When you are new to strength training you should be able to correctly move your body before ever touching a free weight.
If you can’t do the exercise correctly without weight, you will not be able to do it correctly with weight.
Pretty simple, right?
Take the squat for example.
A lower body exercise that requires your hips to stay back with the load being placed primarily on your heels in order to access the muscles on your backside and keep undue pressure off of your knees.
If you do a set with just your bodyweight and you roll all of your weight onto your toes and your knees are buckling in and out, the answer to progressing your form will obviously not be to add weight.
But, as time goes on and you learn correct form, adding weight becomes no issue.
That’s when the confusion starts.
What type of equipment should you use?
You stroll into your gym and see loads of machines, dumbbells, barbells, trap bars, cables, kettlebells, smith machines, bodyweight tools such as the TRX, and more.
What is the best?
As I mentioned above, I always prefer to start by coaching someone to move as efficiently as possible on their own.
No machines, no cables, no free weights, nothing.
Not only does it teach them to control each part of their body, but it also will show any issues and limitations they may have.
Furthermore, it allows them to create a strong muscle mind connection that lets them focus on the muscle being worked and to know what to feel and where to feel it.
As soon as we have solidified their form we can choose any avenue of equipment we want because they have learned to move their body in all the correct ways. That allows us to translate those movements patterns to any mode of strength training assuming their mobility is in line and they have no previous injuries or issues.
What route we take from there will be dependent on goals and to some degree personal preference.
The real key to this topic is understanding that there is no 100% “correct” way just as there is no 100% “wrong” way unless it is something that will hurt someone.
Even though I have certain types of training I prefer more than others, I can still get results using multiple forms of equipment.
A lot of “trainers” highly dislike machines because they only move one way and do not account for stability and muscle imbalances.
While I would always choose free weights over machines as a whole, I can tell you with complete confidence that we can still crush all your goals be it fat loss, muscle gain, or strength gain by only using machines.
Will you get all the same benefits of free weights?
No, but you can still accomplish the vast majority of the primary goals you likely have.
What you shouldn’t do is rely on machines because you don’t know how to properly move your body.
Weight machines are a great tool to use especially when building strength at the beginning of a program or to isolate certain muscles, but you should never let them be the replacement for you not knowing how to move correctly.
A few years back the TRX body weight straps were all the rave and if you were a trainer not using them, you weren’t “with it”.
The truth is, anyone who is excessively dogmatic about the TRX being the best thing since sliced bread is wrong.
Each piece of equipment in the gym is the right one to use, you just have to be the right person for it.
I love bodyweight workouts and the TRX can be a great tool to facilitate them.
However, there is a time and place for that type of training and if it doesn’t fit within a client’s goals, it shouldn’t be programmed.
For example, if a client has a goal of getting as strong as possible and their “trainer” pulls out the TRX bands and tells them to do 20 pushups followed by 20 inverted rows, I would fire them.
“Feeling the burn” on those 40 combined reps is no help to someone’s absolute strength progression.
You get better at what you work on.
Meaning, if you do a program where you are always doing sets of 15–20 reps, you will not improve your five rep strength.
Conversely, if you are always lifting in sets of 3–5 reps, that will do nothing for your muscular endurance of higher rep sets.
For all you haters, yes, it would obviously help more than not lifting at all, but there is not a large correlation.
Kettlebells have also became a big fad in the last handful of years.
Will you be restricted in any way by not training with them?
They are simply a different twist on conditioning based strength training.
I do not have any in my gym simply for the fact that I can do versions of any kettlebell exercise with dumbbells so they have little value to me.
However, if you are looking to focus on conditioning based strength training and think kettlebell workouts are a blast, I highly encourage you to use them!
Remember, getting results in the gym is the most important thing, but after that, having a little bit of fun is crucial too.
If you detest a program, it is not sustainable.
Without sustainability, you will flounder and end up not working out at all.
Try to find an exercise modality that not only suits your goals, but also lets you have a little fun.
If you have any questions about what type of workouts would be best for you, email me right now at: JwaltersPT@gmail.com
OR check out my website for more information at: JonWalters.CO