Pros and Cons of Machines or Free Weights in Strength Training
The question on the mind of most people who frequent the gym for weight training, is which is better- using machines or free weights.
Even among experienced trainers, a lot of people ponder on what method is more effective for strength and muscle training.
Well, both are good, the two of them have their merits and demerits. Having a good knowledge of what each has to offer will help you understand and choose which of them is better.
To start, let’s understand what we mean by weight machines and free weights. Free weights are machines that require to fully support them when they are lifted.
This is because they are free standing and so they require more than one muscle to succeed in using it.
On the other hand, weight machines are those designed to target specific muscles of the human body. So when you use the, they restrict movement to those particular muscle groups, the prime movers.
With the free weights, the smaller muscles, also known as non-prime movers are engaged since there is always a requirement to balance the weight in one direction.
Pros of Strength or Weight Machines
1. Time Efficiency:
The strength machines helps you to make more efficiently utilized during training.
When you are training with machines for instance, your workouts become faster as there is no need for you to load barbell or to restack weights.
This helps you to make a smooth transition from one muscle group and machine to another.
2. Easy to Use:
Machines are so easy to use as compared to free weights. This is probably the biggest advantage of strength machines over the free weights.
Mostly they move in one particular way and therefore there is no risk of you getting it wrong.
Furthermore, you can always read the instructions on how to use each machines on it, with some sample drawings for you.
3. Cardio Training:
The low to high intensity exercise that depend on the aerobic energy-generating process (cardio) of the body can happen when you use machines for strength training.
This is due to the fact that you are able to easily move from machine to another, which helps to maintain a higher heart rate for you.
4. All Round Workout:
When you use Weight machines for bodybuilding, you can have an all round body workout.
The reason is that there are many types and sizes of machines that is available for all muscle groups. With them you will be able to aim for the workout of all the prime movers in your body.
Cons of Weight or Strength Machines
1. Inaccurate Strength Gain:
with the use of strength machines, it will be hard for you to know the actual gain in strength you have made.
This is because it so easy to notice strength gain once you start training with machines. But these noticeable gains are usually due to improved familiarity and coordination with the machine.
2. Stiff Movement Pattern:
Due to the fact that weight machines are designed to isolate part of muscles in the human body, this makes them to sometimes need you to move through unnatural movement patterns.
For example your trunk and the core of your body are not required for stabilization, and the machine adjustments are not flexible to cater for everyone.
3. You are Overworked:
Because the machines are designed to work on a specific muscle group, you may be tempted to overload the weights and thereby cause injury to yourself.
This may happen because there are no other muscles to support the extra weight other than the prime movers.
Pros of Free weight
1. Natural Movement Pattern:
when you train with free weights, you get more flexibility of movement with each exercise.
This is because the movement patterns are what the body naturally uses in everyday movement.
2. Cardio Workout:
Exercising with free weights also give good cardio workout.
This happens when you workout by using circuit training, which can be done by using a dumbell or pre-stacked barbells.
3. Core Stabilization:
Since free weights doesn’t isolate any muscles, you will work more of your muscles when you are training with them.
When you train with free weights, stabilization of the muscles and joints are needed so your trunk and core will be brought to support the moving weight of your body.
4. Balance Improvement:
Your balance improves when you use free weights to train because since you have to constantly balance yourself.
You can also use a stability ball or stand on one foot to take improving your balance as far as you want.
Cons of Free weight
1. Injury risk:
If you are not careful with free weights and correctly execute movements, then you risk causing injury to your muscles and joints. It can also happen when you increase the weights too quickly.
2. Bigger Learning curve:
For you to get the best of training with free weights, you need to be taught and then to practice for a long time.
This will help you to get the correct techniques of training unlike using machines. With free weights, you need to learn from an experienced person.
Seven Phenomenal Strength Exercises
I recently reviewed seven of the best strength-training exercises using free weights or bodyweight, which I’ll list again here.
For descriptions of how to perform them, please see “The 7 Best Strength Exercises You’re Not Doing.”
1. Goblet Squat:
This is a squat done while holding a weight in front of you (like a goblet), which adds more of a workout for your core and legs.
2. Pall of Press:
This “anti-rotation” movement is challenging because you must resist rotation, working your obliques, abs, lower back, glutes, and more.
3. Dumbbell Row:
The dumbbell row helps to develop a strong back, arms, and core. Plus, because it works your lats, traps, and rhomboids, it supports proper posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping to stabilize your spine.
Push-ups are a deceptively simple functional movement that works your upper-body muscles while engaging your core and allowing you to use the full range of motion in your shoulder blades.
5. Split Squat (Stationary Lunge):
This is important because it involves single-leg movements that help minimize training imbalances.
Split squats will help to build lower-body strength while improving balance, flexibility, and stability in your hips.
6. Lateral Squat:
This is a combination of a lateral lunge and a squat, useful for stretching your groin and inner thighs while also working out your hips, thighs, and trunk.
7. Hip Extension (Glute Bridges/Hip Thrusts):
This exercise helps to train your glutes, which are often underutilized if you sit for long periods each day.
You can see that both weight machines and free weights have advantages and disadvantages.
While the machines help build some particular muscles as they are restricted to it, the free weights can be used to train most of the muscles of the body, thereby providing with a wholesome body workout.
It is up to you to decide whether to use machines or free weights in weight training. For example you may use machines to develop the use of a particular muscle after an accident, since the machines are built to isolate a particular muscle group.
You can also decide to use the free weights later on to develop the other muscles of your body, as the free weights is designed to strengthen your overall body movement.
Both of them are helpful in their own way and are needed at different points in a bodybuilding program.
Have we missed one? Comment below and we will add it to the article