Going to the gym but don’t know what equipment
to use? Free weights or machines, which one is better? You’ve probably heard others talk up the awesomeness
of free weights such as barbells, dumbbells, and even kettle bells, since they do so much
more than machines right? So what exactly makes them better?
For one, the instability of free weights helps build stabilizing muscles, which is great
for improving balance, coordination, and athleticism. Sadly, machines usually have you seated or
placed into a fixed position that takes instability out of play.
Free weights also lets you follow a natural bar path, meaning you can move the weight
in a pattern that comes natural to you, making it great to replicate functional, real-life
movement. Machines are usually made for the average-sized
person with limited adjustment options, making the movement pattern uncomfortable and restricts
range of motion for people that don’t fit the machine’s size.
And of course, free weights are great for performing a wide variety of exercises.
Whether you want to do Olympic Lifts such as the snatch, or a big compound exercise
like the deadlift, free weights are the way to go. Now this doesn’t mean that machines are at
all useless. Actually, they’re pretty darn good in their
own right. Instability from free weights? Great.
Stability from machines? That’s great as well when you need it, such as times when going
through rehab. Free weights also require you to learn how
to perform each exercise correctly in order to avoid injury and making sure you work the
right muscle groups. Since most machines provide a fixed movement
pattern, the learning curve drops way down, making it perfect for beginners and the elderly.
Fixed movement patterns also means you can isolate muscle groups much better.
Want to build your hamstring flexion? Look no further than the hamstring curl machine.
And as far as the limitations you find in machines, well it really depends on what machine
you’re talking about. Barbell squats are commonly compared to leg
presses on a machine, and the barbell squat wins by quite a landslide.
But the comparison isn’t actually fair. If you pit the barbell squat against squats in
a power squat machine, they are much more similar in terms of overall strength and muscle
building. One of the most popular free weight barbell
exercise is the deadlift, something that machines cannot do, right?
Actually, there is a machine that can do deadlifts just as well as a barbell called the hammer
strength machine. It might even be better since the load of
the weight is more in line with your hips, putting more tension on your glutes, hamstrings,
and quadriceps more so than your lower back. Sadly, most commercial gyms don’t have many
of these awesome and more well-suited machines. One thing that most gyms do have, however,
are the cable machines, which is by far one of the most versatile machines you can find.
So when you ask the question “which one is better?,” the only logical answer is “It depends.”
Both free weights and machines have advantages that the other doesn’t.
They both can do a decent job in building muscle and strength, depending on what you’re
aiming for. So the next time someone tells you that you
shouldn’t use machines or that you shouldn’t use free weights, just ignore them and do
you booboo! Share your health and fitness questions below.
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