If you are wanting to strength train and are unsure of whether to hit the weight machines at the gym or pick up free weights, the answer is, it depends on your goals and fitness level. Here’s why.
Free weights do offer similar benefits as machines, however, if you are looking to get more range of motion and move more “freely,” then beginning with free weights could be a good option for you. As a beginner, free weights or dumbbells can be the better option for beginners wanting to strength train, reduce their risk of injury and who would rather workout at home rather than put money into heavy duty machines.
For the average person, free weights offer many of the same benefits as machines, plus some. While you can typically lift more weight in the same exercise on a machine due to their fixed nature, free weights give you more bang for your buck in terms of muscles worked.
With free weights, you can easily reach your fitness goals including building muscle, strength, losing weight and changing your body composition.
On the other hand, machines also give you plenty of benefits and muscle growth. In fact, research shows that you can build just as much muscle using machines as you can training with free weights. Each do have their own unique benefits so you may find that your trainer will have you do both weights and free weights during your exercise program so you can get all of the benefits they each offer.
Since dumbbells and other free weights such as kettle bells require more balance and motion from you, machines can be safer in some ways than free weights. Dumbbells and barbells, for example, can be dropped if you aren’t used to working with them which can lead to injury if you aren’t trained properly using them, which is why getting a trainer to help you with your exercise regime is a great way to go.
Another great benefit to using machines to build strength and change your body composition is that machines are less risky when it comes to over- or under-extending your joints, helping to keep everything stable and in-tact. If you are new to working out and familiar with machines, a workout machine can help to regulate appropriate range of motion for a particular exercise all while keeping your form in tact.
Machines also use cams and pulleys to place the greatest amount of resistance at the point where a particular muscle is in its strongest position. This helps your muscle to develop to its fullest potential. So you have got to think - is your goal to create large, well-defined muscles? Using machines can be a great, functional way to fulfill that outcome.
Importance of Rest
All said and done, no matter which you choose, machines, free weights or a mix, your muscles need adequate rest time to recover, repair and rebuild in between. Giving rest days in between strength is key to rebuild and come back stronger. Lifting weights every day can impede the muscle-building process and actually slow down your strength gain and increase risk of injury. Eat a proper amount of protein and carbs before and after exercise, drink plenty of water and take your rest days seriously, even if that means having “active recovery” days where you do cardio or continue movement such as going for a walk or gardening.