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Free Weights vs. Machines: Which is Better?-->, FF Insider#103
July 27, 2011
Welcome Back,

Please enjoy another issue packed with evidence-based information about sports performance training and news about current events at Finish First Sports Performance. If you find value in this e-newsletter, please forward this message to your teammates, coaches, or other parents of hard working athletes.

Finish First Sports Performance is the official training/performance coaching provider for the Youngstown Phantoms USHL Hockey Team, the Robert Morris Univeristy NCAA Division 1 Men's Ice Hockey Team, and the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Organization.

Inside this Issue:

To bring you the very best information, this newsletter focuses on awareness of the training principles for young athletes, and how to use them to make sure your coach is on the right track. Enjoy!

1. Performance: Free Weights vs. Machines: Which is Better for Sports Performance Training?

2. Performance II: The Importance of Balance in Golf

3. Special Announcements

4. Motivational/Inspirational Quote

5. Thank You


Free Weights vs. Machines: Which is Better for Sports Performance Training?

By Jeremy S. Hoy,MS, CSCS, NASM, NASE, Performance Scientist

Last week, a parent and prospective new athlete visited the facility for the first time to gather some information and see what Finish First Sports Performance was really about.

After discussing the ins-and-outs of performance training, and explaining how our system works, the father asked why we don’t have weight training machines in our training center. I could tell he was surprised by this fact, and took the moment as an opportunity to teach him why I choose not to use traditional weight training machines for performance enhancement.

I am going to provide a simplified version of my lecture (really, it wasn’t that long!). I know this issue has been debated since the first machines were introduced by Author Jones of Nautilus in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, it was around that time that performance training in America took a turn in the wrong direction.

Instead of focusing on understanding movement sciences (motion and motor patterns), the U.S. focused on cardiovascular components (aerobic training). Many people have been tested that performed very high with regards to cardiovascular components yet lacked the necessary motor skills to perform the most basic athletic movements.

In other words, many people could run forever, but would trip over their own feet if they were asked to run, change direction, block another player, and then catch a ball—all of which requires multiple motor skills and programming specific to sports.

While the U.S. was developing ‘distance runners,” the Eastern Bloc countries (former Soviet Union, etc.) were studying and creating better athletes. That is why so much of our modern sports performance sciences are coming from studies done by the Eastern Bloc countries over the last 30-40 years! (side note: at Finish First Sports Performance, we use many different training methods, rooted in movement sciences from the Eastern Bloc research).

Ok, back to machines vs. free weights.

During the time that cardiovascular training became the main focus for training in America, bodybuilding began to take center stage as a sport and training method for ultimate performance. While bodybuilding is a sport in itself, its training methods are not optimal for athletes of other sports. In America, unfortunately, much of our ‘performance science’ studies were done on cardiovascular training or bodybuilding.

Bodybuilding requires a muscle to be trained in isolation. When is a muscle used in isolation in sport? I honestly cannot think of a sport movement that utilizes only one muscle, without any involvement of additional muscles for stabilization, rotation, balance, etc. So, why would you train in isolation? You shouldn’t.

First, let me say that most machines are designed to train an isolated muscle around a fixed joint in a specific range of motion. These machines are designed for hypertrophy (muscle size). This is very important for bodybuilding, but not necessarily for sport performance (some athletes need hypertrophy and this can be addressed with free weights).

Secondly, training muscles in isolation may actually impede the motor programming needed for optimal sports performance. Remember, the body adapts to the specific demands applied to it. Repeatedly asking the body to use muscles in isolation causes inefficient motor patterns (muscles firing), inhibiting sports movements that require many muscles to work together.

Also, training with machines does not mimic sports movements. Understand that the most sport specific movements that can be done are not done in the weight-room; they are done in the competitive arena. Playing a sport is the most sport specific exercise you can perform.

However, playing your sport does not address the many components of functional movements, balance, strength, power, speed, etc. So, it is important to address these through training. Training can be general in the beginning, but must progress to specific movements for a greater carryover into sports related skills. It should also be mentioned that these specific movements need to be carefully selected so that they do not mimic the sports skill too closely, so that any technical differences do not hinder performance.

Most machines are used while you are sitting down, with no demand for balance or any other functional training aspect. Performing an exercise while seated requires much less dynamic vision and balance. Sports require high levels of dynamic vision training and functional training. Using free weights allows you to address balance, dynamic vision training, and functional training, as well as any additional issues that might need to be addressed.

Typically, one machine has one function—a chest press machine is designed only for the chest press. Free weights are more versatile and more specific to performance training. However, because machines are so effective at isolating a muscle, they are very important for specific rehabilitation or to address specific injury issues. I think that is where they are the most relevant for athletes—in the rehab setting (for initial rehab, then specific reconditioning must be used to properly prepare the athlete for re-entry into the competitive arena).

It is our goal at Finish First Sports Performance to prepare our athletes to perform their best when it matters the most. Most often, this requires a comprehensive training program that covers all aspect of training, specific to the function of each athlete’s sport. We choose to use free weights and other accessory training apparatus to achieve the desired results with our athletes. Machines that train a muscle in isolation have no place in our training facility, and should have no place in yours (with the exception of rehabilitation or specific issues). If you have any questions about this article, please contact me at

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Performance II:

The Importance of Balance in Golf

By Brandon Monin, MS, CSCS, TPI CGFI, Performance Scientist

Many golfers and fitness professionals often overlook the importance of a golfer’s overall balance. Increasing a golfer’s overall balance will help to correct any proprioceptive imbalances from left to right as well as overall stability in the core.

There are several issues that are usually present when a golfer presents limitations with balance.

Our bodies use three internal control systems to help maintain balance throughout the golf swing: eyes, ears, and the nervous system (proprioception).

These three systems function together supplying the brain with tons of information from our surroundings and our body so muscles and joints can make appropriate adjustments.

This is a powerful and accurate balance control mechanism (unless the channel of communication between any of them is broken or disrupted).

Let’s take a closer look at our internal control systems for balance:

1. The Eyes

• The eyes are two of the most important sources of information for our brains. Information on subtle changes in terrain and upcoming obstacles gives our brain the chance to make appropriate adjustments in our body’s posture. Knowing which way is up and which way is down are things our eyes supply to our brains every second they are open.

2. The Ears

• The inner ear has fluid deep inside that acts like a level used in construction. When our heads move from side to side, so does the fluid. The shift in fluid stimulates tiny hairs found in the ear, which in turn tell our brains information on position and orientation of our head with respect to the ground.

3. The Nervous System (Proprioception)

• Our nervous system is the last system our body uses to maintain balance. For example, put your hand behind your back, you don’t have to look or use a mirror to know that your hand is behind your back. You can feel it. The joints in your hands and fingers all have tiny nerve endings and special receptors called proprioceptors that act as the body’s own internal GPS system. We know our hand is behind our back because those proprioceptors are telling our brain the exact position and orientation of our body parts every millisecond of our lives. It is this feel or kinesthetic awareness that allows us to control balance, timing, rhythm, and feel throughout our golf swing.

Training to improve a golfers balance can be done in a variety of ways. Utilizing single leg, balance board, and other balance specific exercises will help to improve a golfers balance.

Improving core stability or strength will also increase a golfers balance and ability to maintain posture throughout the swing. The improvement of balance in a golfer will also allow for a more consistent and proper kinematic sequence.

A major part of the kinematic sequence is the shift of weight from the backswing to the downswing. Good balance allows for an accurate and consistent shift of weight resulting in a correct kinematic sequence.

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  • The gym will be closed from 10:30am - 1:30pm, beginning Monday, August 1, 2011 through Friday, August 5, 2011 for the NHL Style Elite Hockey Camp Training. We will be open at 8:30 am, and all athletes will need to be finished with morning workouts by 10:30am. The gym will re-open for normal use at 1:30pm. Please schedule accordingly. Additionally, the gym will be closed on Saturday, August 6, 2011.
  • Congrats to Finish First athlete Christian Hanson for signing with the Washington Capitals for the upcoming season. We look forward to continuing to prepare you for your new home.
  • Congrats to Ty Loney for signing with the University of Denver hockey team beginning this fall. Keep up the hard work!
  • The NHL Style Elite Hockey Camp will begin Monday, August 1, at the RMU Island Sports Center. If you would like to watch some of the areas best hockey players learning from former NHL greats and skating with NHL players, battling it out each day, please visit the rink. The camp starts daily at 8am and concludes each day at 11:45am. If you need more information, please email us.
  • Hot Item!...Get your Finish First Sports Performance apparel with the new hockey available dry-fit performance shirts at our store Online Store.
  • We have finally (after about 2 years) found a company to make our trademark logo New Era hats and have an order on the way to the world training headquarters in Robinson as we write this. If you do not have one of these fashionable hats and want want, stop by the gym and pick one up--but hurry, we have a limited stock--if you can't make it to the gym, these should be available online in the next 2 weeks!
  • Finish First Sports Performance is still making progress on the new World-Class training facility...we are hoping to move forward soon, which would allow us to give you drawings and details in the next few weeks.

Motivational Quote

Make a Difference:

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank You for Your Support

Thanks again for subscribing to this free e-newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I look forward to your feedback as I continue to research to bring you the most current scientific training information available.

Should you have any specific article requests or questions, email me at Please visit for detailed sports performance training information and programs offered exclusively by Finish First Sports Performance.

Yours In Training,

Coach Jeremy S. Hoy, MS, CSCS, PES, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Finish First Sports Performance

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