Gym Dilemma 3: Free Weights VS Machines


One of the most heated debates in the world of fitness is the battle of machines versus free weights. Some argue that machines are not as effective as free weights while others rely solely on machines. Machines and free-weights both have their place in a workout, but in terms of preference, the question is which one of the two is more important? To answer that, here is what you need to consider.

Machines are designed to move in a specific motion. They do not let the weights go off balance, hence promising a symmetrical built. If you can’t handle the weights, you can crash it down any time without risking physical damage to yourself-I cannot say the same about the machine though. Hence, by providing range of motion while saving you at failures, machines give you an ability to lift more weight and prevent any possible injury.

Free weights on the other hand do not promise all this. They, however provide with other important things. With free weights, you can use full range of motion, hence increasing time under tension of your muscles (which in turn entails hypertrophy) and increasing flexibility. Free weights do not offer motion in one plane; hence you might go a little higher on one side and lag behind on another. But some might call it being restriction free.

Because you need to balance the weight throughout the set, they involve every muscle of that area along with the much ignored stabilizing muscles. Don’t follow me? Okay, try doing squats on a smith machine, all you will be doing is lifting weights against gravity using your quadriceps. Now try doing squats using a barbell only, this time you will have to prevent the weight from toppling. For this, your body will be using stabilizing muscles, like those of your core along with ignored muscles such as quadratus lamborum, saos major/minor and erector spinae. So you will be working mainly your quadriceps to lift the weight against gravity, along with involving many other muscles that should be given an opportunity to grow in order to become stronger.

Apart from this, free weights allow you to perform different variations of one exercise hence keeping plateau at bay.

For free weight, what would you prefer? Dumbbells or barbells?

When it comes to a workout, most of the time it is done with a barbell or dumbbells. For example, you can perform barbell biceps curls or dumbbell curls, barbell bench press or dumbbell bench press, but if you have to choose between the two, here is what you need to know:

Any exercise that can be done with a barbell can also be done with a dumbbell; however the reverse is not true. Benching or squatting with a barbell can be risky if you fail to lift the weight, which may end up in an injury. With dumbbells, you can drop them if necessary. Apart from this, dumbbells allow unilateral movements, isolating a single limb. It can be used to work on a weaker limb.

However, there are limited weights on a dumbbell in an average gym. If you need a strong lift, you will have to switch to a barbell. It requires you to generate more power to lift and utilizes multiple muscles in order to do so. It also spreads the weight equally across the spine.

Now that you know all the important things, it is time to utilize this knowledge and make a wise decision next time you hit the gym.


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