Monday, October 5, 2015




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Steve Carroll

In your opinion, what’s the best brand of weight machine?

This will be a purely subjective opinion. First of all I haven’t used every brand. Secondly, I am certainly not an expert on any of them. Third, I know very little when it comes to cardio equipment. (Those things make me break out in a sweat)
Fourth, one brand might be better designed for one exercise and another brand may have a better design for a different exercise.

But, since the question asks for my “opinion”, I’ll answer as best I can.

If I had to pick one brand it would be Hammer Strength. The machines I have used made by Hammer Strength are heavily built, sturdy, smooth operating and from what I know, require minimum maintenance.  Their motion, on most of their machines, usually more closely mimic the average track of free weights. And most are easily adjusted to fit the user more accurately.

Many, if not most,  Hammer Strength machines utilize a separate plate stack or a separate  bar for free weight plates for each handle, making unilateral work a snap. This also works great for a lot of rehab exercises where you need different loads for each limb.

Machines built by Free Motion also offer some interesting machines. Many of their cable machines offer the ability to adjust more closely to you personal physical characteristics. You can usually adjust the cable in 2 or sometimes 3 dimensions. Though I use them mostly for isolation exercises they do make a dead lift machine and squat machine for individuals who aren’t quite comfortable with heavy free weights yet. (Max 200 lbs on dead lift and 400 lbs on the squat machine). They also recruit more of the stabilizer muscles. Thus the increase in balance mentioned in the reference below.

A study from Globe University (Shakopee, Minnesota) found that subjects training on FreeMotion machines for 16 weeks increased muscle strength by almost 60% more than subjects training on standard weight machines. The Globe University researchers also found that the group using FreeMotion machines increased their balance by about 200% more than the group using standard weight machines.

For equipment like bars and weights, power racks, squat racks, dumbbells and weight stations you will be hard pressed to find any better than Rogue Fitness. They are the leading provider of American made strength and conditioning equipment and the official supplier for The Crossfit Games.

Nautilus has really upped their game in the last few years, too. 

I do not mean to imply that other manufacturers make inferior equipment. Just that Hammer Strength would be my personal preference of the brands I have used and that I like the more flexible adjustments available on some Free Motion machines.

Are the wearable activity monitors like “Fitbit” or “Fuel” worth the investment?

My knee-jerk answer would be no-at least not yet.

Past and even current models have shown to be very inaccurate with errors in accuracy as high as 40%. Data junkies like them but what good is inaccurate data?
I would have concerns about this type of error for any use by any fitness professional.

There is very little scientific data yet to determine what effect they have in motivating the wearer over time. My expectation is that when scientific data is available it will show only a short term affect on motivation. Some people who like the devices say they are very motivating. According to Anne Thorndike, an assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital “The question then becomes do they motivate people who aren’t yet motivated or just prompt people who are already motivated to be active each day”. Early evidence indicates the devices are motivating at first but drops off rapidly as the device loses its novelty.

I do like the idea of some of the features. The notification of when you’ve been sitting too long, for example. However, you can do that with most phones these days or just put a post-it note on your computer monitor that says “Get up off a$$”!

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.



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