When it comes to weight training is it better to use free weights or machines? There are pros and cons to using each of these techniques. No single technique is best for everyone, it all depends on what works best for you.
Machines are usually the first pieces of equipment you see when you walk into the gym. You either lie in or push and pull on machines and they usually have directions on them to show you how they should be used.
Some machines are more complicated than others, but for the most part they are not intimidating. Machines are good for people who are new to weight training.
Some of the benefits of weight machines include:
- Faster Workouts – It is easier to progress through a workout when using machines because you just select the weight you need and use the machine as directed.
- Less Risk Of An Injury – This is especially true for beginners. People who aren’t familiar with weight training are less likely to get injured when using a machine. When using a machine, people won’t overextend any muscles because machines make sure you don’t go out of your body’s prefered range of motion.
- Easy To Use – Machines usually have directions on how to use them. This makes it easier for people to create their own weight training workouts.
- Helpful When Recovering From Injuries – Because machines target certain muscles, they are useful when you are recovering from an injury. You can still workout certain parts of your body without straining your injured muscle.
The downsides of using machines include:
- Pattern Overload Injuries – While machines reduce your risk of injury, they do increase your risk of pattern overload injuries, which is when you sustain an injury from doing the same movement repeatedly. When you use the same muscles over and over again, they become fatigued from overuse.
- False Sense Of Strength Gain – You exert more energy lifting something in real life than you do lifting something on a machine. When you are using a machine, you aren’t having to exert other muscles to lift weights, you are only using the muscles that the machine is targeting. So, you may find that you are able to lift more weight on a machine than you are outside of the gym.
Another way to weight train is by using free weights such as dumbbells and barbells. Free weights might be a better option for you if you are experienced with weight training.
Some benefits of free weights include:
- Stabilizing Muscles – When using free weights, each exercise requires the help of other muscles for support.
- Better Balance – Because you need other stabilizing muscles with free weights, this helps improve your balance and concentration.
- Convenient and Inexpensive – Free weights are convenient because you can take them with you anywhere. They are great for people who travel often They are also inexpensive and you can perform a full body workout with them.
Some downsides to using free weights include:
- Increased Risk Of Injury – If you don’t use proper form while using free weights, you can easily injure yourself by moving your body out of alignment.
- Less Efficient - Some gyms have a limited number of dumbbells and barbells, so you may end up waiting for someone to finish using them before you can begin your workout. If you are using dumbbells the require you to add or take away weight, some of your time will be spent preparing these for your next exercise.
While machines and free weights both have upsides and downsides, free weights tend to be the better choice. People usually see noticeable results more quickly when using free weights than they do with machines. Even if you’re a beginner, try progressing to free weights as you become more experienced with weight training.
Trisha Banks is a blogger for Matthew Boes M.D. Orthopaedic Surgery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Trisha has always used machines but wants to start using free weights.
Photo Credit: CherryPoint
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