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Tales from the Texan!

Rage against the machine?

Travis Burkybile

Happy Friday all!

Last week we discussed the differences that stretching vs strengthening had on flexibility/mobility. This week I would like to talk about something that is one of the mostly hotly debated topics in the fitness world in the last few years. 

In the red corner we have "functional fitness" From Crossfit to other current trends, this contender is anti machine/isolation exercise. The claims center around the idea that doing multi joint, weight bearing exercises are superior because you are made to coordinate several joints and muscle chains together. You save time because you don't need to train each body part independently.  This trend has gained steam recently but is actually a very old concept. Go look at pictures of gyms in the early 1900s. Climbing ropes, barbells, medicine balls, and gymnastics equipment is the norm. Every new fitness trend is mostly repackaged and rebranded these days. I digress. 




In the blue corner we have "isolation training" advocates. This is actually a newer concept largely popularized by the Nautilus circuit training machines Arthur Jones created decades ago, as well as body part split routines from Arnold Swarchzanegger and other famous bodybuilders. The idea is that by using isolation training/machines you maximally target the muscles you are training for the most development in strength and hypertrophy. You have a low learning curve so safety is also high for those new to training. 

Roughly 100 years later

Roughly 100 years later

So how do we pick? Which is best? The answer is both of course! 

Allow me to show a few examples. The following pictures are clients/coworkers and friends of mine. 

All three of them had ankle restrictions that limited their ability to squat. The only thing I did with them is spend 5-10 minutes using stretch techniques on their lower leg. This allowed all of them to have greater range of motion in the squat pattern. So how can they each maximize this on their own?

I like the analogy that will make sense to all the musicians and music lovers out there. Think of the differences between a chord and a note. Any isolation or machine movement would be considered a note. They are much easier to play and have a definite and simple sound. Any complex free weight exercise would be the equivalent of a chord. It is more complex, with richer and fuller sound. It takes more skill to execute. They are the base and the guitar of the song respectively. 

So how do you apply them correctly? In the above scenario I would have each person use a seated calf machine to stretch the restricted calf muscles and strengthen them in a position that improves ankle range of motion. If maximum range is used with slow lowering and pauses at the bottom, this can greatly improve the persons ankle function. That is only a portion of the squat as a whole, but will directly correlate to improved function as part of a complimentary training program. You can't play the entire chord if you are missing a note!

So make sure to use the right tools at the right time. You will be able to play fantastic music!