August 02, 2023 5 min read
An extensive selection of exercise equipment is offered by the majority of gyms. A variety of cardio and resistance training equipment, as well as dumbbells and barbells, are typically available. Even if you ignore the cardio equipment for a moment, there is a lot to select from, and it might be difficult to know where to begin. Is it best to focus more on free weights if you're wanting to increase strength and muscular mass, or should you stick to gym machines, which tend to isolate specific muscle groups?
There isn't a straightforward, one-size-fits-all solution here. Machines are preferable in some situations, while free weights are preferable in others. Your personal goals, where you are in your training, and how confident you are in yourself will all play a role.
This article will discuss the various advantages and disadvantages of using gym equipment vs. free weights to help you decide what will work best for you.
First and foremost, gym machines refer to any machine that requires you to remain in a fixed plane of motion in order to perform the exercise. Machines such as the leg press, leg extension, chest press, lat pulldown, and machine curls, to mention a few, fall under this category. The smith machine is a tricky one, but for the purposes of this article, it'll be put it in the free weight category.
So, let's dive right into some of the benefits of using gym machines to exercise.
If you're new to working out, particularly resistance training, you'll discover that gym machines offer a lower learning curve than free weights. With most of these, there isn't much of a learning curve at all! Simply set yourself up on the machine according to the instructions and complete the workout as directed. Because most gym equipment is locked in a set plane of motion, there isn't nearly as much room for error as there is with free weights, therefore progressively honing your form isn't nearly as vital.
Of course, when lifting large weights in the gym, you run the danger of injuring yourself. In fact, injuries in the gym are rather prevalent among both novice and expert lifters. One of the main advantages of using gym machines over free weights is that they lessen the danger of injury.
As previously stated, form is less of a problem here, so if you're new to strength training, struggling with existing issues, or simply want to minimize the risk of harm, gym machines may be your best alternative.
A spotter can be quite beneficial for a variety of free weight workouts. This is especially true for crucial barbell workouts like barbell squats and bench presses. It can be intimidating to do exercises by yourself, especially as you go to higher and heavier weights. Even certain dumbbell exercises, such as dumbbell shoulder presses, benefit from having a spotter present to assist you. Gym machines, on the other hand, do not require a spotter, so you may work out on them by yourself.
Let's switch gears and look at what free weights have to offer now that we've explored some of the advantages of working out using gym machines. Barbells and dumbbells are the most common types of free weights, while kettlebells are also included.
Functional fitness has been a buzzword in recent years, but it may refer to a variety of things. Free weights might be considered more 'functional' than gym equipment because they more closely imitate motions that you would make in everyday life. In real life, movement isn't confined the way it is on gym machines, where you can only move in a narrow range of motion. Instead, it's more akin to what you'd do with free weight exercises.
The deadlift, for example, is a particularly useful action because it teaches you how to pick up big objects securely and effectively. In comparison to, example, the leg press, the squat is far more like anything you'd do in real life. Furthermore, several free weight workouts allow you to train each side of your body separately, assisting in the improvement of your balance and stability. As a result, there is a case to be made that free weight training, as opposed to using only gym machines, will have a greater impact on your daily life.
You'll need a lot of equipment to achieve a decent, thorough exercise with gym machines. To train each major muscle group, you'll need a specific machine. Yes, there are multi-station gym machines that combine many exercises into one unit, but this isn't always the case.
When it comes to free weights, on the other hand, you can get a lot of work done with just a few important pieces of equipment. In reality, you can get a fairly full exercise with just a barbell, a power rack, and an adjustable bench (and this is clearly the more cost-effective option if you're establishing a home gym). This implies that if you learn to train with free weights, you won't be as reliant on your gym's unique machines, and you'll be considerably more capable of working out properly in a range of scenarios.
Compound workouts are more efficient than isolated exercises in general. Compound exercises, including squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, effectively train many muscle groups; in fact, just three exercises work the majority of the muscle groups in your complete body. Many gym equipment workouts, on the other hand, tend to target fewer muscle areas (although there are exceptions to this). This means that, in terms of efficiency, you may get a good workout with less free weight exercises than you would need if you exclusively used gym machines.
You might be wondering which is the best option overall now that we've covered the advantages of both gym equipment and free weights. Both of them, as was previously stated, are not inherently superior. The truth is that some people will benefit more from using gym equipment than others, who will benefit more from using free weights. A combination of the two will also be the best choice for many people. We therefore advise sticking to gym machines for the time being if you are new to exercising, have a current injury, or are simply intimidated by free weight training. However, if you have more experience and no significant injuries, we advise starting with free weights and incorporating machine exercises later in the program. In the end, both exercise equipment and free weights have benefits and drawbacks, so if you're happy using both in your workout, don't limit yourself.
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