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 Roguefitness.com. They are the leading provider of American made strength and conditioning equipment and the official supplier for The Crossfit Games.
Aquarius also makes some nice machines and 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.
Should I take a pain reliever (such as Nsaids) for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)?
As a rule, No. Scientifically speaking, studies have shown that Nsaids and aspirin interfere with rate of recovery from training by masking some of the signals that initiate the construction and repair process including protein synthesis.
I do use Nsaids on occasion for tendonitis or minor joint pain but I wouldn’t use it just for simple DOMS soreness. If DOMS is severe enough to affect your workout I would increase my warm up and/or add some stretching to affected muscles. That will usually eliminate much of the discomfort.
Aren’t squats bad for my knees?
NO. Squats can be absolutely brutal and they will challenge you every set, but there's another one of those myths floating around -- that they're bad for knees. Squats are not bad for the knees; improper squats are bad for the knees. Squatting with good form has been actually shown to be beneficial for the knees and make the move one of the biggest and best compound movements you can perform. Every routine should include some form of squats. Squats will build a big foundation of strength.
On the flip side, squatting halfway or incorrectly can lead to problems, including knee pain. When you perform squats make sure your toes stay in line with your knees. Try not to make your knees buckle out or in.(Especially in) If you can’t get down to parallel on a conventional squat you need find an alternative and/or work on you hip and ankle flexibility before attempting heavy lifts. Some people simply don’t have the hip flexibility to do conventional squats.
Alternatives include: Front squats, hack squats, box squats, split squats, Zelcher squats, Jefferson squats and others. There is almost always some form of squat that will work. You may have to work your way up to conventional back squats but the results are worth the effort regardless of your goal. You can see videos of all the squat variations at http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/finder/lookup/filter/muscle/id/7/muscle/quadricep
If I stop working out will my muscle turn to fat?
Muscle does not turn to fat. They are two very different types of cells. When you see your favorite athletes after retirement and they’ve put on a lot of weight it’s because their metabolism has slowed as they age and because their muscle mass has declined. They burn fewer calories in their daily activity. And they keep eating like they did their entire career but the training has stopped.
By the way, fat does not turn to muscle either. As a matter of fact, if you are overweight and lose weight you don’t lose fat cells. You still have roughly the same number of fat cells. The cells just shrink as you burn the fat stored there. That’s one reason it’s so easy to gain it back if you go back to old eating habits. The cells are already there just waiting for you to fall off the wagon.
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