August 16, 2013
Free Weights or Machine Weights?

When you walk into a weight room do you see a myriad of machines and toys? It is like a giant fitness playground. There are machines, benches, free-weights, kettlebells, squat racks... Oh my, there are so many choices. So what is the best thing to use? What is the most effective implement you can utilize to get fit and strong?

Free weights.

What is a free weight? A free weight is anything that is not a selectorized piece of equipment, like dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, your own body, cable machines, medicine balls, bands, and much more. Selectorized machines are giant pieces of equipment that are meant for one single exercise. These are the weight machines that you see in most gyms. There is the chest press, the row, the shoulder press, the bicep curl, etc. These machines help your body focus a lot of work into one single muscle group. While you can get a great workout from a circuit of selectorized exercises, you have to sit to do the work. With free weights, you do not have to sit.

Given that you most likely sit all day do you really want to come to the gym to sit some more? No way! Again, when you use the selectorized machines you are able to focus a lot of work on one muscle group. With free weights you have the ability to spread the work across multiple muscle groups. This will allow you to move more weight and do more reps, meaning more work. More work leads to a higher heart rate and therefore more calories. More calories burned leads to more weight loss.

Also, when you use selectorized machines you do not have to focus so intently on your posture, control, and movement as you do with free weight exercises. The machine places you in the correct position. Then you just push or pull on the bar in whichever direction it will allow you to go. With free weights you must always be mindful of your posture, movement, and control in order to safely complete an exercise. Maintaining proper posture is harder when you are not being supported by a bench seat. Also, free weights generally require more core engagement throughout your movement and reps. and who doesn't want a little more core engagement?

If you use machines, try swapping them out for a free weight (or body weight) exercise. Below are some common machine based exercises followed by a free weight alternative.

chest press - Push ups

Lat Pull - Pull ups or modified pull ups

Shoulder Press - Standing dumbbell shoulder press

Leg press - Barbell or dumbbell squat

Machine crunches - Planks

Chest fly - Standing cable crossover

Seated bicep curl - Dumbbell Row


Try getting up from the machine and get on with those free weights!



Written by Clark Masterson

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