Free Weights vs. Strength-Training Equipment
Have you wondered which method of
strength training is better, free weights or strength-training equipment? The
truth is, each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The choice depends on your level of
experience and your exercise goals, and to some extent, your personal
preference. An understanding of these factors will help you decide if free
weights or machines or a combination of both will help you reach your goals.
The free-weight advantage
|Free weights incorporate the
stabilizing muscles that enable you to perform the movements you choose to
make and may be more effective in producing overall muscular strength and
|Free-weight exercises tend to more
closely match the movement patterns you're likely to need for specific sports.
|Free weights are more versatile
you can do a wide variety of exercises with a simple set of dumbbells. You
can, for example, hold the weights with palms facing forward, facing your
body, or facing the wall behind you. In doing so, you can do three different
exercises that will work your muscles in different ways.
|Free weights tend to be inexpensive,
are portable and take up little space.|
The free-weight disadvantage
|You must learn to balance the weight
while exerting force. This can be difficult and potentially dangerous if
you are lifting weights overhead.
|The isolation of specific muscles
can be difficult. To target the muscle you want, you must use very precise
|Free weights can be swung for
momentum rather than lifted slowly and steadily, which works the muscles
|Training alone can lead to injury if
you don't use proper technique.|
The machine advantage
|Machines are generally safer and
easier to use, an advantage for beginners learning a specific movement.
|Some machines are more efficient
than free weights at isolating a specific muscle or muscle group. This is
important when you're strengthening a specific body part or rehabilitating an
|Machines ensure correct movements
for a lift, which helps prevent cheating when muscle fatigue sets in.
|Machine workouts can take less time
because you can move easily from machine to machine. Changing the resistance
is easy; you just insert a pin or enter a code.|
The machine disadvantage
|Most machines involve moving a
weight along a predetermined path, making it difficult to strengthen the
|Machines are much more limited, with
most devices allowing only one exercise.
|Most machines are geared to the
average-sized person, so if you're shorter or taller than average, you may
find it difficult to use some machines. However, some companies have developed
equipment that is scaled down to suit many smaller men and women.|
Generally speaking, if you are
beginning a strength-training program for the first time, or have been away from
your program for months or even years, then it's a good idea to try the
resistance-training machines for the first 10 to 12 weeks of your program.
Doing so will give your body the time
it requires to adjust without putting undue stress on your muscles and joints.
Using machines may also be easier and less discouraging if youre a novice,
because free weights require some coordination to use.
Experienced exercisers may want to use
free weights because of the additional training benefits they offer. That said,
the combination of both free weights and machines can add variety to your
If you are a health club member, be
sure to ask the fitness instructor to show you how to use the free weights and
machines properly. If you forget how, ask until you feel confident that you are
using the proper technique to complete each exercise.
If you are exercising at home, be sure
to purchase an exercise tape that outlines the proper