Hidden threat: simulators that you should stay away from

Table of contents
  1. Smith's Simulator
  2. Exercise machine for reducing and diluting the legs
  3. Leg press machine
  4. Gakk squats
  5. Torso Rotation Simulator
  6. Vertical block
  7. Isolated bench press machine
  8. What is the result?

Most people come to the gym primarily for their health, but unfortunately, it has a very high chance of damaging their health. At the same time, the main threat to your health is, oddly enough, the simulators themselves.

When you go to the gym, you think that any exercise machine there is safe and effective, but this is not the case. Having a wide variety of gym equipment helps sell membership cards, but classic barbell and dumbbell exercises are generally much more effective and safer than most of the equipment you see in your gym.

I will focus on seven simulators that are better to replace, or at least pay attention to how you use them.

Smith's Simulator

Let's start with the very popular Smith simulator.

The Smith machine can be effective if you do some isolated exercises that do not require a large range of movement (for example, the toe lift in Smith and the glute bridge in Smith), but most people use the Smith as an alternative to the Power Frame, performing basic exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

People naively believe that the ability to fix the bar in the simulator at any time will reduce the risk of injury, but this is far from the case. The problem is that Smith has a rigidly fixed trajectory of the projectile movement (vertically), i.e., when, for example, you do a bench press in Smith, the bar is forced to move along a fixed vertical trajectory, which is bad for your elbows and increases the chance of injury.

In the classic bench press, your barbell moves in an arc-shaped path.

Different movement options for athletes from beginner to pro level

Look at the sit-ups in Smith, and you will see a similar picture: due to the fact that the barbell in Smith is fixed on one vertical trajectory of movement, sit-ups in Smith are biomechanically not natural. This is why many people push their pelvis forward when squatting, which not only kills all the benefits of squats for the core and buttock muscles but also harms the musculoskeletal system. If you did this number in a classic squat, your barbell would simply fall behind you.

If in classical exercises your body adjusts the trajectory of the projectile to the capabilities of the joints, then in Smith the weight simply breaks your joints into a kink.

In addition to the fact that your joints are in unnatural positions, in Smith, you do not work out the stabilizer muscles at all because the bar is fixed and the simulator does all the stabilization for you. This leads to the use of a lazy, loose technique and allows you to get only a small part of the result that you would have if you had used the classic dumbbell and barbell exercises.

No less dangerous and practiced by many analog Gakk squats in Smith (back is vertical and rests on the bar, legs are brought forward), this technique kills your knees.

This is due to the fact that, in addition to the gravity of the bar, the reaction force of the support also acts on the back. Acting on the back, along the kinematic chain of our skeleton, it passes to the knee joint. This mode of operation is unnatural for the joint and will damage it under significant loads.

Recommendation: Avoid using the Smith machine for most exercises.

Exercise machine for reducing and diluting the legs

Has it ever occurred to you that these devices are more like instruments of torture than exercise machines? If so, then you are not far from the truth.

The second pair of simulators that you should stay away from are those for drawing and spreading your legs while sitting.

These machines are usually used to train the glutes and adductor muscles of the inner thigh, but there are much better alternatives in the form of sand-legged squats (as well as adduction and abduction on the block), allowing you to load these muscles in a more natural way.

The main problem with these simulators is that you need to use significant weights to provide a sensitive load, while in real life your body will never use these muscles to perform isolated work with large weights. (The purpose of these muscles is to maintain balance when running and walking.)

The only way to load them seriously is to perform squats on one leg, and even in this case, they are used exclusively as stabilizers.

At the same time, the more you increase the weight in the leg extension simulator, the more you load the muscle known as the wide fascia tensor of the thigh. This muscle can very easily become overloaded and clamped, transferring tension to the knee joint (the attachment point of the broad fascia), which in turn leads to knee pain.

Heavy weights used in "training" leg dilution and reduction can also easily lead to lower back injuries, including preforms spasms, leading to preforms syndrome. Excluding these exercises from the program usually reduces these painful sensations.

Recommendation: exclude the use of these simulators.


Leg press machine

Next on our list is a leg press machine. In general, there is no need to completely abandon this exercise, but you should reconsider the technique of performing it, especially if you are experiencing problems with your lower back.

Many people think that the leg press in the simulator is a safer alternative for the lower back than the classic squat with a barbell, but this is only partially true. When you do the leg press, as the amplitude increases, it becomes more difficult to maintain a neutral spine position (a natural curve in the lower back), and you start lifting your buttocks from the pillow and your sacrum from the back machine as your knees approach your chest. Your coccyx begins to twist forward, which creates conditions for injury to the intervertebral discs.

This means that you can only do short repetitions in a limited range of motion, and every time you decide to lower the platform to stretch your glutes, you are at serious risk of a lower back injury.

For most people, it is best to replace the leg press with exercises that allow you to perform movements in a safer range, such as barbell squats, scissor squats, and lunges. These exercises also allow you to comprehensively develop numerous stabilizers, cortical muscles, and extensors of the spine, which will be more useful in real-life situations such as lifting and carrying weights.

When you squat with a barbell, most of the muscles in your body are recruited, even the foot stabilizer muscles that prevent you from falling forward, while with the leg press in the simulator, all the weight stabilization work is done by the simulator.

Additionally, it is necessary to note the risk of injury to the knee joints if the legs are placed incorrectly in the leg press (too low or too wide).

If you are still a fan of the leg press and do not want to exclude it from your program, I recommend that you use it as a final exercise: add 3–4 sets after you have previously tried your muscles with squats or lunges. This will allow you to avoid using excessive weights. Be sure to limit the amplitude and make sure that the technique is maintained (neutral position of the spine, buttocks pressed to the seat, tailbone to the back, knees moving in the plane of the feet). I also recommend trying a single-leg bench press, as this will limit the rotation or separation of your pelvis.

Recommendation: Use it in a limited way with the correct technique.

Gakk squats

Not included in our list is a simulator for gakk squats, squats in which the feet are placed forward in the starting position (compared to conventional squats), and the body and lower legs move parallel to each other.

The main problem with this simulator is that the knee joint on the side of the femur is constantly affected by a shear force.

With the above-mentioned body position, the athlete is kept in balance by leaning back against the platform of the simulator. Respectively, in addition to the gravity of the projectile, another force acts on the back—the horizontal, forward-directed reaction force of the support. Acting on the back, along the kinematic chain of our skeleton, it passes to the knee joint. This is the horizontal, forward-pointing force with which the femur acts on the joints of the knee joint.

Although the anterior-posterior stability of the knee joint is great (it is provided by the cruciate ligaments), the load during such squats with significant weights can damage the joint. Moreover, this mode of operation is unnatural for the joint.

Recommendation: exclude the use of this simulator.


Torso Rotation Simulator