Strength training is a great form of training and has numerous benefits; of course, it’s also the reason most people even sign up for a gym to begin with.
But you might be wondering what strength training would be more effective and worthwhile: lifting dumbbells or jumping from machine to machine.
Some experts lean more towards free weights because they believe it promotes more participation from other body parts to stabilize the body. At the same time, others suggest that you use weight machines to make it easier for beginners to learn the proper form of the exercises.
Needless to say, there are many fitness classes you can attend to learn tips and advice from professionals to optimize your gym workout sessions further.
Here’s a brief guide on the pros and cons of the two main types of strength training to help you realize which is better and reach a conclusion.
Differences Between Weight Machines and Free Weights
Though both aim for the same goal — strengthening muscles and bones, teaching better stability, and maintaining healthy body weight — free weights and weight machines have advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to know them to help you decide which would work best for you.
Pros of Weight Machines
If you have access to weight machines, it’s better to start with them rather than without. Strength training is much more straightforward and streamlined with machines when compared to free weights. Some pros include:
- Machines allow users to specifically direct attention towards a singular muscle or muscle group.
- Working out with machines is much more efficient and changing the weight load requires less effort.
- For new members, machines are an ideal way to build good form and safely teach the proper guidelines.
Cons of Weight Machines
While machines may seem more thrilling and people are drawn towards them more than free weights, there are also some disadvantages that machines users face:
- Machines don’t necessarily stimulate the stabilizer muscles that help with balancing.
- The machines don’t allow natural movement as can be done using free weights, and the motion may prove counterproductive to some.
- Weight machines are specialized for particular muscles, meaning it requires multiple machines to complete a full workout session.
Pros of Free Weights
People often consider free weights to be obsolete and a relic of the past, outdated to the superiority of machines. But they’ve been used for the past centuries for a reason; let’s look at what they can offer:
- Free weights can work more muscles and thus develop more power as compared to machines.
- They are more versatile and easily accessible to most people. With any free weight exercise, you can work on almost any muscle in the body.
Cons of Free Weights
But it’s important to remember that free weights sare also not perfect, and there are definitely some ways it can become a burden. Some cons of using free weights are:
- It is not possible to concentrate on specific muscles with a free weight exercise.
- Changing loads on a dumbbell usually takes time and could be dangerous if the equipment isn’t secured correctly.
- Moving around free weights also requires a lot of space which is difficult to do in a crowded place with little room.
Do They Stimulate the Same Muscles?
While free weights and weight machines may generally work the same muscles, free weights engage stabilizer muscles better for long-term commitments.
On the other hand, due to fatigue at the end of your workout session, balancing free weights is much more challenging and could badly affect your form. Here machines are a safer option and allow you to focus on a specific muscle or group of muscles.
Another way that machines are useful is that they help you target and train weaker muscles to get them as strong as your dominant muscle areas in a safe manner.
For the optimal workout, it’s best to build muscles through free weights during most of your training and then switch to machines when you start experiencing fatigue to maintain a good form and safely keep working out.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make?
No matter which option you pick, it’s vital to learn their functionalities and how to use them correctly. Look out for a few commonly made mistakes when using either equipment to prevent any damage from occurring to your body:
- Concentrate on Your Form: The most crucial aspect to consider when working out with free weights is your form. Each workout has its own variation of placements, positions, and posture so, it’s important to research and practice beforehand.
- Slow Down: Many people, especially newcomers, believe that the more you work out and the faster you do it, the better. But that’s not the case for most free weight exercises. What really matters are proper techniques and a solid muscle-mind connection.
- Determine if it Fits: Machines are designed with a “one size fits all” mentality that appeals to most people, but factors like height, body structure, body mass, and arrangement can affect how the machine works on you. If it doesn’t seem right, don’t force it.
- Adjust the Machine: Since every person is different, settings like the machine’s height, grip position, and workout area will differ from person to person. You need to adjust the size of the machine when you get on. Otherwise, it could form a bad habit resulting in bad posture.