Tuesday, February 1, 2011
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.
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...