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This Week's If They Had the Balls...

Hi T-Gang,

I think this topic may have been mentioned before, but my question's on a bit different angle.

Ron Harris mentioned in his IF THEY HAD THE BALLS that it's OK to use machines to train instead of freeweights. I noticed that due to my lack of training partner, I tend to stop before I fail (because I dont' want the weight to fall on me!). I also believe that this has had some negative impact on my training. I do squats and deadlifts, but I'm talking about upper body (such as bench, etc.) I'm not training to be athletic or whatever. I'm training purely to be stronger and leaner. Given my concern for safety, would it matter if I used machine instead of free weights for some of my upper body movements? Or is it not worth it? (i.e. it's better to stop before going to failure on free weights than to use machines) Any thoughts, experiences, etc.?


Stop before failure whether you use machines or free weights. If you are not training to be athletic, then machines will be fine for your goals (hypertrophy). If training to be athletic or have carryover for other activities, I’ve found machines don’t carry over as much and can be detrimental.

I don’t really have much experience with machines but if you work out in a gym someone should be willing to spot you on those never say die sets, if you work out at home (like me) get a power rack, your can bench, incline, military press etc, all to failure, safely to your hearts content in one.

That is exaclty why I moved to dumb bells for my upper body movements. It takes some getting used to, but you can’t get crushed by db’s when you are doing bench. The only times I use a bar is when I can get out from under it easily - like skull crushers.

Why are you training until failure?

Is there a common, understood defnition of “training to failure”? Also, with a definition in mind, how does one decide what percetage of failure to shoot for? I think people are too scared of failure (apologies for the pun), but I also think I use it too much.

Training to failure - training until you can no longer complete a full rep with correct form.

No reason to stop before failure. I train to failure every time and I’m bigger than all of you. :stuck_out_tongue:

I never have a training partner, and as such, I usually use dumbells or hammer machines. While some may argue that machines lock you into a grove and not be as productive, I find the only real weak point is that you have to work your stabilizers with a separate exercise. As far as trainging to failure, I do it all the time, have been for years, and I keep getting stronger and bigger. Occassionally if I’m feeling a little under the weather, or possibly in need or more recouperation for an injury I may do sub-all out sets, but I know that I’m not gonna really gain anything from 'em

You know, I quit training to failure for the most part about six months ago on legs, and instead started doing as many full reps as I safely could (usually 8 to 10)and finished off with 2 to 4 partial reps, with a goal of doing 12 reps all total. I found that my gains were about the same as when I worked to failure.

Training to failure, occasionally, is a definate option for one in pursuit of hypertrophy. See Ian King’s ideas on periodization of intensity.

Training to failure will not, however, make you appreciably stronger.

There was a study a while back that showed that the most intelligent trainers used both machines AND free weights. Food for thought.

Oh, and to Mike the Lib: You may be bigger than all of us, but ego isn’t everything.

Welcome back, where have you been?

you chris maguili help me with building of my body ? i finish training

routine you made ; gain muscle 3 kg, fat 5k g ( not good fat )… now want

andro. you think is a good andro ? mag10 ??? sorry for english. you

understand polynesian ??? your is name haiwaiin. i write good

polynesian. Secitcarp sti egnahc lliw tsetoiB ebyam dna ,drow eht daerpS.

Nwo sih htiw etepmoc taht stcudorp noitnem I nehw neve, rennam laitrapmi na

ni os enod sah, setaredom eh nehw, ohw, streboR lliB fo noitpecxe eht htiw,

tsetoiB dna srotaredom eht rof tpmetnoc tub gnihton evah I. Hguorht teg

reven stsop ym fo tsoM. Tnetnoc rieht fo sseldrager–ti fo nuf eht rof

tsuj, ylmodnar stsop ym rosnec yeht woN. Sdneirf ym lla ot tsetoiB ssid

dluow dna, niaga stcudorp tsetoiB yub reven dluow I meht dlot dna ylsuoiciv

meht detlusni I, siht fo tluser a sA.) tluser siht gnitroper tsop eht

derosnec yeht; esaercni on dnuof dna, xebirT htiw dekcehc slevel

enoretsotset ym dah I (stcudorp tsetoiB fo ycaciffe eht denoitseuq ro)

sbaLtnavA dna mrahPogrE yb (stcudorp s’rotitepmoc denoitnem yeht esuaceb

stsop ym fo wef a derosnec srotaredom eht, oga shtnom lareveS. NairatrebiL

ehT ekiM ma I. thanks for the help of you, maguili !!

I’d like to hear Ron’s thoughts on cable stacks. As good as free weights and machines?

I understand that concentric and eccentric failure are two seperate things, but failing on the concentric in something like squats and being able to slowly lower the loaded bar in a controlled manner onto pins sounds easier said than done. My fear is of my form going to shit and possibly injuring my back.

So, when the rest of you talk of training to failure do you do it on the larger compound movements like squats and deads, or only on your secondary exercises that come later?

Thank you everyone for replying. Interesting to hear thoughts on training to failure. My definition is same as Michelle’s. If I lose my range of motion and control of the weight, I consider that “failure” and terminate the set.

BTW - it's hard to push myself as hard as I want to push myself with my definition of failure if I terminate my set before that point. The last thing I need is getting stuck under a barbell. It happened once...well, almost, cuz a guy helped me when he saw what was going on. I don't care to repeat the experience. X_X

I'll start using dumb bells more for upper body then. :)

Machines are fine if you fit into the average body size mold. Most machines are designed on this premise, therefore if you were a circus midget or Shaq your probably not going to get the most out of using machines. Also machines are most often designed to perform movements slowly (ie. Nautilus), not good for building explosive strength. Exercises done quickly on machines incorporates momentum into the equation again limiting the effectiveness. None the less, sed correctly machines can be beneficial.

I have never understood the all or nothing with machines or free weights. I can see not using only machines, but using a machine (like the Hammer decline press) for 4 to 8 weeks, then switching to free weights (bench press) for your next workout routine.

I have found dumbbells to be helpful with failure.

And as far as failure not building strength, I was using a standing calf raise machine at a World Gym that unfortunately only went up to 495 pounds. I was using about 400 with one leg and was worried that if I kept going up I would have to figure out how to add weight somehow. I did the Hammer leg press for a short time also, but couldn?t add more weight. Judge for yourself if that was strong, and this was done with one set to failure.

Now it has been a couple of years since I have used a machine, and don?t train to failure very often. But when I was training to failure, I did it on all exercises. Including squat. I actually used a bent bar. I don?t know what it was designed for, but when I would squat in the squat rack, it would stop an inch above the rack at the bottom of my squat. I just had to bend forward slightly to get the bar off me.

kalam: Polynesian? Hah! More like backwards English.

I think Ron hit the nail on the head. It doesn’t matter if you use free weights, machines, or cable stacks, as long as you train hard and heavy, and do plenty of eccentrics, like you boys are sayin. Concentrics are good for strength but not much else…read the studies. Later…