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THE BIGGER PICTURE IS YOU

May 12, 2010Read: Psalm 139 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." --Psalm 139:14

Have you ever noticed that when you're shown a photo, the first thing you do is look for your own face? Mission #1 is to find yourself in the frame, and only after you've done so, can you fully enjoy the bigger picture. Not sure why, maybe it's just our nature.

Aren't we glad God does the same? Take a snapshot of the world and all He sees is you. To Him, as it turns out, we are the bigger picture. (So smile!)

--J.P.

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THE MACHINIST Up your safety, keep your gains with machines

Many experienced gym goers tend to shun machine work, arguing that free weight moves are the best -- and maybe only -- way to build serious strength or muscle.  The truth is that free weights should form the base of your resistance training program but machines definitely have their place.

The iron lovers would remind you that machines take you through a predetermined range of motion, limiting the involvement of smaller, stabilizing muscles with a given exercise. For a beginner, however, this is a perfect training tool -- you can move the weight without worrying about balance or possible limiting factors with other muscles. For example, you may not be able to bench press a ton with a set of heavy dumbbells, but you may be very strong on a seated, machine version of the same exercise. The exercise will still target your pecs -- and, to a smaller degree, your deltoids (shoulders) and triceps -- and prepare you for an eventual transition to dumbbells and barbells.

Another big perk? You can train heavy with machines by yourself. No need to drag someone away from his set to make sure a bar doesn't crush you. Simply sit, place the pin and press away.

Beginners: The bulk of your work can be on machines but as you gain strength and comfort with each exercise, you should start implementing light, free-weight moves.

Intermediates: Most of your moves should be free weight exercises but toward the end of your workouts, as energy wanes and form deteriorates, it's a good idea to use machines to reduce the risk of injury while keeping your workout volume the same.

Advanced: Everything works. Nothing works forever. As an experienced lifter, you should constantly be changing your routines. Try a machines-only week or two at the gym to focus on moving weight without the worry of injury. Or use a machine move at the end of each bodypart routine for your advanced work like drop sets, higher-rep sets or forced reps.