When you walk into most gyms, you see machines. There are several of them that work the same muscle group but at a different angle. You can go from a horizontal leg press to a vertical leg press and everywhere in between. You can stack your leg workouts with so many exercises from different angles, you’ll have a hard time walking for the next three days. If that’s how you choose to build your workout then that is your choice. The question you have to ask yourself is why.
This doesn’t just apply to legs, using free weights as opposed to machines in all areas, will prove to be more beneficial to your body. Regardless of your fitness level or what you’re trying to accomplish, you can accomplish more in a shorter amount of time by using compound exercises. A compound movement requires more than one joint to move at a time. Most machines isolate a certain muscle, so movement only takes place at one joint. In my opinion, there are two reasons to isolate muscles. Either you are a competitive bodybuilder or you have a weak muscle that you’re trying to strengthen. Either way, you can isolate muscles effectively, without the use of a machine. Moreover, while you’re sitting comfortably, your body isn’t stabilizing itself during the exercise, it’s getting a free ride. What that means is that your superficial muscles are developing while your larger stabilizing muscles aren’t. That’s not a big deal right? Wrong! Our body moves in patterns and when you isolate a certain area, you can cause distortions in your natural movements that can affect your posture, range of motion and possibly lead to injury.
These are factors that can discourage you from working out or hinder your progress. A productive alternative is to train yourself to move properly from the start. Use compound exercises that will help to engage more muscle groups and force your body to stabilize itself. If you use less stable surfaces such as a stability ball, your body will have to work even harder to stabilize itself. A squat for example, creates flexion at the hips, knees and ankles to varying degrees. Nonetheless, it engages more muscle groups than and machine could ever do. The only problem is that you may not have the ability to squat properly right away. By placing a stability ball against the wall and then placing your back against the ball, you can work on your form. Work on pushing your hips towards the wall as you squat and keeping your heels flat on the floor. Drive yourself up by pushing from your heels. Practice these often to improve your mechanics. Observe that are giving you the most without the ball and try to address those.