The benefits of using free weights…
The main benefits that come with free weights is that you are controlling the weight and the stabilizing muscles come into play. In other words – it’s all you.
You lift the weight all the way. The usage of free weights builds the so-called functional strength which has larger carry-over in real world activities such as moving the sofa or your car.
In addition, exercises using teach you proper mechanics when you are under heavy external load. This is invaluable and turns you into a well tuned machine. You are complete, like Voltron.
Another factor is joint mobility. Free weights allow you to find your groove while machines force you in a pre-determined position.
There’s very little room for adaptation and this may cause joint injuries due to improper positioning.
Finally, free weights are not as expensive as machines. A barbell and a few plates that usually last forever can be passed from generation to generation. Machine are more expensive and have much shorter life.
The downsides of using free weights…
Of course, everything has two sides and free weights come with their dark part too. The main problem with free weights is that they are free, and freedom can be dangerous when it’s in the hands of uneducated person.
A lot of people have cut their heads off while doing barbell bench press alone. The machines on the other hand are usually quite safe and most don’t even require a spotter.
An additional factor to consider is that free weight exercises stress the body more. This can be a problem, if you have an injury and a particular free weight movement aggravates it.
The benefits of exercises machines…
The main benefit of exercise machines is that they are less stressful on the central nervous system (CNS) and allow you to get more isolated contraction and focus more on a specific muscle group.
Free weight exercises are considered multi-joints exercises and usually it takes more time to develop muscle-mind connection. When you squat heavy weights you think about lifting the weight and not so much about contracting the right part of your leg so that you develop that quad sweep.
The downsides of using exercises machines…
If your routine consists only of machine exercises, it’s just not fun. Why train like a old man when you can do so much more? Moving from one machine to the next makes working out sort of impotent.
It’s boring and you won’t develop good lifting habits that will translate well to the outside world. You may think your are strong but you aren’t. The machines often give an illusion of strength.
You may be able to leg press a lot of weight but that does not mean that you are a strong squatter. On the other hand free weights always translate favorably to machine movements. Of course, you need some time to adapt but after that you will see your strength increase quite fast.
The happy position is always in the middle…
If you are already paying for your gym membership, there’s no point in not including some machine movements in your routine.
It will refresh your mind and give you a break from all the squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing….etc.
A little change is always good and allows you to achieve a different perspective on things.