There is a lot to love about calisthenics and bodyweight training – besides being fun and cost-effective, zero equipment workouts are also convenient for travel.
My favorite aspect of bodyweight training, however, is how it teaches you to become aware of the subtle nuances of movement.
Using machines instead of your bodyweight (or free weights) neglects this key aspect of fitness. Don’t even get me started on people who read magazines or watch television during their “workout.”
Lost in Space
I am continually amazed at how out of touch the average person is with their body. For example, when I ask a new client to try moving their shoulder blades without moving their arms, they usually cannot find the coordination to make it happen. However, these types of subtle movements can be the difference between learning to do a pull-up correctly and injuring yourself.
Proprioception refers to the sensory ability to feel different parts of the body moving through space in relation to each other. I almost always do some yoga with my strength training clients to help with their proprioceptive capabilities. Only once somebody truly learns to feel how their body moves, can they make significant gains in strength.
Clearly I’m not a fan of exercise machines, especially when compared to bodyweight strength training or weight training, but those of us who feel that way are on the fringes. Go into any commercial gym and you’re bound to see way more machines than free weights. In some of these places, you’re lucky if there is even a pull-up bar or an open space to do push-ups.
This doesn’t mean you can’t sculpt nice looking muscles using machines, it’s just a ridiculous way to go about it. Selectorized fitness equipment movement patterns are not natural, and will have less carryover into real life activities. Plus you’re much less likely to understand the movement of the human body if you’re never really moving! If everything you do for your workout involves sliding a fixed piece of machinery along a predetermined path, you’re just going through the motions. You’re not truly creating movement.
Rise of the Machines
Most commercial fitness facilities are not designed to get you fit – they are designed to get your money. The fancy looking machines you see in these clubs are all hype. They don’t work as well as bodyweight exercises, but they sure do look high-tech! Sadly, that’s enough to trick the average person into shelling out lots of money for a gym membership they’ll probably never even use anyway.
Less is More
While modern exercise equipment has only existed for a few decades, human beings have achieved fantastic physiques since the days of the ancient Greeks. If you want to build a better body, the only piece of equipment you’ll need is something you already have – YOU! Stop making excuses and start working out!
Al Kavadlo, CSCS is one of the world’s leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics. Al has been featured in The New York Times and is a regular contributor to Bodybuilding.com and TRAIN magazine.
He is the author of four books, including Stretching Your Boundaries and Pushing The Limits!, Kavadlo is also known for his appearance in the popular Convict Conditioning book series. You can read all of his writing at his official website: http://www.alkavadlo.com/