As I progressed through the early stages of my gym training I started to learn that the use of free weights over gym machines was the way to go for functional fitness and athletic performance.
Let me explain why.
Free Weights Develop More Musculature
“Machines are carefully calibrated to move in a specific plane of direction so you yourself are not controlling the weight. A number of stabilization muscles are activated when you control and balance a free weight.
This is why those tools I spoke about before – dumbbells and barbells etc. etc. are highly recommended. They are classed as free weights, free meaning free motion.”
– How To Exercise
The machines lack that free motion.
All the movement taking place in a fixed plane – little work is required for your stabilizing musculature.
With free weights, smaller muscle groups (stabilization musculature) are stimulated (indirectly) as they contract to assist the primary moving muscles in moving a weight (the directly targeted muscles).
With machines you are removing those other muscle groups that would otherwise be working, because the resistance on the machine is directed in no other way but that of the predetermined direction of the machine and not you.
Machines sit you on your butt
Gym machines sit you on your butt – we all already do this far too much.
Sitting kills your flexibility and puts your muscles to sleep.
I highly recommend getting yourself a standard desk.
Even just walking or standing raises your metabolism.
Muscles are stimulated to maintain the skeleton upright, as with standing.
You may already know this but here is how it influences the methods you use when working out.
· Use standing exercise options as it requires more muscle (to stabilize and prevent you from falling over)
· Keep your posture strong at times when you are seated.
Machines Lack Range of Motion
Free weights allow you to take your joints throughout their full range of motion (ROM).
Lets compare the Leg Press Machine to the Barbell Squat (Front Squat variation)
Look at the extent to which my knee bends and how low my butt drops in the Squat picture in comparison to the Leg Press machine.
The red circles the joint whereas the green lines display the muscles worked therefore squats indirectly stimulate the core too as force travels through your body to the ground and back up.
When you take a joint through its full ROM you work the muscles properly and a full squat takes your hip and knee joints throughout its full ROM.
Another example with the barbell or dumbbell press – you are able to fully extend to properly work the shoulders and triceps compared to when using a machine.
Running outside opposed to on a treadmill also uses much greater range of motion for the leg musculature which explains why sprinters are so well built.
Free Weights is Better for Sport
Free weight training work your body as a unit and better prepare you for real life activities like sport and recreation.
It’s called intra + inter muscular coordination. Multiple muscle groups learn how to work together.
Gym machines do not replicate real life activities.
The Purpose of Gym Machines
When brand new beginners walk into the gym not every one of them is going to seek out a trainer or any instruction at all.
Because while free weights are superior to machines the techniques are still fairly complex and do require coaching.
Machines allow gyms to sign up high numbers of members.
By following Fitness101.nz training programs you will learn how to us the free weights.
Some bodybuilders love gym machines but they are not training for sport or recreation. They do not care about real fitness. Bodybuilders train every muscle individually – both with free weights and gym machines. It is not a practical exercise program unless you were in the gym working on your muscles 5 or 6 days a week.
Build your gym programs with the big apple’s first, that being compound free weight exercises.
Compound exercises move more than one joint when executed like any real life activity.
When a joint moves a muscle groups tendon crossing it is pulled so by performing compound exercises you will work multiple joints and therefore you will get more work done per given action. It is time efficient.
Focus on push and pull exercises.
Review my How To Exercise article for a list of the best exercises.
Read How to Build an Exercise Program to learn how to put it altogether.