Gym Machines vs. Free Weights
The other day a gym member asked about my take on using the fitness machines that he enjoys including in his workouts. (Another member had told him to should stop and only use free weights.) The conversation prompted me to look up this article I’d read awhile back, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about use of machines rather than free weights and his “why”.
I use both- and here are a few of the reasons I like including machines in workouts for myself or clients: - Safety. I’ve had a few clients with zero experience in working out, and machines help familiarize them with proper movement patterns giving them a lot less to remember in those first workouts. There is advice on both sides of the fence on this one, in with ten years in the business I still believe this to be true in many cases. - Variety. I love supersetting a machine like the leg extension with lunges or frog squats. It’s a great hit, and by including as many different pieces of equipment and methods into my workouts I can help stave off boredom. - Play. Sometimes you can get a lot more out of a machine than meets the eye. I love using the assisted pull up machine for single leg presses. Or sometimes I use the lat pull machine to secure myself for a manual leg curl. - Intensity. I love assisted reps (Concentric motion is assisted to allow the eccentric part of the exercise to be done with a weight not otherwise possible) but don't always have a "trainer" on hand to help. Machines allow me to bring myself up to the next level, but without anyone on hand to be my assist. Examples: I pop on the lying hamstring curl and set the weight high enough that both legs can lift on the concentric motion, but not just one. I then use both legs to lift the bar toward my gluteus, but, lower with only one leg and alternate which leg executes the eccentric part of each rep. I use this same concept with leg extension machine for my quadriceps. - Getting it done. Quite often I walk into the gym with a limited amount of time and very specific muscles I know I need to work- if the cables or dumbbells I planned to use are being used by another gym member, you bet I’m going to grab a machine and make sure I use the time I have to hit the muscles I intended to hit rather than pushing it to the next day. And I have no worries that that muscle will be worked very well on a machine. - Comfort. Call it what you may- but there simply are people that are uncomfortable in a gym setting overall- but especially in the bench-and-dumbbell section. If they gather the courage, pop on the workout clothes, and come in to work on the machines they know well and feel comfortable doing please don't discourage them by sending them to free weights. Allow them to find the area of fitness they can enjoy and use without criticism.
Check out what Arnold Schwarzenegger
says in the link below, here are a few highlights: If joints become an issue, heavier training can be moved to machines (free weights be used for lighter weight and heavier reps). Arnold mentions that he is able train around some injuries by using machines, such as the smith bar being safer for his shoulders as it is on a track. He also mentions they are good for sculpting. Needs and abilities differ not only from person to person, but our own needs and abilities will change over time.