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Machines vs. Barbells

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  • #16
    Another one that's just come to mind is when training back, it is impossible to push the large muscles of the back to failure using free weights because the biceps are always the weak link and give out first. A Pullover machine directly targets the back without any weak links in the chain.

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    • #17
      I'm sold on barbells, and I appreciate the fact that Rippetoe has provided so much information about how to make the most of barbells. I recently switched from leg presses to barbell squats as well as from overhead presses to the barbell press. In both of these cases I found the barbell version to be much better. I would start doing barbell bench presses -- but don't have a spotter -- and am making good progress with a Hammer Strength machine combined with dumbbells.

      I now do about 45% barbell, 35% machine and 20% dumbbell. I personally think the combination of barbells and machines can be really effective. For example, for my "legs" I do squats for 5/3/1 then do assistant exercises using machines for leg extensions, hamstring pulls and calf raises. This combination has really helped my cycling. Anybody who talks talks about weight training for cycling will advocate some machine work.

      Maybe I missed it but I have never seen Rippetoe advocate any thing that might be called a "weight machine." The thing that bothers me about Rippetoe is that he refuses to acknowledge anything good about any machine -- and does it with a religious fervor that makes me question his objectivity across the board.

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      • #18
        Mark Rippetoe is one of the most convincing writers of any genre-- not just fitness. I think that has done quite a bit to expand the popularity of progressive barbell training. As much as anyone can learn from his barbell knowledge, you can gain as much or more from his ability to effectively convey an argument in an easy to understand and rational approach.

        The one thing that I think he is a bit contradictory about is his recommendation to use the leg press for certain populations that cannot perform a barbell squat with 45 pounds due to a lack of strength. If the leg press is able to contribute to getting an elderly person to squat, couldn't that same transfer theoretically allow a stronger individual to transfer the isolated strength gained on a leg press to a squat? I would imagine the technical limitations of the squat would be the larger barrier than leg or back strength. To put it in to perspective, imagine a body builder with a 650lb leg press is humbled with a starting squat of 185lbs to depth. Another novice who started squatting at 135lbs has gotten to 185lbs as well after a few weeks of linear progression. Both being equal, my bet is that the bodybuilder with a greater strength base from leg press will be able to reach 315lbs first. The limitations to squat strength would probably be in balance and core strength, but assuming he worked on that while leg pressing and doing iso crap I'd imagine he would be better off, but I guess there would probably be no empirical evidence to back it up.

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        • #19
          He recommends the leg press to people not strong enough to squat to depth at all with no barbell at all. Also to severe overweight people whose body mass doesn't allow them to squat to depth. Once someone is capable of squatting to depth with a 15lb barbell, they are to stop using the leg press.
          Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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          • #20
            A barbell does the job at 1/10th the cost of the perfect machine. The best machine can only be equal to a barbell so what's the point? Generally it comes down to making someone money, which is all machines are good for.


            Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum

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            • #21
              Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
              Another one that's just come to mind is when training back, it is impossible to push the large muscles of the back to failure using free weights because the biceps are always the weak link and give out first. A Pullover machine directly targets the back without any weak links in the chain.
              True, but the grip will typically give out on any pull exercise long before the back muscles are fatigued 100%. Hence straps for the last couple pulls. Straps are found for those reasons in pretty much all lifting communities.

              That being said, there is no shortage of dudes with huge backs who only train with barbells

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              • #22
                Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
                Right. I also find it's a little stressful on my shoulder itself. The movement isn't as natural. The handles are not where I need them to be and the motion is to start pressing forward-ish and then up.
                When I used to belong to a gym, I came to the conclusion that machines are sized for the average man. In some cases the adjustments provided to accomodate taller or shorter men are insufficient to adapt them to the body of an average height woman.

                I gave up on leg extensions because the machines do not have an adjustment for people with shorter lower legs, and the part you're supposed to push with your ankle hit painfully on the bony part of my foot.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
                  He recommends the leg press to people not strong enough to squat to depth at all with no barbell at all. Also to severe overweight people whose body mass doesn't allow them to squat to depth. Once someone is capable of squatting to depth with a 15lb barbell, they are to stop using the leg press.
                  Ben Pakulski squats 675 lb raw yet still see's the merits of leg pressing.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by not on the rug View Post
                    True, but the grip will typically give out on any pull exercise long before the back muscles are fatigued 100%. Hence straps for the last couple pulls. Straps are found for those reasons in pretty much all lifting communities.

                    That being said, there is no shortage of dudes with huge backs who only train with barbells

                    It's also not necessary to train a muscle to failure in order to cause adaptation, growth and or motor recruitment improvement via the CNS.


                    Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Slagathor View Post
                      It's also not necessary to train a muscle to failure in order to cause adaptation, growth and or motor recruitment improvement via the CNS.


                      Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum
                      Don't confuse what will work with what is optimum.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                        Don't confuse what will work with what is optimum.
                        It's not optimum if you get hurt and are sidelined for six months. I think going one rep short of failure is really the best bet long term. If you really want to go to failure May I suggest drop sets? Less chance of injury handling a lighter weight when you do finally fail on a movement with a loaded weight.


                        Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum

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                        • #27
                          Deadlifts and squat are seldom taken to true failure by advanced trainees, and for a good reason...
                          "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                          - Schopenhauer

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Slagathor View Post
                            It's not optimum if you get hurt and are sidelined for six months. I think going one rep short of failure is really the best bet long term. If you really want to go to failure May I suggest drop sets? Less chance of injury handling a lighter weight when you do finally fail on a movement with a loaded weight.


                            Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum
                            I often do utilize rest pause clusters where you use a 5RM weight and perform 3 reps, rest 10-15 seconds and perform another 3.....continuing till no further reps are possible.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                              Deadlifts and squat are seldom taken to true failure by advanced trainees, and for a good reason...
                              Correct and I've stated that I wouldn't recommend that numerous times on this forum.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Slagathor View Post
                                It's also not necessary to train a muscle to failure in order to cause adaptation, growth and or motor recruitment improvement via the CNS.


                                Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum
                                Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                                Deadlifts and squat are seldom taken to true failure by advanced trainees, and for a good reason...
                                Absolutely. Although it's easy to drop a dead that you can't get up and still not injure yourself

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