A question I am often asked is; what produces better results, machine or free weights. It seems like everyone has an opinion on this debate.
Knowing first hand the advantages and disadvantage of both free weight and machines, There is no straight out answer. However, at the end of this article it will make perfect sense as to why one would choose free weights over a machine and vise a versa.
By: Joe Palumbo IFBB Pro
Advantages of Free Weights
- For a beginning bodybuilder or a strength athlete a solid foundation must be built first, free weights are better suited for this.
- Free weights incorporate the stabilizing muscles that enable you to perform the movements you choose.
- Allows you to target a particular muscle group and engage other muscles to assists. The assisting muscles help you to increase the weight used when training the target muscles.
- Improves coordination and balance. The exercises tend to more closely match the movement patterns likely needed for specific sports.
- Gives more variety than machines. This is important, because little changes in how an exercise is performed such as moving your grip, or changing the angle of movement make a big difference in the effect on the muscle you are training.
- Free weights also provide the psychological satisfaction gained in seeing and feeling a heavier weight than usual. This is an excellent “tool” that Olympic Lifters and Strength Athletes use to “physic them selves up”, and to receive an adrenaline rush. This visual feedback motivates individuals to stay focused and continue with the challenge of the lift.
- When you have a specific goal in mind such as power lifter, bodybuilding or strength training, you need to perform basic power movement like Dead Lifts, Squats and Bench Press therefore it is essential to work out with free weights.
Advantages of Machines
- Machines make a given exercise easier than a similar one done with free weights.
- Excellent for working a muscle group in isolation, concentrating totally on the muscle in question, you don’t have too worry about balance or coordination.
- They often have variable resistance, which takes the muscle through its full range of motion in a matter that is not possible with free weights.
- Indispensable if you’re injured, improves the ability for rehabilitation of injured areas of the body.
- Decreased incidence of minor and major injuries. Increased safety margin for the new or novice athlete.
Reduction in the amount of time required for training effectively.
Ease of learning the proper exercise technique, machines tend to keep you in the grove of the movement.
- Ability to Super Set, Giant Set and Circuit Train faster and less complicated.
- Machines are great for shocking a “stale” training program, machines are often used by athletes to shock there muscles with a different type of resistance, creating a different stimulation to the muscle.
- Machines work well for the Fitness conscience athletes not specifically wishing to develop extremely large muscle.
I believe it that is better to move away from the controversy about free weights vs. machine, it is far more important to have an understanding of what each does for the body. Machines and free weights are both capable of working wonders in their respective ways. However, free weights are the foundation for strength training, physical fitness programs and for all sports training. Weight machines are excellent for assisting or enhancing a free weight training program. Through out my years of training, I have found that the combination of free weights and machine works best. For example If I am looking to add size and strength I will train mainly with free weights and perform power movements such as Dead Lifts, Squats and bench press, the kind of compound movement performed with a barbell is much better for creating overall mass and power. However when I train for a leaner and more vascular look, I incorporate machines and cable movements to isolate the muscle and concentrate on the squeeze. I think there is little doubt that the best overall development will result from combining free weights and machines. My early years of training were with free weights only and I can tell you, I have discovered the strong points of both and it is best to utilize the two modes in combination. So if you still not sure, ask other champion Bodybuilders or Power lifters, there answer would be to incorporate all the tools necessary to achieve your goals, they each have there advantages and disadvantages, but the combination of the two is what generates awesome results.
Be consistent and most of all be safe!