Realizing The Benefits Of Free Weights Over Machines
by Detric Smith, CSCS, USAW, ACSM-HFI
You’re geared up and ready to give it your very all in each workout you do. But, is your workout as geared up as you are?
It’s a very sad situation, but one that plays out time and time again. Someone is committed to their workouts, but despite their best efforts, they aren’t seeing the results they had dreamed of.
When they first began their program, they had high hopes for what they wanted to achieve. But now, they’d give anything to see just a little bit of progress. What gives? Very often, the problem is not the individual, it’s the workout they are using.
Choose the wrong workout program consisting of less than optimal exercise selection and you’ll be facing frustration soon enough.
One big mistake many people make is relying strictly on gym machines rather than using free weight training. While gym machines may be good for that first week or two for the very beginner, as soon as you’re past that stage, it’s time to move on.
Here’s why free weights are a far superior option compared to any gym machine.
Greater Core Development
First, one big benefit that free weights have over weight machines is the fact that they’ll be working your core muscles every step of the way.
Think of it like this. You likely started that workout program in the first place, in part, to counteract some of the negative effects of sitting at work all day long.
But now, you’re going to the gym and sitting some more. It just doesn’t make sense. By using weight machines that you sit in, you are essentially making your workout easier, therefore reducing the results it’ll provide you.
Your core muscles will be contracting hard in any free weight exercise you do in order to keep the body balanced and upright.
If a flat, firm stomach is something you want in your future, free weights are something that needs to be in your present.
Improved Agility And Balance Conditioning.
Which leads us to the next benefit free weights have over weight machines – better agility and balance conditioning.
If you’re constantly sitting in the weight machine as you lift the weight, you might be strengthening the muscle that you are working, but you won’t be doing much for boosting your ability to stay balanced.
Remember that you want to achieve functional fitness benefits from the workouts you do, which means they transfer over to real life and allow you to see improvements there.
By boosting your balance and agility, you’ll get just that. You’ll find it easier to go about day to day activities and if you do participate in any sport training, you’ll see an immediate boost to your performance.
Less Risk Of Injury
Many people often think that free weight training will put you at a higher risk of injury compared to weight machines, but this actually is not the case.
The problem with weight machines is that they’ll lock you into a specific pattern of movement – a pattern that may not be right for your own body.
If you are someone who’s shorter or taller than that machine was built for, you aren’t going to feel comfortable as you execute the movement pattern and there may be far more stress and strain being placed on your body than should be.
When you use free weight exercises, on the other hand, you control the movement pattern. Sure, this does mean there is more onus on you to utilize good form, but as long as you do, you will completely avoid putting your body into any sort of awkward positions.
Greater Metabolic Enhancement For Improved Fat Burning.
Want faster fat loss? This is another reason why it’s important to get out of the weight machines and over into the free weight section. One of the most powerful benefits of strength training in terms of the fat burning results it will provide is the fact that it enhances your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours post session.
But note, that fat burning enhancement is only going to be present if the session is of a high intensity level. And, if you’re doing weight machine exercises, there’s no way that you can get to the level you need to.
Free weight exercises will utilize more total muscle fibers in each rep you perform, which instantly increases the intensity of your session. The more muscle fibers you have working, the faster you see progress – it’s that simple.
So unless you want your fat burning to take a backseat, avoid weight machines at all costs.
Instead, you want compound exercises such as squats, barbell deadlifts, walking lunges, standing dumbbell shoulder presses, bent over rows, and push-ups or the bench press. These are all ones that will yield far faster results.
Finally, let’s not forget the fact that weight machine exercises get very boring, very fast. You’ll be doing the same movement patterns over and over again with very little variety in the workout session.
Not only is this a fast way to lose interest in exercise, but if you aren’t changing things up enough in your workout session, there’s a much greater chance you’ll hit a progress plateau.
So then you’re bored and not seeing results. Not exactly the picture you had in mind when you first began your workout, is it?
But yet, if you are focusing on weight machines, that’s what you have in store for you.
So hopefully now you see why weight machines are not the route to go if you want fitness success. There are so many benefits to be had from investing in some personal training sessions to show you how to utilize free weight training and take your fitness up a notch. It’ll be a decision that you’ll never regret.