Are All Machines Created Equal?
Jason Deranian is MAC’s Fitness Director. As a devoted Personal Trainer and health enthusiast throughout his adult life, Jason created MAC’s fitness philosophy to prioritize expertly developed exercises over unfounded wellness trends. Here is his take on this month’s featured fitness craze.
Those of you who have frequented gyms and health clubs over the years are all too familiar with traditional iron, weight-stack equipment. You select the weight you want to use, and the plates act as resistance during the exercise. In certain situations, these weight-stacks inevitably cause limitations to the movements we perform. Inertia, acceleration, and other factors, like friction, from cams and pulleys, can cause the force required to move the weight to change at various points throughout a movement. These factors limit the functional-training aspect and may even cause injuries if movements are done incorrectly. Performing functional-exercise during a training session aims to perform movements and use the musculoskeletal system in ways that mimic how we need to move during everyday tasks. This approach prepares you to perform well in a variety of common situations both inside and outside the gym setting.
In the late 1970’s, a pair of innovative brothers from Fresno, California, opened a small factory with the goal of pumping iron passé. Now known as the Keiser Corporation, the brothers set out to find an alternative to the traditional weight-stack approach for exercise machines. The product that emerged had no weights, pins, or pulleys: the resistance came entirely from compressed air or pneumatics. By 1978, Keiser peddled the world’s first air-powered, variable-resistance machines into the market.
Keiser’s pneumatic equipment’s earliest adopters included Olympic and professional sports teams, along with some of the United States’ leading performance training facilities. Today, almost all high-performance facilities, colleges, and professional sports teams utilize this air-powered equipment. Appealing to a full spectrum of physical abilities, this pneumatic-resistance system is used by the U.S. Armed Forces (Navy SEALs and Special Forces), physical therapy facilities and even nursing homes worldwide.
So what makes compressed air, or pneumatics, the better choice for functional-training than a traditional weight-stack? The advantages can be simplified to four key benefits: power, nervous system adaptations, versatility, and safety.
Central Nervous System and Neuromuscular SystemThe pneumatic equipment provides the ability to develop and train the brain in addition to training muscles. The term “muscle memory” refers to the brain being able to record movements and the speed at which you make them. Pneumatic equipment helps retrain the user’s central nervous system and neuromuscular system, allowing for slow training/slow performance or fast training/fast performance with consistent resistance to the force applied.
- Unilateral or bilateral movements
- Zero lbs./kg starting resistance on most machines
- Consistent resistance at any speed, from slow to explosive
- True functional training for strength at any speed Heavy negatives and heavy positives
- Small-increment, <1lb resistance increases
- Simple, push-button controls
- Easy step in (not up) design
- Negligible shock loading to connective tissues and joints
- Consistent variable resistance curve at any speed
All in all, Keiser’s pneumatic equipment focuses on improving human performance whether you are a professional athlete training for competition or recovering from an injury. Traditional weight-stacks have shown results, but it is important to understand they have their limits.