Another month has passed and as per usual it feels like time is in warp speed, does it not? Is it just me or was it just the Holidays like a couple of months ago, and here they are approaching at a breakneck pace yet again.

Loving summer the way I do, I hate to admit it but summer is ending and a new season is upon us. On the upside, fall is one of my favorite seasons and the only bad thing about fall is that it happens to lead into winters that seem to linger on a bit too long for my taste.

However, there is a reason for my ranting and I am about to get to it: Now is the time for making your workouts count by training smart BEFORE the Holidays hit so that you can feel good about yourself throughout the season this year. Wouldn't you like to sail through the Holidays guilt free for a change? Lucky for you, there is still time to get in shape before the Holidays hit!

So, let's talk about how to get the best workout that you can in the gym. The question I want to address here is one that I get asked often. Which is better--free weights or machines? Or do I have to use free weights? Aren't the machines in the gym good enough for a good workout?

I believe that the best workout possible is a combination of both.

The great thing about machines: They isolate the muscle groups and are a bit easier to use than free weights, especially for novices. The machine controls the range of motion.

The great thing about free weights: You must control and stabilize the weight, using your own body and muscles to do so. Gravity provides momentum and resistance that you must control. This makes them more difficult than machines, yet very effective.

Therefore, the combination of machines AND free weights is a very beautiful thing. The variety in workload as well as exercise execution combines for a very efficient and effective workout.

You can go to straightforwardfitness.com for more info on strength training and be sure and go to the compound and isolation exercise pages for before and after pictures on some of the most basic exercises, along with written instructions on how to perform them correctly. It is a great FREE source of info, if I do say so myself.

For an in depth look at machines and their proper use, you should go to the gym equipment guide page at straightforwardfitness.com. Most gyms have these machines or something very similar to them.

Free weights are safe if you are cautious and use proper form and technique. Below are a few guidelines to keep in mind when using free weights:
  • Always start out with very light weights until you can perform the exercise in perfect form.
  • ALWAYS USE A SPOTTER if you choose a heavy enough weight that makes 8 or less reps difficult.
  • If you’ve never done free weights before, at first they will seem very wobbly and out of control. Do not increase your weights until you are able to perform the exercise with good form and technique. You control the weight, not momentum.
  • Do all exercises using slow and controlled form throughout every phase of the exercise.

    Be sure and check out my complete list of strength training guidelines for a more thorough discussion.

    I try to sort of go back and forth. In other words, maybe do a chest press machine first, then move onto a free weight dumbbell chest fly then back to a machine shoulder press and then onto a dumbbell side raise. Get the gist?

    The possibilities are endless. Just trust me on this: you are missing half the strength-training boat if you are not utilizing the free weights and cable machines at your gym. You can always feel free to contact me for help with setting you up with a well-structured workout utilizing the best of both worlds!

    This is the part of the newsletter where I picture an exercise and give explicit instructions on its proper execution.

    No back workout is complete without performing some type of row. The dumbbell bentover row is one of my favs for back development and strengthening. Plus, it makes for a pretty back. :)

    Primary Muscle Group Worked:
    Secondary Muscle Group Worked: Biceps.
    For a video demonstration of this exercise, click here.

    Preparation: Place one hand and the same-side knee on an exercise bench, the foot of the opposite leg on the floor, and the hand on that side of the body holding a dumbbell in your hand, hanging at arms length below your shoulder at a slight angle as shown.

    Execution: Exhale as you pull the dumbbell upward in a slight angle until it touches your lower ribs/outer waist as if starting a lawnmower or sawing. Inhale as you lower the dumbbell slowly to the starting position. Repeat for desired amount of reps. Switch sides and repeat.

    1) Be sure to keep arm/elbow in tight and as close to the body as possible as you raise the dumbbell.
    2)Think good posture, keeping a natural slight arch in your lower back and flat upper back throughout.
    3) Keep a slight bend in the supporting knee.
    4) Go slow and controlled.
    5) Pause at the top of the move before lowering the dumbbell.
    6) Never sling the weight up (two seconds up) and go just as slow in lowering the weight (two seconds down).

    Always, always, always go slow and controlled! Remember form and technique trump heavy weights any day of the week, so keep this exercise light enough that you can execute perfect form. Choose a weight that makes the last two of 8-12 reps very challenging yet still doable in good form.

    Okay, peeps! This is the inspirational part of the newsletter known as the "Ponder Pond" where you're welcome to take a swim in the sweet waters of inspiration.

    This video once again brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat with its poignant message. Plus, I do so love my coffee in the mornings and this vid gives it a whole new slant. Hope you enjoy it and that it touches you the way it did me.

    Well, that's about it for this time! I hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter and until the next issue, may the wind be at your back and improved health and vitality your new reality!

    If you enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to pay it forward to anyone you think would like it too. That is the best compliment you could ever pay me, and I appreciate it very, very much.

    And don't forget to tell everybody about Straightforwardfitness.com where they can get all the free fitness info their heart desires and sign up for this newsletter while they are there.

    From my heart to your health,

    Linda Burke, CPT

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