I was measuring a new client's body fat the other day when we started talking about his workout regimen. He told me that he uses the elliptical trainer five days a week for about 45 minutes each session. Additionally, he does a few of the machines. He went on to describe the motion of each machine- the 'back extension machine, the weighted crunch, the lateral press (whatever that is)', and a few others. We discussed, briefly, some of the things he can change with his training to help him decrease his body fat another five percent (his stated goal). He mentioned, too, about how he tore a bicep tendon and his rotator cuff in his right shoulder a few years ago and how he had surgery to fix them.
As I am listening to this client talking about the machines he uses and about how poor of shape he is in orthopedically, I started thinking to my self something interesting. This guy and so many people's workouts revolve around 'using a machine'. They essentially have become a lever-pusher. They have become a slave to the machine. They move in whatever motion they can to move a lever, failing to improve their muscular-skeletal health and possibly setting themselves up for problems in the future.
My training philosophy is 180-degrees to this common training approach, which is everything is done in the context of movement efficiency. No machines. Your body has an optimal way to move and your training needs to enhance or maintain your movement efficiency. Everyone is different, but there is a skillful art of enhancing joint function, mobility, flexibility, strength, and coordination. However, most gym members really have no clue. They simply feel that it is adequate to use a machine and be done with it. Never questioning what they are doing.
So, the new name for my philosophy is "Be The Machine!" A finely-tuned machine that works well for any demand. No mindless lever-pushing. An intimate sense of what external work has to be performed and how to optimally use your body to perform it with the greatest of efficiency and correct joint function. Once your training is done within the context of movement efficiency, you can appropriately build strength and develop your 'energy systems' and supportive systems (cardiovascular, pulmonary, etc.).
So, are you simply an over-sized rat, pushing levers or do you have greater control over your movements? Do you use your time in the gym to overcome postural deficits, muscle imbalances, joint misalignment, weakness, and all the other maladies from sitting on your butt most of the day? Do you relish the fact that you can, at any age, lift that heavy weight with the greatest of ease, knowing that your body is functioning to its potential? If not, then you need a better training system.