Isn’t my buddy a wimp for using machines sometimes, instead of sticking with free weights? 


Live and learn, as I did. My image is “blood and guts,” hardcore training, with 440-pound reverse-grip barbell rows, crashing iron, free weights only, and me disappearing into a cloud of chalk dust. The reality, though, is somewhat different. Yes, I train with that intensity, but you’ll just as likely find me doing so in a machine as with free weights; not that I’m disparaging free weights, so much as I am championing the rights of machines to co-exist with them.

I indeed trained with that fury, still do, except that I guess I’m also a wimp in your eyes, since I now include some machines in my workouts. Such is the fate of those of us who have been training for so long and have become so strong that, unless our minds control our passion, our strength shreds our tendons and rips our ligaments right off the bone. I can’t keep track of the number of times this has happened to me — rotator cuff, quad, biceps — but, finally, after so much painful behavior modification and frustrating downtime, I discovered a way to train at my customary level of intensity without injuring myself. You know what that discovery was? Machines.

I’ve always been, and still am, a free-weight advocate, but for someone who has “been there, done that,” machines enabled me to attain much more detail, particularly in smaller muscle groups, such as my teres majors, hamstrings, pecs and delts.

I was able to exert more precise and controlled execution of each rep, which, in turn, gave me a fuller and more comprehensive contraction of individual muscles. If I had used only free weights, their compound nature, which spreads (dissipates) the stress over a broader field of muscles, would have resulted in the movement missing many of the more remote muscle fibers that constitute muscular detail. In short, I acquired a more “finished” physique, and all because of machines.

The reason you have a negative image of machines is not the fault of the machines, but of the people who use them as an excuse to avoid hard work; they expect the machine to do the exercise for them. Used properly, machines provide the same resistance as free weights, but in an isolated, rather than compound, manner.

I take my machine work seriously, complete with my one, “all-out” final set, plus forced reps; and when I’m done, I’m drenched in sweat and so pumped and burned that I’m tempted to give that machine a great big hug for torturing me so. That’s wimpy.



  • Hammer Strength Machine Pulldowns  | SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
    • Hammer Strength Machine Pulldowns  | SETS: 1* | REPS: 10
    • Hammer Strength Machine Pulldowns  | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-8
  • Barbell Rows | SETS: 1* | REPS: 10
    • Barbell Rows | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-8
  • One-Arm Hammer Strength Rows | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-8
  • Seated Cable Rows | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-8


  • Leg Extensions | SETS: 1* | REPS: 15
    • Leg Extensions | SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
    • Leg Extensions | SETS: 1 | REPS: 10-12
  • Leg Presses | SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
    • Leg Presses | SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
    • Leg Presses | SETS: 1 | REPS: 10-12
  • Hack Squats | SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
    • Hack Squats | SETS: 1 | REPS: 8-10

*Warm-up set