Rodney McBride

Strength and Weight Machines Don't Mix

Strength and Weight Machines Don't Mix

Strength is the ability to promote tension. Tension is synonymous with force. The more tension you can promote out of a given muscle/s the more force those muscles can generate. It is this force generation that you use to stimulate movement. 

If you are sitting at a desk all day and working on the computer the tension you foster to perform the key stokes and use the mouse is very very low compared to the great tension you would need to move weights at the gym.

The highest tension/force is produced by tensing all of the muscles in the body at the same time. A concept know as Irradiation (see blogs April 7th and 21st).  Again, not something you would need sitting at a desk all day but extremely helpful when it comes to developing real strength.

In order to develop the highest tension possible you can't have ANY movement restrictions. Mobility is key. This is why free weight exercises are so useful in strength training. They allow you a considerable amount of freedom to use every muscle in a lift. Full body tension is what we want if strength is what we are after.

Weight machines on the other hand do restrict your natural mobility. More specifically weight machines restrict you to one plane of movement. The movement the machine was designed for. If you restrict all mobility to one plane of movement you can't generate full body tension, only tension around that joint so strength is compromised. 

Not only that weight machines also eliminate another component of free weights and that is stability. When lifting free weights you have to control the movement and balance the weight. This also requires an abundant amount of full body tension to do this. The tighter you are the easier it is to stabilize the weight. Stabilization is not even a factor is machine training.

So if you exclude mobility, stability and muscle tension which is mandatory for strength development using weight machines how are you supposed to get strong? You don't. 

How are you supposed to squat with just your quad muscles? You can't. And I wouldn't try.

Remember that real strength is based on how strong your whole body is not on how strong one muscle is.

If you are intent on using weight machines you will never get strong. And if you are using weight machines along with free weight exercises you are probably sabotaging you strength. 


You must be logged into Gmail (or other from the list below) to post. Otherwise, please email Rodney McBride directly at with any questions.