Don't Resist Resistance Training: Machines vs Free Weights
MACHINES VS FREE WEIGHTS
We know that importance of adding strength training on our fitness journeys and the multitude of benefits that result. Depending on where you go and what you like to do, this can be done via the use of free weights or with machines or with a combination there of. It is not to say what one method is better than the other, rather, there are pros and cons to both. So let’s explore resistance machines vs. free weights.
Machines are fixed structures that add resistance to the movement pattern. They’re only allow you to move in 2 planes of motion, meaning push or pull. For example, a chest press machine is a pushing motion, whereas a back machine provides a pulling motion. Most machines target large muscle groups. This is a perk when trying to build muscle mass (hypertrophy) or size to a specific area. However, injuries can arise from using machines that force an unfamiliar movement pattern, putting the muscles in a compromising position due to the fixed movement pattern. You knee can only move in one direction on fixed leg extension, which if not set to the appropriate settings, might be misaligning the motion.
Machines are easy to learn how to use and follow, especially when the instructions are typically labeled with pictures. Newly unfamiliar gym goers can start on the machines with a sense of guidance. Progress can be marked easily by using the next “pin” up or heavier weight selection. Because of the stabilization, you can typically use heavier weight. They’re a safe selection for
rehabilitation and the senior popular struggling with balance. However, the biggest downside would be, “Since you are isolating target muscle groups, the important stabilizing muscle groups around the joints take a back seat. If you neglect these smaller muscles for too long, you run the risk of chronic injury and poor posture” (https://www.builtlean.com/2013/06/11/free-weights-vs-machines/).
Free weights are all around us, and many of us own a set or two in the garage. Right away as a trainer, I am drawn to this type of equipment because, “The primary difference between free weights and machines, however, is the fact that when using free weights, you can move in three dimensions: forward, backward, horizontally, and vertically. This is important, because this is how your body normally moves in daily life. When you use free weights, you therefore end up engaging more muscles. You have to work to stabilize the weight while lifting it. The drawback is that you’re at an increased risk of injury unless you maintain proper form” (http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/12/12/free-weights-vs-resistance-machines.aspx) .
Free weights allow for a full range of motion. There are so many variations that can be done and functional movement patterns you can perform. Plus, you can literally do them anywhere. They are more readily available at gym locations than machines so you don’t have to wait your turn.
Weight training burns fat and calories, increases energy, makes you stronger, increases bone density, helps you sleep better, and can help lower blood pressure. So don’t resist resistance training with either machines or free weights. Live stronger and longer and get to lifting.