Machines versus free weights:
Keeping in shape
There is an endless debate in fitness circles
about machines versus free weights. It's one of those issues that divide
people into camps where they often stay and refuse to listen to the
other side. The writer studies this matter weighing the pros and cons of
each with an expert in this field Dr. Arun Jayasooriya of the Colombo
General Hospital and a special physician in body fitness.
According to Dr. Arun Jayasooriya free weights are more natural than
the machine oriented physical fitness. "I must say I do favour free
weights over machines" If an exercise can be done using free weights
then do it over the machine alternative. Why? It is more natural.
This is the most important point about free weights. Our bodies are
all very different so why should we be limited to a certain path of
movement by a machine? Machines can normally be adjusted but this will
never be ideal. For example, if one leg is slightly longer than the
other how can we adjust a Leg Press machine to accommodate us?
There is a potential to cause harm when using machines instead of
free natural exercises.
The bad side to free weights is of almost no interest or risk to a
sensible trainee but can be an issue to overzealous or inexperienced
individuals and especially so in poorly supervised areas. There is a
greater potential danger with free weights than with machines. Machines
offer in-built protection. If you lose control of the weight, the
machine normally won't injure you (at least not too much). For example,
in a machine press you will not be stuck with a bar on your chest if you
fail to lift it.
Then again, there are those that say machines are dangerous because
they do not follow natural paths of movement. This is a very good point
but injury does not occur too frequently and almost never because the
machine doesn't allow this freedom. Machines are pretty much safe.
Free weights have no limitation in their range of motion. While this
is a good thing (think 'natural movement'), it can also be potentially
dangerous. For example, the trainee is the only thing stopping a
dumbbell from going too low in a fly or press movement which could
potentially injure the shoulder. Care is needed to control the range of
motion of free weights whereas the machine often takes care of this for
you. He emphasized ,"still, in my opinion, free weights are the way to
go. The natural pathway is a big advantage."
Now imagine you were a gym owner. In this day and age you cannot
trust everyone that walks in the door to behave themselves. You need to
assess the risks to your clients in your gym. To minimize the risk you
could either install machines or you could hire good instructors that
are able to teach people how to safely use the equipment. This kind of
gym education is rare these days. Gyms are businesses and they exist to
make money. It's easier and carries less potential risk to install
machines. It is also more profitable since instructors don't spend too
much time training people. It is important to remember that machines do
not represent any kind of advance in technology over a barbell (although
cables do offer certain advantages). Their use is for mostly commercial
Functional fitness is all the rage. The word "functional" relates to
exercise that mimics real-life situations. The theory is that you do
real-world exercises and you benefit in real life. Whether it's sports
or lifting a heavy box, functional fitness is what you need. Machines
are said not to be functional since they often do not mimic real life
but instead invent new pathways for our body to follow. But that does
not mean that you can't get a good workout with machines only.
It doesn't mean that machines are a waste of time. There are better
ways for the more serious trainee but the machine trainee can still
improve their quality of their life, enjoy their workout, be healthy and
feel good. It's not what I would necessarily recommend but it is way
better than what you were doing before isn't it?
The 'normal' gym is the best alternative you have without spending
money over purchasing these unusual machines.
If we took a group of normal, every day gym-going people and split
them into two groups, one group using machines and the other using free
weights what would happen? Well, I say that under normal circumstances
there would be more accidents and injuries in the free weights group.
This is absolutely not because free weights are more dangerous but
because, in our normal, average group we have young guys that want to
show off on the bench press.
In Sri Lanka, we have every day instructors that are checking
themselves in the mirror.
This is normal. The machines group get on better because he doesn't
have a 200 lb barbell bouncing off his chest and girl is doing fine on
her Hack Squat Machine while the instructors continue to check
themselves in the mirror. My apologies if you are a real instructor. He
said, "I know you exist and we love you but I'm afraid you are not the
If real instructors are thin on the ground in your area then I'd
highly recommend you find a qualified personal trainer to get the most
from your workouts.
Machines that use cables are not like other machines. Cables do allow
a much greater degree of freedom and have one big advantage over
dumbbells or barbells. Using a cable, you have constant resistance and
can adjust the line of pull and attachments very quickly. You cannot do
this with a dumbbell or barbell since they depend on the force of
gravity and the direction of movement. For example, just about any
movement that is done in a circular motion (curls, lateral raises, front
raises, flys, etc) varies in difficulty through the movement. The fly is
harder at the bottom and offers almost no resistance at the top, for
You can make up your own mind on this one. Don't believe anybody that
makes sweeping statements like "machines are not functional therefore
they are dangerous" or "free weights are extremely dangerous" or
"machines are a waste of time" and so on.
The truth is somewhere in between. Don't discard something when you
don't need to. Keep your options open.
Gorillas could disappear from Central Africa in 15 years, UN warns
Gorillas could disappear from large parts of the Greater Congo Basin
in Central Africa by the mid-2020s unless urgent action is taken to
safeguard their habitats and counter poaching, a new report by the
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Interpol warned.
Male silverback gorilla
Projections in 2002 had suggested that only 10 percent of the
original gorilla ranges would remain by 2030, but the report found that
those estimates were too optimistic given the intensification of
pressures including illegal logging, mining, charcoal production and
increased demand for bush meat, of which an increasing proportion is ape
Outbreaks of the Ebola haemorrhagic fever virus are adding to
These epidemics have killed thousands of great apes, including
gorillas, and by some estimates up to 90 percent of animals infected by
the virus will die.
The report, launched at the meeting of the Convention on the
International Trade Endangered Species (CITES) currently taking place in
Qatar, said the situation is especially critical in the eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a great deal of the escalating
damage is linked with militias operating in the region. It stated that
the militias are behind much of the illegal trade, which may be worth
several hundred million dollars a year.
"This is a tragedy for the great apes and one also for countless
other species being impacted by this intensifying and all too often
illegal trade," said Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director.
"Ultimately it is also a tragedy for the people living in the
communities and countries and countries concerned. These natural assets
are their assets: ones underpinning lives and livehoods for millions of
people. In short it is environmental crime and theft by the few and the
powerful at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable," he added.
Steiner welcomed the involvement of Interpol and called on the
international community to step up support for the agency's
environmental crime program.
Kurosawa: Inimitable master of cinema
His service to Japanese culture is extraordinary. Japan owes a great
debt to this glorious son. He is Akiro Kurosawa. And this debt can only
be repaid by remembrance.
Sri Lanka theatre goers experienced a rare treat when the Colombo
Film Circle held a film festival, co sponsored by the Embassy of Japan,
Ministry of Cultural Affairs, in honor of the centenary birth
anniversary of cinema legend Akira Kurosawa.
The film festival which was held from April 4th to the 7th at the
John de Silva Memorial Theatre entertained the Sri Lankan audiences with
master pieces such as Late Autumn and The Makioka Sisters.
Akiro Kurosawa was born in Tokyo on March 23, 1910. The birth of this
baby stirred no one's heart, for who could possibly recognize the genius
within this infant?
The Magazine Cineist prepared by the Colombo Film Circle pays tribute
to Kurosawa when it says; "Akira Kurosawa had the special privilege of
being adored by Superstars in the world of film directors. Directors
Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg promoted Akira
Kurosawa as human asset"
His 1954 film "Seven Samurai (The Seven Warriors) is upheld by
critics as the model Asian Film in world Cinema.
"The film Festival was immensely successful. The workshop was
attended by quite a good crowd and the films were well attended.
Normally we sell the magazine (Cineist), but this time we gave the
magazine for free. The workshop was free and the film festival was free"
said Chairman, Colombo Film Festival Sameera Tilakawardana.
The workshop was attended by patrons of the arts such as Dr. Patrick
Ratnayaka, Dharmasena Pathiraja and Rohan Perera.
"Unlike past there is no great turnout of the festival crowd. 15 to
20 years ago there was a turn out of 800-1000, now with the DVD
technology numbers are few. Now 300- 400 can be considered good" said
I had the fortune of attending two of the films; Late Autumn and
Makioka sisters. Both films had deep meaning and were intricately woven
around marriage, romance and love.
The audience was spell bound as relevant social themes were discussed
in the movie. The acting was riveting. Kurosawa was at his best.
I was thoroughly entertained. Reading Cineist I realized that this
prodigy of theatre did not only limit himself to social themes such as
He was also accomplished at Samurai Movies.
"Kagemusha" (The shadow warrior) was released in 1980. Cineist
describes it as a film notable for its powerful battle scenes.
Kurosawa's next film "Ran" (chaos), released in 1985 was an even more
successful Samurai epic.