Fitness for baby boomers and seniors

Exercise Equipment

Choosing the right equipment in the gym to use can be a daunting task. Barbells and dumbbells are pretty straight forward; but machines and other types of equipment can be confusing. The key is still exercising with good form to maximize results and minimize injuries. exercise equipment

Understanding how certain exercise machines work specifically for your body type, joint movement and goals is a science. Let’s start with cable machines.

Cable machines have pulleys. The more pulleys a cable runs through as you pull or push the easier the weight will feel. For example  you are using the cable for the rowing section on the machine (most machines have at least two different cables systems attaching to different weight plates on a gym machine); that is why more than one person can use a multi unit machine at the same time.

At your favorite gym the cable rowing machine that you like to use has just one pulley on the top and bottom of the section that the weight go up and down on, and you can do 60 lbs. 12 reps. When you are on vacation you see a similar machine in the hotel’s gym; you sit down and find for the same exercise you can do 110 lbs. for 12 reps; why is that? It all goes back to the pulley system. If you look closely at the machine you would probably find that there are four pulley’s that the cable runs through, that is why you can move more weight.

So the question is are you really lifting 110 lbs.? I guess the real answer is what you consider to be your measuring stick. The only consistent numbers you will find when lifting weights is when you use “free weights” or your body weight, I.e. push ups. Those numbers will be consistent no matter where you work out.


One of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment is bands. They come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and are easy to use. They can also be very dangerous and are usually not used properly.

band shoulder exercise
 Breaking bands have been known to leave bruises on the skin and can injure an eye when they break. One technique that can help minimize injuries from bands is to check the band before using it. Hold the band at one end and then cupping the band at the end run your hand across the length of the rubber feeling for any cuts and abrasions, as well as doing a visual check.  If you come across even the smallest of holes in the band, toss it out. Whenever you use that band, that tear will increase every time the band is extended; it is dangerous and not worth keeping.

Band Angles

The effectiveness of a band on your exercise program is the “pull line” and thickness of the band you are using. The angle at which you use a band directly affects the workload and the how smooth the moves during an exercise.

band chest press

For example, if you do a standing chest fly with the band attached parallel to your side and then you step a couple of feet forward, so the band is starting slightly behind you, when pull the band across your midline of the chest muscle it will be getting resistance through the entire range of motion.

If you do the exact same exercise and start a couple of feet back from the parallel starting point, there will be very little resistance at the beginning of the exercise, and the results will not be as effective.

Band Thickness

band thickness
The thickness of a band has a direct response on how hard it is to pull the band. It also effects how smooth the action is.

If you use a band with handles (thin band) and you row with it, the tension, though not hard, will be fairly smooth and even throughout your range of motion. If you take a (thicker band) and do the same exercise, it will of course be harder, but you will also notice the tension of the band increases exponentially as you pull.



exercise equipementMost gym machines are designed for people that are 5’4 to 5’10. People who are 5 feet or less or 6’2 or more may find they do not fit very well in certain machines; and all manufacturers are different.

If you find you are uncomfortable trying to fit into a machine to exercise (this could be anything from a leg press machine to arm curl machine), you are better off using free weights or your body weight for that particular exercise.

Axis points

If you look on various machines (I.e. Leg extension machine or an arm curl machine), you will see an axis point.
Leg extension machine axis point
The key to using a machine properly is lining up the joint of the limbs that you are using (in this case the knee) with that axis point. On leg extension machines you will see this axis (circle) or on the side of the machine (parallel to you knees).
Always make sure your knees are aligned with this axis point. When you are seating on the seat if there is no gap between the seat and the back of your knees (try to push your finger between the two) you should be in good position. If your knees are too far in front of this axis point you will be putting a great deal of stress on your knees.

Machine Versus Non Machine Workouts

Beginner vs. Advanced exerciser

The advantage here is to using machines. The advantage of using machines for your exercise routine is that a machine will help stabilize you as you lift weights. Machines can also give you greater safety as learn how to lift weight. With all that being said,  if you are a beginner you should seek professional advice on how to set up the various exercise machines to the settings (weight, chair height, starting position for the handle/bars) that are correct for your specific needs and body frame.


Advantage goes to non machine training. Everyday movements in the our lives consists of bending, twisting and rotating. Though exercise machines can do these movements, they do it in an isolated fashion. For example, reaching for a glass high up on a shelf. You can do an overhead shoulder press on a machine, which may simulate reaching overhead. However, it does not simulate doing a calf raise (going up on your toes) and possible needed to rotate your shoulder or back in order to reach the glass. Improving everyday functionality requires training the body in everyday movements.

Walking upstairsAerobics

Advantage – Tie. When the weather is bad outside, using an indoor bike, treadmill, stairmaster is a real advantage to machines. One of the problems with machines is that we use timers. You set the timer on the treadmill or bike and as soon as the mark is reached, you stop. But if your outside bike riding and it is a beautiful day, you may just keep riding because there is no timer telling you to stop.

One of the drawbacks of a treadmill is people who like to walk on the treadmill have a tendency to hold on to the front or side railings. This is a good idea when you are first learning how to use a treadmill, but you lose the value of teaching the body balance and control when you are holding on to the railings. As for overall fitness, there is no substitute for exercising using your own body mechanics to propel yourself, whether you are a bike, stairmaster or treadmill.


Advantage goes to non machine training. As mentioned before, machines are great for helping stabilize the body, a real advantage for someone who is learning how to lift weights or for a person who wants to overload their muscles with extra weights but wants to get some help stabilizing their body as they lift.

The progression of improving one’s balance involves challenge the neuromuscular system. This can only be done by making the body correct itself as it learns to stabilize in different positions and movements. There are some devices like the Bosu, half cylinders or a foam pad which can be used for more advance balance and fall prevention training or the Vibration Plate machine which is a great additive for improving neuromuscular control. All these machine and products should be used under the direct supervision of a personal trainer to ensure that it fits your level of workout progression and abilities.

If your interested in purchasing bands or other exercise equipment here are some places you can do that.

Perform Better            Power Systems            Rogue Fitness         Exercise Equipment Reviews

Whatever type of exercise equipment you choose to use, always get professional help in making sure you are using the equipment correctly and that it is in good working condition.


Important: The information on this site is not intended to treat or diagnose any injuries, illness or any type of acute or chronic conditions. Always consult your physician before starting any exercise program or any type of treatment for any type of health condition.