Training 101: Machines or Free Weights?
Jan 27th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training
IntroductionBasically strength training is done either with free weights, mostly dumbbells, barbells and several variations of the barbell, or with machines. A balanced training routine offers enough room for both, free weights and machines. However, for an effective muscle growth or strength training you should prefer the use of free weights. Here´s why?
MachinesMachines are designed to offer a pre-defined training direction and sometimes even range of motion. Stabilizing the training weight and the own body weight and is mostly taken by the machines. Consequently you train only the necessary muscles. This type of training is very specific; it is simple to do and bears only low potential for error and injury. The major disadvantage is the limited complexity and thus effectiveness. What does that mean? The degree of complexity of an exercise, in large part, determines the training effect. The more muscles you involve in a movement, directly or indirectly, the higher the overall training stimulus will be. Here three terms come into play:
|Target Muscle||the major group of muscles involved in an exercise|
|Synergists||they support the movement directly|
|Stabilizers||contracting muscles with no significant movement to fixate joints or to maintain a certain posture|
While training on machines, you usually involve only agonists and synergists, stabilizers play only a small role.
Free WeightsUnlike when using free weights. Here, too, in principle, each exercise follows a defined movement, but it is solely the responsibility of the athlete to do a correct technique, to fixate the body in an ideal position and to stabilize the training weight. Free weight training improves the co-ordination skills and body awareness, and represents a great physical challenge in its complexity in the interplay between directly and indirectly involved muscle groups, with greater potential for development.
ConclusionAs initially mentioned, the use of machines offers an entirely adequate training. However, when it comes to the basic development of strength and co-ordination or a balanced growth of muscle mass, the use of free weights is the smarter choice.
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