This week, let’s talk about human vs machine, specifically, our human interaction with machines to achieve our strength goals. When we’re looking to increase our physical strength, there are gyms that have everything from Pilates Reformers and weight machines, to indoor bikes and treadmills. And there are personal coaches/trainers who are there to teach us how to use those machines to get stronger.
I work with students on mats only. We use the weight of our body for resistance exercises, and I see gradual improvements in physical strength of my students all the time.
I have had a couple of new students come into my classes that had previously worked with a coach using the Pilates Reformer – a resistance machine. These students did not have the muscle strength to do some of the mat exercises, which surprised me. They didn’t have near the muscle strength that my current mat students have. I know that the reformer works if it’s used properly, as I’ve seen results other instructors in my instructor group have had with their students. This leads me to believe that it’s not the machine that has erred, but, perhaps the instructor. I have always recommended looking at the training of an instructor before taking classes, and that’s one reason why it’s so important.
A new program called OsteoStrong has recently opened in my area. They are a franchise with several locations around the US and internationally. According to their web site, their focus is on musculoskeletal strengthening.
“The four device circuit takes only minutes to complete. Under the direction of a skilled technician, users engage in a safe, controlled movement that results in a stimulus to the central nervous system, triggering osteogenesis or new bone growth.”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Nothing that I know of like this has ever promised new bone growth, so, when an OsteoStrong center opened in my area and offered a free session for 30 people, I signed up.
When I arrived, there were two women already in there, but not doing anything with the five machines mentioned. One was using magnetic stimulation, the other was in red light therapy.
I filled out an assessment, clearly stating that I had osteopenia, and that I was there for pain in my left hip which has some cartilage/bone loss.
I was given a tour, which was fun, and then taken to the first of five machines. The first one had a vibrating plate that I stepped on. There was a bar in front of me to hold onto while standing on this plate. After a few seconds to get used to the vibration, I was asked to stand on one leg and balance. It was more difficult that I thought it would be. Then I tried the other leg – also no picnic! The trained technician said this one was a preparation for the four major machines.
On to the machines! The first one tested/strengthened arms and the exercise was pushing a bar forward with both arms while sitting on a seat with my back lengthened. I was instructed to push with all my might, hold for ten seconds and then slowly release. I repeated it three times and then was instructed to go to the next machine.
This one was testing/strengthening legs. There was a place for me to sit and place my feet on a plate that I then pushed with my legs as hard as I could and held for ten seconds, letting go slowly. Three reps with this one also.
Now, the next machine is where I ran into difficulty. I sat again with my thighs under a padded bar. There was a grip to keep my hands on, but the exercise was basically engaging my abs, lifting the bar with my thighs. OUCH! My left hip joint didn’t like that one at all. I didn’t do any more of those. I asked the technician to demonstrate the proper way to do this, in case I was doing it wrong, but when he did, I realized that I’d done it as instructed – it just wasn’t a good fit for me with my injured left hip.
The last machine is supposed to benefit posture and balance. There were grips at my side as I stood in a squat position on the machine, and I was instructed to use the motion of pushing into my feet and coming out of the squat to raise the bar attached to the grips at my hands. This was also done with a hold and then slow release and repeated three times. It was not comfortable, but it didn’t hurt.
This circuit, which took less than 10 minutes, is purported to increase bone density (as measured by DXA scan) when done once a week.
There are plenty of testimonials on the https://osteostrong.me/osteostrong-science/ web site, and perhaps the machines will do what’s advertised. However, I can’t recommend this as it’s costly, and I feel that given the medical history I’d filled out, the “trained” technician should not have used that third machine with me. At the very least should have asked how the injury affects my movement so he would know which machines to use or not.
Perhaps these machines, like the Pilates Reformer, work best when the instructor is more knowledgeable of the conditions they’re intended to improve. I’m in my 70’s and most of my students/customers are over 70 as well. I cannot recommend something that, if used incorrectly, may cause pain and possible harm.
Mat Pilates, on the other hand is fabulous for people over 60! If you want to give it a try, check my classes out here!
And, here’s a video of a type of crunch from my mat Pilates class!
Best of Health,