Get Fit with Marta Montenegro: Make the Most of Your Time at the Gym

You hit the abs machine every day you go to the gym. Or maybe on your leg day, you sit on the abduction machine to work the inner thigh.

But do these machines really work?

Don’t waste your time on exercises that won’t give you the most for your time.

Embrace the Free!

When deciding between doing a dumbbell squat or the leg press, go for the dumbbell squat. Certainly, machines have a place in a workout especially when you are a beginner, recovering from an injury or are really pressed on time.

However, Michael Boyle, strength and conditioning consultant and owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning facility, points out that the vast majority of machine exercises are single joint exercises.

“We’ve been trained by muscle magazines to think like body builders, but the average person doesn’t necessarily want big arms, but a solid, fit physique that can make the most out of any activity that he or she does,” says Boyle.

Boyle says you don’t need to do calf raises or bicep curls on a machine. You’ll develop toned arms by doing exercises that involve more than one joint at a time, such as bench press, pull-ups and dips. As long as you do some running and/or jumping, you’re covered.

When in doubt, choose dumbbells and barbells over machines. However, if there’s one machine that is worth the time, it's the pulley machine. It has multiple arms to adjust to many positions so you can work different angles while keeping the right range of motion.

For TJ Lopez, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Director of Operations of Major League Strength, the most important thing is to not forget the basics, which are the squats, lunges, push and pull exercises. These exercises are not just great when looking for strength, power and toning, but also to work the core.

Also, if maximizing your caloric expenditure is the goal, free weights ignite the metabolism much more than strength machines. This is because the more muscles you use, the more calories your muscles need to respond to the physical and hormonal response to the exercise.

What About the Cardio Machines?

Boyle explains that if you want to waste your time on the cardio machines, hold onto the rails of the treadmill or the StairMaster. If you lose your balance because of the speed or can’t sustain the speed without holding into the rails, you simply need to slow down until your body adapts to the speed and make progress to push it to the next level.

And if you love the fat burner program on the treadmill or any other piece of cardio, you won’t see results.

“We burn fat when we are at rest, so forget about burning fat by spending over an hour in the elliptical. Instead do intervals and multi-joint exercises that keep the intensity up,” says Boyle.

In the end, it’s about going back to basics. No wonder this is the way athletes work.

They jump, sprint, don’t do crunches but do tons of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, dead lifts, lunges, wood chops and chest presses, among other basic exercises. They spend less time in the gym.

How is this possible?

They work at high intensity; thus, the time to exercise is lessened and they can practice the skills for their sport.

Most likely, this kind of thinking will get you the results that you’ve been looking for.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.