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  • Writer's picturelemonfrogfitness

Machines Vs Free Weights Which Is Better?

When scrolling through social media and the internet you mostly see free weight exercises clogging up the feed. Every workout you see its barbell squats, barbell deadlifts dumbbell walking lunges, dumbbell shoulder press, and so on. Every person you see performing them looks like a superhero and in incredible shape. Therefore they must be the best right? I mean that's the exercises that we're seeing everywhere and the people doing them look amazing so they've got to be? Right? Let's weigh it up.  Firstly what is the point of weight training? The point in weight training is to build muscle and strength to be able to improve the quality of your life, your strength, and how you look. To do this you need to progressively overload your muscles, something which I talked about recently.  If you didn't catch it, it means you need to try and lift heavier weights or more reps each session to apply enough stimulus to your muscles demanding them to grow.  What do you think you could push yourself harder on? A fixed stable machine or a freely moveable object? The fixed machine of course. Which do you think is safer? A fixed stable machine or a freely moveable barbell? Again the fixed machine of course.  Using free weights does increase your risk of injury, and doesn't allow you to push your body as close to failure due to less stability.  More so if you are a complete beginner as you are yet to build stability, control, and learn the movement pattern.  That's another great thing about machines you can learn the movement pattern without any wobbling or any fear of performing the given exercise wrong.  Think about it.  Say you're doing a dumbbell shoulder press you could, take the dumbells too wide at the top, you could bring them too close together at the bottom, press too far forward or too far behind. All of these are the wrong way to perform the exercise. However, you perform this exercise on a machine you're locked into the correct position. Sure there's room for technical faults of leaning forward or allowing too much movement in the shoulders but you also have that on the dumbbells too. The machines just give you fewer technique issues to worry about. Do free weights have their place? Of course, free weights are fantastic exercises for building strength, stability and allow a more natural movement pattern. Free weights require more stability therefore they require more muscle activation from what's termed as your stabilising muscles. Machines are great because they require less of these so you don't have to worry about feeling wobbly during an exercise. However, if you never place a demand on them or challenge them how do you expect them to adapt and become more stable to give you greater control? Your core strength also falls into this, your core is located at the centre of your body and is needed to keep your body upright and in a safe posture. Your core will not activate as much when using machines, making free weights a much better exercise for developing core strength.  Although you can push yourself to failure on machines without worrying about technique faults or injury, you don't need to push yourself to failure to be able to grow and get stronger. Let's say you perform barbell squats for 4 sets of 10 reps at 65kg you could get 12 reps but you leave 2 reps in the tank. Next week you come in and you again perform barbell squats, 4 sets of 10 reps yet this time at 67.5kg for 10 reps with 2 reps left in the tank.  You have still managed to progressively overload your muscles.   The great thing about free weights is you can target your muscles from many different angles. This is required if you want to build the best shape possible as you need to work your muscles in all ranges of healthy movement and angles. I say 'healthy' because there are some movements you can perform that simply aren't healthy on your joints and tendons.  Not only that free weights do make you feel badass and strong, it's great being able to lift heavy on machines and it does result in you being stronger in everyday life. But there's no feeling like being able to deadlift, squat, hip thrust, or bench press a new personal best.  I can't explain it or tell you why it's different from getting a PB on a machine but it is just so satisfying and feels like such an achievement.  When you achieve it you'll know exactly what I mean.  At this point you're probably thinking "great I'm more confused which is better now than I was at the start, I thought this was going to tell me which is better and which one should I be doing in my workouts for the best results". And you are about to find out..... Both, they both have a place in your programme and should both be utilised for the benefits they provide you.  They're awesome for different reasons, therefore, you should be performing both to ensure you're getting the best out of your training and the best results possible. Neither is better nor worse because they are both going to help you get results. But what I will say is that if you are a beginner machine weights is where I'd recommend you start then slowly start adding free weights into your routine. Coach Louis P.S I know right now the majority of you don't have access to machines because of lockdown but there are many exercises you can do at home to build strength, stability and improve your physique.

Click the link below to view them.

Gain access to 50+ exercises - I have videoed 50+ exercises that you can perform right now during the lockdown. Pick 6 exercises and perform them for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. Click Here


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