Opinion Column

Fit for life: Embrace those weight-training machines

By Donna Cotnam, Daily Observer

Fotolia photo
This young woman flexing muscles on leg press machine in gym. Donna Cotnam encourages everyone to become familiar with the machines they are using and most importantly to check the amount of weight you will be lifting.

Fotolia photo This young woman flexing muscles on leg press machine in gym. Donna Cotnam encourages everyone to become familiar with the machines they are using and most importantly to check the amount of weight you will be lifting.

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At first glance, weight-training machines can look very intimidating. In fact they can look downright scary. They are actually easy to use and will help you move safely and quickly through your workout. Here are a few tips to you may want to consider as you begin your weight-training program.

First, become familiar with each machine and learn the name of them or at the very least which muscle group they work. Then, don’t just hop on a machine and start pumping away. If the last person who used it was a foot taller than you are, you may find yourself suspended in midair in the middle of the exercise.

Let a trainer show you how to adjust each machine to fit your body. Basically you line up the joint that you’re trying to move (your knees, for example) with the joint of the machine that’s moving. You shouldn’t have to strain in any way to do the movement. If you feel discomfort, particularly in your joints, stop the exercise and readjust the set or position, as needed. Sometimes you may find that you need to give the machine a hand by pulling or pushing it into a user friendly position for you to properly execute the exercise. You never want to be in a hyper-extended position and then try to ‘move’ the weight.

Always check the weight stack before you lift. Never begin the exercise without checking where the pin has been inserted. When you first learn to use a machine, write down the weight and seat adjustment (“leg extension: 30 pounds, second setting”) on a card or in a workout log and update them regularly. When you first start weight training, it’s important to start with light weights and learn how to perform the exercise. Once you are comfortable, then you can start to increase the weight and the repetitions.

Change the weight in the smallest increment possible. Most machines have half plates. Instead of increasing your weight by an entire plate, you can place a smaller plate on top of the stack.

Stay in control. If the weight stack bangs and clangs you’re probably lifting too fast. It is recommend taking two slow counts to lift the weight stack up and four slow counts to lower the weight stack down. You may feel more comfortable speeding it up to a 2-2 count.

Weight training is an excellent way to lose weight, improve you strength and endurance. Go at it sensibly and take the time to stretch each muscle group after it’s been worked. Make sure you rest each muscle group a full day before going at it again (upper body – Monday; lower body – Tuesday). The resistance of the weights tears down the muscle and it is during the rest period that the muscle recovers. Good luck with your workouts!

If there is any specific fitness related questions you would like addressed please email them to fitmom@hotmail.com.