There seems to be a constant debate amongst beginners starting an exercise program, and those interested and involved in strength training, as to the best type of training. Are machine weights best? Or are free weights best? There are so many opinions as to which is best. Following are my thoughts.
Free weights are any weights that you can pick up and hold in your hands. Examples are dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. These weights can be used while standing, sitting or lying on a bench. Following are some of the advantages of using free weights over machine weights:
- Inexpensive, and take up less space, making them more accessible for a home gym situation
- Copy actual body movements such as lifting heavy objects
- Involve multiple muscle groups in lifting the weight, which increases all over body strength
- Increase balance and coordination
- More time effective as multi muscle groups are used in each exercise
- Burn more calories, as more than one muscle group is involved in each exercise
A machine weight is a piece of equipment, consisting of pulleys, weight plates and pins, that is not designed to be picked up to perform an exercise. Usually you would be holding handles and pushing weights from a stack of weights connected by pulleys to some type of frame. The amount of weight can be adjusted, by putting a pin into the stack of weights. The placement of the pin depends on the amount of weight required in the stack to be lifted. Machine weights are an effective form of weight training also.
- Less risk of injury
- Instruction on how to lift correctly is less necessary as the machine is set up for easy use.
- Perfect for beginners
- Single muscle groups can be isolated
- Better for recovery from injury
- Weight levels can more easily be changed
It’s my opinion that both free weights and machine weights have their place. It really depends on the purpose of your training. If you are an experienced weight trainer, who is training for a weight lifting or body shaping competition, then I would say that free weights are for you. In these cases, you would be looking to purposefully target particular areas when training. If you are doing strength training for general fitness, then a combination of both could be what you need or you may use either free weights or machine weights, simply because of your preference.
Regardless of if you choose to use free weights or resistance weights, the most important thing to remember, is to use correct form and technique. This is more important than which type of weights you use. The correct technique will prevent injuries.
My Preferred Strength Training Method
I love strenght training and enjoy lifting both free weights and machine weights, however most of my training is done with free weights, as I do my strength training in my home gym. I have a range of free weights covering all weight measures, and I also have a weight station on which I can perform many exercises using machine weights. Most of the time, my training program is made up of both free weights and resistance weights.
If you’re planning on starting a strength training program, firstly check with your doctor. If possible, it is a good idea to find an expert who could guide you on the correct techniques. Most personal trainers will train you in the correct techniques in a single session.
The above information is based on research and also my own knowledge from many years as a personal trainer, gym instructor and long-time user of both machine and free weights.
Do you follow a strength training program? If so, I’d love to hear your preference. I really enjoy reading your comments and promise to reply to all comments made.
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