Free weights versus machines: which exercise is healthier?
This is probably one of the longest running debates. Which type of workout is better: free weight training or machine training? When it comes to building more muscle, bodybuilders always look for the smallest details that can help them improve their muscle mass. With that in mind, we've all had the opportunity to overhear steamy arguments in the gym about the best way to exercise.
So let's end this argument once and for all because this is really about facts vs. Myths. Let's go!
Why weight training?
Just a quick reminder of the importance of strength training, which can be the most beneficial form of physical exercise for the most common goals of exercise: slimness, health, strength, strength, endurance, aesthetics and athleticism.
Regardless of your age, gender, typical inclinations, or specific goals, you should make room for weight training in your fitness program.
Weight training helps you improve, among other things:
- Body composition
- Blood sugar control
- Blood pressure
- Bone density
- Muscle tone
- Cardiorespiratory fitness and aerobic capacity
There are already dozens, if not hundreds, of studies demonstrating the power of weight training to shape your body and strengthen your muscles, but also to burn excess fat and improve cell health.
The typical argument
Any seasoned bodybuilder will generally tell you that free weights are superior because they allow the trainee to activate more muscles by activating the core and groups of stabilizing muscles.
This in turn stimulates greater muscle growth overall. But if he's really honest with you, he'd also tell you that, on the other hand, machines can be very useful when the trainee wants to isolate a muscle more precisely and then hammer it with all possible intensity.
The truth is, as with anything else, both approaches have their pros and cons. And as you learn how to use this to your advantage, it can help you unlock another step on your path to a god-like physique!
Free weights aren't always the best choice
The best thing about free weights is that they are inexpensive, easy to carry, but also very effective. However, if you only train with them, you are missing out on the great boon of resistance machines: they allow you to focus entirely on targeting a specific muscle.
However, they are expensive to have at home, they take up a lot of space, and they can be a crappy workout in a crowded public gym, especially if you rely too much on machine-based movements.
To break the ice, here are three great machine-based exercises that might be superior to their free weight counterparts:
1. Chest supported machine rows
Recommended representatives: 4 x 10-12
- Step onto a chest-supported row machine and find the correct position from which to pull the weight in one relatively comfortable motion.
- Keeping your back arched and your chest and lower back protruding, squeeze your shoulder blades together and follow the movement with your arms.
- Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position and relax your lats, traps, and diamonds.
2. Pec Deck Fly Machine
At the end of your heavy chest routine, take a peck deck fly machine exercise as this will help isolate the pectoral muscle without putting undue strain on the rotator cuff.
Recommended representatives: 3 x 12-15
To get it right, adjust the seat on a pec deck flying machine so your torso is straight. As you keep your shoulders pushed back, push the weight through the center of your chest and then lower the weight back while always keeping your pecs tense.
3. Seated shoulder press
To get the most out of this step, make sure you are keeping your shape flawless. Your front delts will be "grateful".
Recommended representatives: 4 x 8-10
- Set up the machine so that your starting hand position is approximately at chin height.
- Push the weight up while holding down the traps. Make sure you are not completely locked up above. Slowly lower the weight to eye level and push it back up.
Free weights Vs. Machines: The bottom line
Now that it's clearer that both types of workouts offer unique benefits, let's spread the bad news:
- Occasionally, when using primarily free weights, your core muscles will stop playing before the primary muscle itself is fully trained to the desired maximum.
- Machine weights therefore pose another problem: they are not unit weights, so they can be uncomfortable, useless, or downright dangerous for some body types.
- Machines are also attached to an axis that only allows you to move in one or two planes.
Also, don't forget that with free weights you can use your body in all three dimensions or planes of motion: forwards-backwards, horizontally and vertically. So it is only natural that this style of training would use more muscles, especially the often neglected stabilizing muscles in the core.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. However, if you are very well aware of the characteristics and great advantages over the flaws of each option, you have increased your chances of making a good decision.
The intensity is more important than the type of weight
You may opt for dumbbells, resistance machines, resistance bands, or body weight exercises. That is really unimportant in the overall picture of things. However, if you make sure that every exercise you do is done very slowly or in some other way that increases the intensity, you are guaranteed to get good results with any training style.
Just focus on training the target muscle or muscle group at the optimal intensity and make sure that you achieve high levels of muscle fatigue. A day or two of proper rest, rest, and nutrition will do the rest.