Dumbbells for the win!
What a weekend – I had nine friends in town (2 from Massachusetts, 1 from Ohio, 1 from New York, 2 from D.C., 1 from Memphis and 2 from Nashville), so our apartment got kind of hectic. However, the daily updates are back!
For those of you guys with limited time in the gym, you need to be concentrating on exercises that work and recruit as many muscles as possible. Sure you can use a machine and work out a single muscle group decently, but your range of motion is extremely limited – you can push it out, and then lower it back to the starting position. Although this certainly helps prevent injury by not allowing you to drop weights on yourself, it’s limiting the amount of work your muscles can do in the same amount of time.
If you’re a daily reader of the blog, you know that I am a big fan of efficiency. If you can get more done in less time, why do anything else? Because of this fact, I strongly prefer free weights to machines for many reasons.
- When you use free weights, your body has to use every single muscle to keep the weight stabilized as you raise and lower it. Because you’re using these extra muscles (that you’re not using if you’re on a machine) to keep things steady as you lift, you’re getting more done in less time!
- Because you’re using free weights (like dumbbells) you get to work both your left arm and right arm independently, instead of using a barbell you can find out if your body is out of balance.
- Machines often put your body in weird positions or at odd angles which can cause injury (shoulder press machines, pec deck machines, etc.) I’ve learned to stay away from because they put unnecessary stress on unwanted muscles and joints at funny angles.
- Free weights make you feel better about yourself (this is my own opinion). You see a weight, you pick it up. The next time you’re there, you either try to pick up that same weight more times than before, or pick up a heavier weight. If you’re on a machine, you’re just pulling a pin or turning a dial. It’s not as easy/fun to see the growth.
Now, there are a few things to consider when using free weights, and that is the safety factor. If you don’t have good form, or you don’t have a spotter, you can get “injured bad” because you could drop the weights on yourself or mess up a muscle by doing it incorrectly. Make sure you practice perfect form, and really concentrate on isolating the muscles used in the exercise and you can see greater gains in the same amount of time.
This is why I prefer to do incline dumbbell press instead of a chest press machine, squats with a barbell instead of in the smith machine, straight pull ups instead of lat pull-downs on a machine. It seems more natural, more muscles get recruited in the process, and I get more out of it.
Here is my routine now. I keep it simple, I use free weights, and I’m seeing great results.
Free weights are better! No machines weights are Better!
By Rob McLarnon
People have enjoyed working out for a long time. The going to the gym and working out trend is gaining popularity every year. Right now working out is the rage. Health clubs are getting built and remolded. There is still one question that the average working out Joe wants an answer for. Which is better? Free weights or machine weights? Does it really matter?
When a person works out with free weights it is necessary for him to have a spotter (a person to watch him in case he fails to lift the desired weight). The only time one could work out without a spotter is if he/she is lifting extremely light/weights. Even this could be dangerous. No one I know recommends lifting free weights alone. When working out with machine weights such as cables or hammer strength equipment the spotter is nice to have but not necessary. Machine weights are ideal for those who wish to train alone. Training alone can also cut one’s workout time in half.
Free weights use the natural motion a person has on that specific lift. An example of this is if a person has physical alteration, like one arm is longer than the other is and he wishes to bench press. The barbell or dumbbell will adjust with his range of motion. If that person wished to use a machine, his range of motion would be limited to his short arm. He still would be able to use that piece of equipment, but he wouldn’t get as well a work out if he would have if he used free weights.
Another downfall of machine exercise or cables exercises is that people come in a variety of heights and weights. Some people may have trouble fitting or may not even fit in a piece of equipment. This will restrict them from getting the maximum effectiveness of that particular exercise. Free weight equipment has no limitations for larger people. There is not one exercise that a person of larger size cannot do. All free weight equipment is open, while machine equipment is in closed. Both machines and free weight benches can be adjusted to get the proper angle one desires. There are two exercises that can only truly be done using free weights and that is the parallel squat and power clean. There are a few weight machines that try to mimic the squat but there is really no substitute. The squat is the king of all exercise. It builds thigh and hip development and strengthens the lower back. It also strengthens all the tiny stabilizer muscles in the body. The power clean is a full body exercise that strengthens and builds all the major muscles in the body like shoulder, back, legs, and arms. There is a downfall of free weights. One has to pick them up and return them to the tree (rack) after they are completed in their exercise routine.
Using free weights, a person will achieve greater mass than he would if he did the same exercise using machine equipment. Free weights use the person’s natural range of motion and strengthen their stabilizer muscles. If one switches from machine weights to free weights they will notice that they will shake a lot. Once that person becomes adjusted to the feel of free weights his stabilizer muscles will get stronger and he/she won’t shake as much if at all.
An advantage of machine weight exercise is that they give the ability to tone and allow a person to become more defined the muscles faster than free weights. Machine weights are nicer to use when one wants to use lightweight and high repetitions. However, free weights build mass faster than machine exercise. One can only get so large using machine weights because there is a maximum amount of weight that can be lifted. For instance most machine exercises can only go up roughly two hundred pounds where free weights can go to whatever the lifter can handle. If a person can lift five hundred pounds than there is no machine exercise that he could do.
Within the last couple of years there has been an explosion of new machine equipment to hit the market. One of the top brand names is the Hammer strength. It is a machine that standard free weights fit on. Even though it uses free weights it is not a free weight exercise. It is a machine-controlled exercise. Machine exercises have many advantages that free weights don’t. For example, while using a particular machine the weight is controlled and smooth both going up and going down. Using free weights it depends on how experienced the athlete is in order to achieve a smooth and controlled lift. Many females and beginners prefer machines rather than free weights for that reason.
Machines also have built in stoppers and where free weights don’t. An example of this is say Johnny decides to bench press. He chooses a free weight bench. He starts lifting and can’t get the weight up. His spotter is standing there not paying any attention because he is talking to the cute girl in spandex. All of a sudden the bar slams him on his chest and he stops breathing. Freddie looks at Johnny and decides to use the machine bench press instead. Freddie is lying there and pumping out reps when all of a sudden he can’t get another one. The weight comes crashing down. Lucky for him the built in stoppers stop the weight from ever making contact with his torso. Because the machine weights have stoppers females, beginners, and people rehabilitating an injury prefer them.
Cables are another type of machine that mimics dumbbells. They are actually better for the body than dumbbells. Many people hurt their shoulders doing dumbbell flies. One can achieve the same benefits as the dumbbell fly using the cable machine to do cable crossovers. Cable crossovers are easier on your body because injury of the shoulder can be avoided if a person keeps the cables in front of them or simply just lets go. There is no fear of a dumbbell smashing your foot.
Another free weight exercise that can cause injury is the behind the neck military press. Doing this exercise the rotator cuff is at risk of being injured. Using the military press machine or the behind the neck press on the hammer strength greatly reduces the risk of injuring the rotator cuff. The machines protect one from injury by not actually letting the bar go behind the neck. The bar actually goes down to shoulder level slightly behind one’s head the stoppers stop the weight from going any farther than that. This exercise is safer and just as affective.
Another example of how machines are better than free weights is that there are a few more exercises that one cannot do using free weights. One exercise is the hip sled. It was developed by the Hammer Strength Company and is a whole body workout. Another exercise that can’t be performed by free weights is the leg press. The free weight version of this exercise is the dead lift. The dead lift puts a lot of stress on one’s lower back. That puts the risk of slipping a disk or blowing out a knee. The leg press actually works the legs better than the dead lift and since it is a machine it is a smooth controlled lift.
So which type of lifting is better, free weights or machines? Both are. There are certain exercises that are more effective by using free weights rather than machines. There are also certain machine exercises that are just as good as free weights and are a lot safer. The best way to get in shape and stay in shape is to find the happy medium of utilizing both machine and free weight. If one desires to build their body up they should primarily use free weights for their core lifts (bench, squat, power clean, incline bench, and dead lift). If one desires definition and tone they should stick to the machine weights. All in all, I found that using both free weights and machines I can achieve my personal goals.