Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Free weights Vs. Resistance Machines

When helping people get comfortable in the gym, one of the things we go through is how to use the resistance machines. They can be intimidating when you don't know how to use them, what order to do them in or even how often. 

Then there's the free weight area, big guys pumping big iron. But it's not just for them, it an be for anyone! Still there are pro's and con's to using both the Resistance machines Vs. free weights! 



First of all the machines are designed to help beginners execute the proper move with the proper form. Ideally that is one of the biggest advantages. For example, if you use a chest press machine, but you let the plates touch each time, you will not be achieving as much of a work out. If you keep the plates from resting on each other and the tension on your muscles, but either way you won't face an injury because of it. 

You can build strength as a beginner. With plated machines you can usually increase your weight by 5 lbs while still being sure your form is safe. This way, you are building a base of strength before you graduate, so to speak, to the free weights. 

You can also isolate muscles easier. This is excellent for  building specific area's or if you are in need of rehabbing an injury. Runners can isolate their hamstrings or their glutes on machines to really build strength specific strength, instead of relying on compound movements which simply incorporate the needed muscle. 

I feel that often if you have the strength to use free weights you should. Being seated on a machine turns "off" some of your other muscles while you focus on what you are isolating. It's not terribly often that people are actively engaging their core on a biceps curl machine, but if you are doing a free weigh curl with balance.. you have to. 


There are a number of "kinds" of free weights: from medicine balls, kettle bells, dumbbells, barbells etc. For this general recommendation you can assume I mean all types, save for kettle bells. Free weights force our body's to use their stabilizing muscles and create a more total body movement. For example: when you do a free weight row, you will probably be sore in your abs the next day. You can work more muscles at one time. 

Because they force us to use our core muscles and our stabilizing muscles, they can more effectively mimic functional movements. Performing exercises that will help us be stronger mothers, faster fathers, safer workers and more competent in our everyday! This is the total fitness and wellness model we should all be moving towards. 

It can be a challenge to get used to exerting force, while keeping balance, while keeping good form etc... but if you have already built a base of strength through using machines and have graduated to the free weights you should be able to master balance, force and form while using a weight that will keep you interested in your workout till you get the swing of things. 

There are some machines that I always come back to and use and others that I have never been on but once. It comes down to your personal goals and personal preference as well. As always, before starting a program like weight training, talk to your doctor or at least have someone at your gym give you an orientation on how they all work. 

Salad update! 
I am loving the accountability of the 60 Salads in 60 Days group I joined on the Facebook! I believe in the last 8 days or so, I have only missed 2 salads. I think that's pretty good. I can honestly say that it is keeping it fresh in my mind! 

Totally a salad in my book: Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, 
chickpeas and seasonings

Do you pump iron at the gym? What is your preference? Free weight vs. Machine? or Body weight? Do tell... 

6 comments:

hanna said...

Choose the exercises such that it works well for you and try to vary your exercise routine at least once in 2 months. This helps you to practice various abdominal exercise and thus will keep you interested in the workout regime. It is important to remember that there are no real quick fixes and the only way to get proven results is by making sure you are eating right and exercising properly.

Megan said...

I prefer free weights but am not opposed to machines. It usually depends on how busy it is when I get there and what I have the easiest access to. I'm just glad I'm comfortable enough with all of them that I can vary my workout routine and keep things fresh! :)

Great job on the salads! I was trying to keep track, and I think I've done 6 in the last 10 days. Not as good as you're doing!

Mellissa said...

I love free weights, I really enjoy being in the gym and having that time to just clear my head and build some muscle.

Ann said...

I struggle SO MUCH with strength training - both free weights and machines.

Di said...

As a Personal Trainer if I feel the client has the education and body stability to perform free weights I choose that option over the machines. I think both serve a great purpose but free weights like you mentioned are so much better! Either, just do it!

LaShaune said...

I prefer free weights because I can do them anywhere (gym or not)...but my gym is so packed with folks, the free weight area is usually packed and I'm stuck with machines.

For the past 2 months I have been taking Body Pump and LOVE IT!!! It's a great alternative to doing weights on my own and keeps me accountable and varying the routine (muscles worked). Plus, the instructor is always reminding us to up our weights.

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