1/11/2008

Is your workout wasting your time?

By Paul Scott, Best Life
According to this author, it's likely that most of what you're doing at the gym is nearly useless - and might be ruining your chances of getting fit. With all the fancy equipment and with all the desire out there to look good, why can't we keep the weight off? Why can't we stick to our gym workouts? Is it our fault? Or does the fault lie elsewhere?

"The health-club culture tries to create a dependency on machines," says Vern Gambetta, a trainer with 38 years of experience training professional and recreational athletes, and the author of Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning. "If you have a limited amount of time to work out, you're better off ditching the machine to do different kinds of body-weight and whole-body exercises. You'll get more caloric burn for your time spent." Critics also charge that a traditional machine-centric regimen has other downsides.

There is potential for pain in any workout. The key to preventing injury is to find your weak links and then modify your exercise to fortify your weak links, while also not putting stress on them, says Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and author of FrameWork: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints. The most common strength-training-related injuries Dr. DiNubile sees are rotator-cuff problems, knee issues, and lower-back pain. While these are not exclusive to machine-based training, the nonfunctional movements that some machines require, coupled with heavy loads and less-than-perfect form, can cause problems - especially in men over 40 whose joints are getting creaky.

Research from the University of Kentucky studied 23 patients with knee pain to see what made them stronger: a step-up test or doing leg extensions. They found that both became stronger at doing leg extensions, but only those doing the step-ups became stronger at stepping up and functional activities. Chris Powers, a biokinesiology researcher at the University of Southern California, determined that the mechanics of the leg-extension machine doesn't simulate functional activity (e.g., walking, running, or going down steps). "The leg-extension machine puts a lot of strain on the knee ligaments and the patella," says Tim Hewett, PhD, a professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati. "I would never consider letting our athletes use a leg-extension machine."

Bottom Line: Machines are a great way to get your exercise routine started and can be incorporated into any routine ... but a risk in any exercise program comes from repeating the same motion over and over again. The fixed path of the machines can exacerbate the problem, and machine workouts don't burn as many calories as total body exercises.


To read the full story, click here for MSN Health and Fitness.