Post by Logan Johnson, CSCS. M. Logan is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Personal Trainer and Wellness Coordinator at Rex Wellness Center of Raleigh.

So, you’ve got all that shiny new Hoist “Roc-it” equipment in your facility, you’ve gone through an update with an instructor, and you can really tell a difference! Your shoulders are sore, your back and core feel tight, and your legs may feel more fatigued than they did before the switch. I fielded several comments and questions from members in the days following our new equipment delivery, many of which had to do with the differences and benefits of using the Roc-it line. Several members could feel a difference (i.e. increase in muscle soreness, fatigue, etc), but few could understand why it felt so different. Of course, the movement of the seat feels a little unorthodox for most who are used to the traditional selectorized equipment of the past, but there is also something inherently different about the way our bodies move on and react to the new equipment.

Take, for example, the seated row. In the past, there was a chest pad that you would lock into place so that your arms could barely reach the handle. You would grab the handle, keeping your chest on the pad and move the arms back and forth from full extension to nearly full flexion. The movement itself was very defined. When we talk about movements in the world of exercise physiology and biomechanics, “defined” can often be used interchangeably with “confined.” This is because when you strictly define the way that your body moves, you confine it to a very limited useable range of motion.

With the Hoist version of the seated row, you may have noticed that there is nothing to adjust, except for your weight selection. You don’t get any help from the chest pad, which causes you to brace your core through the range of motion, creating a more functional form of core stability, which is just a fancy way to say “protecting your spine.” It causes you to use your upper and lower back as a unit to move the weight, rather than focusing on one area or muscle group.

In the days after our Hoist delivery, there were also many concerns that the “back extension” machine was not being included in our new line. Several folks thought that it was what was keeping their backs so strong and loose. The reality of the matter is, no matter how much weight you can push against a pad, if you can’t protect your spine in function (a.k.a. daily activities of living), then the back extension machine isn’t doing you any good in the first place. The good news is that you can get the best of both worlds with something like the Hoist seated row, where lumbar extension via the spinal erectors is encouraged with the movement of the seat.

Now, let’s take the lesson that we’ve learned from the Hoist Roc-it equipment and apply it even further! What if we took away the apparatus all-together? What if we replaced the seat, the handles, and the foot rests with our bodies, our feet, and whatever resistance we are using (dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, etc.)? How functional and free would that movement be? We have eight pieces of Hoist strength training equipment. That means you are limited to eight exercises for the resistance training component of your program. How many different ways can you move your body in reality? I’ll give you a hint, it’s more than eight. I can tell you from experience that you can push and pull a machine all that you want, but if you can’t put all of the pieces together in a total-body, cohesive movement, then the point is lost! It’s kind of like beefing up the engine in a car with bald tires, a loose suspension, and no brakes. So, don’t wait for the next new equipment line to challenge your body, challenge it every day by moving in dynamic ways. Work on putting all of the pieces together, rather than just beefing up the engine itself. If you have more questions, or if this blog has left you utterly confused, please schedule an appointment with a wellness instructor to get more ideas on how to functionalize and eliminate definition/confinement in your exercise program.