| September 15, 2021
By Trevor Mah
Read time: 4 min.
The amount of poor advice, myths, misleading information, etc. out there can go on forever. So here’s some more I have come across and hopefully, this can clear things up for you as well.
If you are wondering about something in particular, take a look at the previous parts of this article if it has already been addressed.
For squatting or anything else with your foot on the ground (or machine), there’s technically nothing really wrong with using the cue to push through your heels. This point is more of a coaching cue to prevent trainees from pushing through their toes. People who are new to training likely have a tendency to come off their heels and push through their toes for squats, leg presses, and other lower body exercises. Pushing through the front foot prevents proper engagement of the posterior chain, can force too much pressure on the knees, and overall. Not knowing any better is normal if you are new, so when this happens, coaches correct this common error by keeping your heels flat to teach proper form and movement.
This becomes poor advice if it becomes fully indoctrinated in one’s training. In some extreme instances, I have seen people push so much through their heels that their toes start to lift off instead. Best shoes to lift and run in Naturally, my best suggestion that has worked well with myself and others in the past is to learn to push from the midfoot (while still keeping the foot flat on the surface of course). This allows for proper weight distribution and better motor recruitment. Taking it one step further, if you train barefoot, learning how to control force evenly and engaging your toes will also benefit your movement. Remember that your feet have a lot more important function just like your hands do with upper body movements. Learning to know where the weight is when loading up your squats, deadlifts, lunges, and even hip thrusts will help you get better at the movement.
Additionally, there are times when it is okay to push through the balls of your feet or toes. Some exercises that require high quad emphasis such as sissy squats, hovering ankle lunges, and more, are designed to specifically overload one area. Of course, these exercises are not usually for everyone, especially beginners. If you are capable of performing them competently and without pain, then you can certainly push through your toes if needed.
So in all, pushing through your heels is a good place to start if you are new, but understand that this gets old quickly as you become more accustomed to balance and other exercise variations.
On a basic level, sweating is your body’s response to an increase in temperature from built up kinetic energy from physical activity. Heat is a byproduct of this movement, so you sweat in order to naturally cool your body temperature down. With this in mind, it’s easy to overlook this common science and believe that pushing yourself more along the way equates to harder work. After all, more movement and effort equals more sweat right?
The truth is that this varies too much between individuals to be definitively true. Some people naturally don’t sweat that much no matter how hard they work, and some people can be drenched from tying their shoes. The key is to not take the change in hue of your clothing as an indicator of hard work all the time. Most of the time though, if you are generally sweating a fair amount, you probably had a good effort more often than not. Just remember there are other indicators that are better for assessing your efforts.
Conversely, sweating profusely during exercise is not necessarily indicative of effort and effectiveness either. If this was the case, then people who live in natural hot climates would be in better shape, but this is not true. Don’t forget, always stay hydrated!
This boils down to knowing the right time and place for any exercise whether it is with free weights or a machine. With free weights, many individuals will benefit from learning form in a manner that is typically more natural than a fixed pattern from machines. Stabilizer muscles for injury prevention, posture, and versatility are all pluses for free weights. I believe this information is misinterpreted because it is easy to note all the benefits for free weights, but inadvertently believe that this also means there are little benefits for machines.
Depending on your goals, machines can be very important in your programming. Even though many of them do not have stabilization demands, if your goals are strength based and you want to exert as much force as possible then machines will allow you to do so. In fact, knowing when to implement mechanical advantages is an advanced method in many programs.
For those who may be dealing with injuries, some machines will also allow you to coax your way back into particular movements. For rehabilitation, exercises such as isolated leg extensions can be used for those recovering from certain knee injuries. There are tons of machines out there with variations and unique designs - way more than even what you may see in a typically big box gym.
In conclusion, knowing when to use free weights or machines comes down to your goals and when to strategically place them in your program to get the results you want. Free weights will always be more versatile and convenient for many, but machines certainly have their place too.
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