fitness

The Smith Machine: 5 Exercises you've never tried.

Originally posted 31/04/2014

The Smith Machine is the one piece of equipment that despite all the bad press it has had some people adhere to it even though it is clearly an inferior way to train.

I hate machines in a gym and personally see them as a complete waste of floor space. Too many gyms have a smith machine and no squat rack! Although I am very anti Smith Machine I believe it can be used for something other than something to hang your sweaty hoody on.

I will outline some exercises you may have never tried on the smith machine.

Mobility is one of the fundamentals of human movement. Shoulder mobility is talked about greatly by fitness professionals and quite commonly becomes a problem to lifters due to overuse. Hip mobility however does not have the hype attached to it that shoulder mobility does. Unlike the shoulder which is specifically designed for mobility at the expense of stability, the hip is a stable joint which is often deprived of mobility, especially in today’s sedentary society.

The shoulder, which responds well to stability oriented training is different to it’s partner ball and socket joint the hip, which requires a great deal of attention to maintain an adequate range of motion and soft tissue health. Although my knowledge on mobility isn’t great, here are some great exercises you can perform using a smith machine to get the hips loose and ready to exercise. These exercises should be performed prior to a lower body session and on off days.

1.       Anterior-Posterior Step Over’s: Really over exaggerate opening up the groin whilst maintaining a good posture throughout the movement. Keep the torso upright as you step over the bar. If you find yourself bending the leg sideways whilst stepping over the bar you have the bar to high. Lower the bar so you are working the hips, not the spine.

2.       Lateral Step Over’s: Again, keeping the torso upright, focus primarily on working the hips, exaggerate the movement, and keep the head up.

3.       Lateral Duck-Under’s: This exercise will work on improving flexibility for your squats and first pulls from the floor. Keep your head neutral looking straight ahead and maintain a neutral spine as you squat down and move under the bar. You can change the height of the bar for this exercise to specifically work towards movement patterns of different exercises. For example, a higher bar position for the squat as the body is more upright, or lower it to promote more forward lean which will focus more on the start position of the deadlift.

4.       Lateral Under-Over’s: This exercise is good as a change of direction drill for athletes whilst increasing mobility. The constant manipulation of foot placement performed at a fast pace will improve the athletes centre of gravity within the base of support.

5.       Band Stomps: this exercise is a great way for teaching initiation of the posterior chain and will enhance sprint speed. Attach a stretch/jump band over a bar, the higher you set the bar, the more tension you’ll have on the band but make sure it’s not at a height where you’re having to strain yourself to stomp on the band, the important thing is to feel your glutes and hamstrings fire as you rapidly extend the thigh.

 Place your foot on top of the band and stomp down. The band should graze the front of your hip at the end of the range of motion. Allow the band to assist you back to the starting position and then quickly stomp again. If teaching activation patterns then perform this exercise at a controlled pace if not then crack out as many reps as possible in a certain period of time. Regardless of how high the bar is set and your foot position height; there should be no hyper-extending at the lumbar spine. Hyper-extending at the lumbar spine is a compensatory movement due to weak glutes and tight hip flexors.

You may have noticed that all of these exercises can be done using a barbell and rack. The only difference being on the smith machine you can change the height of the bar at ease. To conclude I think the smith machine really isn’t a good tool for training as it doesn’t go through natural movement patterns and takes up a lot of floor space which can be put to better use!  

Waist Trainers: The most dangerous fitness fad

The growing obsession for women to achieve that Kim K hourglass figure is stronger than ever. The huge bum, huge boobs and tiny waist look is all the rage in the society we live in today and people all over the world are going to extreme lengths to achieve this. Liposuction, tummy tucks and boob jobs are more affordable and accessible in most of the western world. This twisted image on what should be the norm is infiltrating the fitness industry.

Kardashian-Waist-Trainer.jpg

 

This photo shows Kim K's waist, artificially squeezed in to create that tighter, hourglass type figure. However, these figures haven’t been sculpted using the healthy process of a clean diet and plenty of exercise, no. The actual culprit is far, far worse.

 

The Waist Trainer

These women are achieving this look via the use of the waist trainer. The waist training phenomenon is nothing new. These have actually been around for centuries, in the old form of the corset. The corset was used by women to squeeze their fat up towards their arm pits and down below their belts to create that feminine, hour glass figure. These were gradually phased out due to the health risks, reports of women dying from organ failure and rib cages collapsing were not uncommon.

So why are these methods back in use today?

The company Waist Trainer UK claims that the use of their waist trainers will instantly create that hour glass figure due to perspiration and compression. The company also claims that their waist trainers suppress appetite, speed up your metabolism and improve your posture. Hmmm.

 

Waist training myths debunked

#1 – Waist trainers suppress appetite

Some companies contend that the use of a waist trainer will apply pressure to your abdominal area and therefore you’ll eat less as the stomach is being ‘squished’ therefore forcing you into a calorie deficit. However, the natural reaction of the human appetite once the waist trainer has been removed is to overcompensate for the calories you may have missed earlier.

 

#2 – Waist trainers instantly give you that hour glass figure

If you wrap a bandage tightly around your arm and leave it on for a few hours, once you take it off your arm will appear smaller. This is not due to perspiration or fat loss but is just a reaction to your soft tissue being compressed. Take a look at your arm an hour later and it will be back to its normal size. This ‘instant’ hour glass figure is just temporary.

 

#3 – Waist trainers improve your posture

The wearing of a waist trainer may force the body into an upright position meaning you walk around with correct posture, however, the use of a waist trainer causes atrophy of the abdominal muscles. Which are key to maintaining correct posture and form whilst exercising.

 

#4 – Waist trainers help you lose fat

Walk into any commercial gym and you’ll eventually come across a girl exercising in a waist trainer. Companies that sell these products endorse that waist trainers help you lose fat whilst exercising due to the increased perspiration coming from the mid section whilst wearing it. Whilst this maybe true, excess sweating whilst only being able to take on small amounts of water can lead to dehydration. As well as this, waist trainers restrict the muscles of the diaphragm which in turn leads to the cardiovascular system being limited. It does not take a genius to work out how this is dangerous whilst exercising.

 

The ugly truth

Waist trainers can affect circulation leading to varicose veins and all sorts of other health problems. As well as this, the digestive system can suffer with acid reflux occurring as well as constipation. The atrophy of the abdominal muscles caused by wearing a waist trainer can also lead to chronic back pain and breathing problems.

I understand that the society we live in today has put extreme pressure on females to conform to these ideals portrayed by the media and I accept that people will still wear waist trainers regardless of the health risks, but if you are going to use a waist trainer use one sparingly and try not to upgrade to tighter versions and remember, they DONT actually work. The only way to decrease waist size healthily is through a good, balanced diet and regular exercise.