of the human body demands you use of an exercise tool design that
includes certain biomechanical parameters lacking in non high-tech equipment.
Function dictates design.
One major reason is the body stability provided by high tech equipment. We are all
aware of the laws of force-counter force and the stresses placed on the body during
The support supplied to the body, when lying or sitting, during high tech exercise,
helps stabilize the body, absorb counter force, and allows one to monitor and
maintain proper body position.
This effectual eliminates unwanted stress to other body segments and eliminates
injury during exercise.
Free weights, when used with various benches and seats can help modify some of
the problems associated with force counter--force. However, not as well as
There are also many other bodily requirements for productive exercise, which only
properly designed high-tech equipment can provide
Barbells were a quantum forward leap, because they allowed the basic requirement
of productive exercise: Resistance, to be applied to a contracting muscle, with
greater effectiveness than previously existing tools.
In truth, it does not matter to a muscle if one is lifting a 50 pound sack of sugar or a
50 pound barbell. The major difference is the comfort factor.
Performing a barbell exercise is easier. One major reason is one can grip it better
than a sack of sugar. To the muscles doing the work, it is still 50 pounds. The
amount of resistance used determines the amount of muscle fibers contracted.
Just as barbells were a quantum leap, so is high-tech equipment when compared to
barbells. Application of resistance (the basic principle of progressive exercise and
pro-active physical therapy) improves to a contracting muscle.
However, not all high-tech equipment incorporates all the requirements of
maximum progress. Some of the requirements' one should consider are:
Positive and Negative Resistance
A properly designed exercise tool MUST provide two aspects of resistance.
Resistance provided as one lifts and resistance must be supplied as one lowers the
Sometimes called concentric or positive resistance, this aspect takes place when one
is contracting or shortening a muscle. Lowering resistance or eccentric, negative
movement and takes place as one uncontracts or allows the muscle to lengthen.
Along with positive and negative resistance potentials, the ability to stretch and
pre-stretch a muscle is essential with an exercise tool.
Pre-stretch and Stretching
Stretching is pushing or pulling a body part into a position temporarily exceeding
the existing "normal" range of motion. It relates to the angels of the joints, muscles,
and connective tissue.
Pre-stretching takes place when a muscle moves into a position of increased tension
just prior to the start of a positive contraction. Pre-stretch has two effects that
result in greater benefits:
(1) The muscle is elastic, just like a rubber band, and stretching it slightly, just
before movement, actually produces elastic energy that can be used in the
contraction and help you use more resistance.
(2) Pre-stretch ignites a nervous system stretch reflex that calls upon additional
muscle fibers, for use in the upcoming movement
Now, we have established four requirements for full range, maximally productive
exercise. They are:
1. Positive work: Lifting the resistance.
2. Negative work: Lowering resistance.
3. Stretching: A slight lengthening of a muscle groups.
4. Pre-stretching: Takes place in a slightly extreme range just before the stretch.
It must be done carefully and with minimal speed.
5. Balanced Resistance and Variable Resistance
As muscles contract and move through a range of motion, they do so with varying
degrees of movement and strength potentials.
This is a natural consequence of muscular contraction and human movement.
You are aware it is possible to handle more resistance in some exercises than
others. You may not be aware that as one performs an exercise, the muscles
involved, are also changing strength levels as they move.
That's one reason why some positions of a movement feel easier than others,
although the weight remains constant.
Because muscles have a variable strength potential as they move, it logically follows
that, the resistance should vary according to the actual muscle strength potential.
This is termed automatically variable resistance when incorporated into a high-tech
machine design. When referring to the various muscle groups and varying strength
potentials, it is termed balanced resistance.
High-Tech equipment should provide automatically variable resistance and balanced
resistance. The resistance should vary automatically, and according to the strength
potential, as one move through a range of motion. With barbells, the resistance
does not vary.
We have now established, two more requirements for a superior exercise tool,
neither of which barbells supply:
6. Balanced resistance: Resistance that is neither too light nor too heavy.
7. Automatically variable resistance: The resistance varies within the range-of-
motion and in accord with a particular muscle group's strength potential.
8. Unrestricted Speed-of-Movement
Although it should be possible to perform exercise movements at various speeds for
high intensity contractions, throwing the resistance is not beneficial. However,
unrestricted speed of movement is a requirement. Barbells supply this requirement
as does high-tech equipment.
For best results, perform movements rather slowly. As an example: the positive
portion of the movement should take about 4 seconds, the negative portion about 4
seconds (as a safe example).
By controlling the movement, the muscle is contracting always. A fast speed of
movement to is potentially dangerous.
It compounds the force. First at the sudden, jerky start. Then again, as the
resistance bangs into a body part, at its final destination point.
If a muscle is not prepared for the beginning sudden jerk, injury is a possibility.
9. Resistance In The Fully Contracted Position
Unless resistance exists in the position of full muscular contraction, it is impossible
to exercise a muscle through its full range-of-motion. That is basic premise of full-
Many but not all high tech machines provide proper variable and balanced
resistance, in the position of full muscular contraction. Other forms of exercise
tools, such as barbells, do not. Therefore, it would indicate that resistance is not
supplied full-range, only partial-range. This lessens the exercise potential.
For instance, in the two-arm curling motion using a barbell, there is no affective
resistance supplied to your biceps muscle in the fully contracted position.
With properly designed high tech equipment, there is resistance in this position.
We already understand that resistance, properly supplied, is the key to maximum
results in exercise.
10. Direct Resistance
When possible, resistance must exist directly to the muscle under contraction to
insure best results. Two similar exercises we can compare are the two-arm chinning
movement and a high-tech pullover machine.
When performing a two-arm chinning movement, you will provide resistance to the
latissimus dorsi and biceps of the upper body (among other muscles). During the
movement, the biceps will
fatigue before the larger, stronger back muscles.
Therefore, you would not exercise the latissimus dorsi muscles as effectively,
because of the weak link.
High tech pullover machines supply resistance of a higher quality to the latissimus
dorsi muscle groups. By removing the weak link, in the two arms chinning
movement and applying the resistance pads to the upper arms near the elbows' one
works the back muscles thoroughly.
When one fails to continue movement, due to muscular fatigue, the primary muscles
fail, not a weaker link in the chain.
11. Full-Range Resistance
Muscle contraction provides movement of one or more body segments. These
segments have what can be termed a complete or full-range possibility.
Ideally, one should be able to exercise a body segment through a full-range of
movement. Naturally, an injury may prevent this from happening; however, the goal
is too to improved full-range movement.
This requirement rotary form movement is the hardest to visualize. In simple terms,
it is: Resistance moving on a common axis with a body segment being moved by
One excellent invention in the history of exercise is a device called the cam. It is a
cam that allows the experienced of maximally productive exercise.
In simple terms, the function of a cam is as follows:
A cam redirects resistance, so it travels in the same strength curve as the exercised
body segment. The resistance is re-directed to travel in a rotary motion and in the
same strength curve of the moving body segment. At the same time the resistance
is directly OPPOSITE the intended movement.
This assures resistance, typically provided by a weight stack. The lifting of the
weight stack takes place through either cables or chains attached to it.
The cables or chains attach to the cam system and as the cam rotates, the cables or
chains wrap around the cam. The radius of the cam that the chain wraps into varies.
The distance from the center mark of the cam radius, to the point where the chain
touches as it wraps, determines the varying (and supposed balanced resistance).
The touching point of the chain is directly opposite the direction of muscle
Barbells and some other forms of exercise equipment do not supply resistance in
this manner. They supply resistance in a straight line manner, always directly down
toward the ground, always depending on gravity.
Effective resistance is when you are moving the barbell vertically, directly opposite
the pull of gravity.
A cam changes straight-line resistance (gravity) into rotational resistance. This
allows the resistance to travel in a curve always pulling directly away from your
Because barbells and some exercise machines can meet only some of the
requirements we have listed, it follows that high-tech has the potential to improve
one's fitness results.
The QUALITY of the resistance is the final determining factor, determining which
exercise tool provides best results.
Calisthenics and aerobic dance supply minimal resistance (arm legs, torso, and
Gymnastics type exercise can be more productive because a larger body mass is
moved; therefore more resistance is handled by muscle groups.
Barbells, pulleys and the like are more productive than either of the two mentioned
because, resistance adjusts according to one's fitness level.
The most effective method of exercise are High-Tech Machines, because they meet
the requirements of offering the primary exercise needs of the body, full-range
Author of numerous books, and national magazine articles with appearances on
many radio and television programs.
Former Producer of Televison Programming for Nautilus SportsMedical Industries
and former Regional Director of Northern California for MedX West Physical Testing
Former owner of numerous total fitness and physical therapy centers.
Former IFBB and AAU physique judge.
Former competitor and title winner in Strong Man Contests.
Latest book: The Da Vinci Fitness Code
Veteran U.S Air Force