Rage Against the Machine – Machines vs Free Weights
This entry was posted on June 19, 2018.
As it pertains to strength training and anabolic growth, there has been much debate over which is more effective, machines or free weights. The truth is, each has its advantages and disadvantages.
But one thing is for certain, if you’re considering making the switch from machines to free weights (or vice versa) here in Shreveport, be sure to keep the following in mind:
Advantages of Weight Machines
Ease of Use and Safety
Weight machines are easier and therefore safer to use than free weights. These machines work on a consistent and fixed path, which means that Shreveport LA users of this work out equipment can better pace themselves while learning how to execute proper form. This is particularly useful when fatigue sets in, as the machine can quickly transition to being the primary bearer of weight when you are no longer able to be.
Machines also offer a predictable arch of tension or consistency of tension, meaning the applicable resistance for any given movement stays the same throughout the entire range of motion. By contrast, free weights apply varying resistance depending upon where the weight is in relation to the arch of movement. For example, when curling free weights, the weight applies the least resistance or engagement of your bicep at the top and bottom of the movement, and maximal resistance somewhere in the middle of the arch. Greater time under maximal tension is a primary anabolic factor for improving muscle strength, growth and endurance
Quick and Easy Transitioning
Machines are set up in most gyms here in Shreveport in a manner that allows you to transition from one gym equipment to the next with minimal setup. This will save you time as you don’t typically have to give much thought as to what you can move on to. Changing the resistance and weight level is also easy; usually just as simple as moving a pin from one level to another.
Circuit training is a popular method to boost intensity, maximize time, and burn more calories while spurring muscle growth. Machines allow you to utilize circuit programs quickly and easily without the downtime needed to set up each station with free weights.
Intimidation Factor and Learning Curve
Weight machines tend to be less intimidating. They come with detailed written instructions and instructional images glued right onto the machine. By using this information, you can figure out the basics needed to effectively utilize the machine without feeling like a fish out of water. The gym can be scary enough without the thought of struggling to figure out what you’re doing in front of a live audience.
Machines are also very effective at isolating particular muscle groups without you having to master form and technique in order to get maximal results (as with free weights). Because of this, they also help reduce the risk of injuries from improper form or use.
Free weights can take a real toll on joints, tendons and ligaments. If you happen to have any pre-existing injuries or past injuries that come back to haunt you on occasion…you may want to limit your use of free weights. Small mistakes in form or use can cost you big. And you’ll be hitting the ice packs if you don’t take care.
Cons of Machines
Since most machines are designed with only one or two exercises in mind, you will need to change to multiple machines over the course of your workout in over to effectively target multiple muscle groups.
Machines are not one size fits all and you’ll need to spend time adjusting each machine to suit your needs and your particular height and weight. This will likely entail some trial and error if you have never used the equipment before.
The same fixed path that comes in handy for helping to ensure you have proper form, can also be a detriment, as it prevents you from adequately targeting your smaller stabilizer muscles. Because of this, machines are also typically not the best suited for “functional” athletic training.
Advantages of Free Weights
We’ve talked up machines quite a bit thus far, but free weights also have their place and merits.
Free weights allow for a more versatile workout. You can perform an essentially unlimited number of routines and exercises, with each weight able to be utilized for a broad range of exercises and techniques.
Range of Motion
The increased range of motion that is possible with free weights gives you more control. Free weights allow you to complete movements across a variety of levels and planes, which more closely resembles activities of daily living or athletics. As such, free weights are often better at training for occupational or sports activities (i.e. functional training).
Portability and Cost
Free weights are both portable and affordable. Free weights are often used in home gyms due to their affordability and ease of setup. With just a small space and a nominal budget you can set up a decent home gym here in no time flat, skipping the investment in an expensive gym membership or fancy machine.
Greater Muscle Engagement
Since your body is fully responsible for bearing the weight, your stabilizer muscles are activated and utilized throughout the entire workout. Stabilizer muscles are important for developing explosive strength, agility and balance under pressure or strain. This is also why free weights are more appropriate for intermediate to advanced fitness levels.
One of the best free weights in Shreveport, Louisiana is the Hoist HF 5664 Ab/Rack Roman Hyper.
Cons of Free Weights
Free weights don’t provide the level of support that exercise machines do. Learning how to properly perform exercises will require a higher skill level, time and patience to perfect. Some level of training and instruction will likely be necessary when first learning to use them. Skip this step and you risk injury…or worse.
Related to the previous point, free weights can come with a higher risk of injury if you’re not careful about using proper techniques. When bearing the full weight of the dumbbells, fatigue will set in much more rapidly, and if you aren’t used to allowing for this, you may find yourself having to abruptly drop weights. Improper angles, locking out joints, and jerking movements can also lead to injuries and strains.
Proper Isolation Takes Skill
It’s more difficult to isolate specific muscle groups for maximum efficiency. In order to target certain muscles, you must slowly and intentionally lift the weights, contracting and squeezing at the peak of resistance, which requires adequate experience. Since it’s easier to swing the weights using momentum when you lack the necessary strength, you may find yourself using unintended muscles to do the work, especially as you begin to get tired.
In general, it is wise to begin exercising with weight machines until you gain some experience and become comfortable with the movements. Once you have learned proper technique and form, you will likely begin to gain strength. A good foundation will make the transition to free weights much smoother and much safer. More experienced exercisers may choose to use free weights as they offer more control and versatility for more advanced workouts.
Also, visit Fitness Expo to find the best exercise machines in Shreveport today.