My belief and philosophy on strength training is that it is done in the gym with a barbell, heavy plates, and heavy dumbbells. If you have a squat rack and a bench even better (if you stack 2 sets of 9 breeze blocks on their flat, you have a poor mans squat rack to lift the barbell off). Some so-called strength programmes I witness these days resemble a gadget assault course, with all sorts of bosu balls, rubber tubing, vibration platforms (worlds most expensive coat hangers), dyna jumpers and indoor ladders! Incidentally swiss balls are banned from my gyms. When I see a player using a swiss ball in the middle of Croke Park or Twickenham during a test game, only then will I have them in my gym.
Another aspect of these diluted strength programmes that winds me up are exercise machines. The exceptions are hammer and dominator machines, which are ground based and sport specific. I won’t mention the company names for fear of libel proceedings, but they know how they are! They saw a niche in the fitness market with their highly engineered exercise machines and boy did they have an impact. All of a sudden gyms, health clubs and sports clubs embraced this concept and were covered in rows of fancy sexy looking technological machines, which had the sole purpose of allowing you to do one exercise!!! After these clubs had shelled out thousands and thousands of pounds, their members soon got bored of sitting on a chest press machine, and a leg press which had you lying on your back looking at the ceiling!!
Lo and behold medical experts have recently discovered that these machines are detrimental to the joints. They make the joints work in a fixed position and therefore only exercise the skeletal muscle. The machine does not permit involvement of tendons and ligaments. This can hypertrophy the muscle and if a strong muscle is pulling on weak ligaments or tendons, injury is more likely to occur. This means that the body cannot actually get stronger using this method. It is also important to remember that there is a neurological element to muscle improvement, movement and co-ordination. After all, the brain is the complex organ that controls muscle. For it to control muscle movement in an effective an efficient way it must be trained to do so. For example to strengthen quad, it is of little benefit doing hundreds of reps on a leg extension machine. The muscle must be strengthened in the way it is going to be used, so a much better alternative would be for example to use body weight with resistance i.e. squats.
The producers and suppliers of these wonder machines did not factor in to their master plan that no matter how hard an athlete/gym goer trained on their machines, they were not getting that much stronger. This had a major impact for coaches and athletes who trained on these machines. The fact was that their strength training wasn’t having much of a positive effect on performance, and was actually leaving the athlete’s joints and tendons more susceptible to injury.