This is the third post discussing which is best – free weights or machines. If you came from someplace else, just click the link to start at the beginning.
Exercise machines – the good
Resistance machines may be a better choice for a beginner that finds the nuances of free weights a little confusing. If you belong to a gym you can get in a good full-body workout effectively, and easily by following the design circuit of machines on the weight room floor.
If you haven’t yet gotten an official tour from the fitness staff, set one up and they will show you how they have laid out the floor plan. Upper body here, here, and here. legs there, there, and there. I have been in many fitness centers and even if I am only there for the one day I still get one of the staff to give me a quick tour because I have found that no two gym managers have the exact same idea of what a good floor design is. It might take a few minutes on the front end but over all – it usually saves me time.
The machines are often in a different area than the free weights. And the weight room is where the muscle bound and jocks like to swing. If you find that intimidating you may be better suited to the machines until you build your confidence. Really you shouldn’t let them throw you off, most people in the weight room are quite friendly and helpful and likely if you did wander in they would be genuinely supportive.
Machines can be considered safer to use – but ONLY IF you use their safety features. I saw a video recently where a young fellow was folded in half by his neck using the smith machine trying to do squats that were too heavy for him. IF he had set the safety stops in place as he should have, it would not have happened.
So please, use the safety features provided with the equipment.
Weight machines are probably the better choice when you are trying to recover from an injury. This way you get to isolate a muscle you are working, therefore not recruiting your injured muscle. Or if you are wanting to work your injured muscle you can use your other (arm or leg) to take some of the movement in an isolated fashion to not further the injury. This is something you need to discuss with your medical practitioner for an effective recovery program.
Using a cable weight machine can save you time too. Rather than running around exchanging (or finding) plates all you need to do is move the pin to the next level and off you go. If you are using a machine that is using plates and you can’t find the plates, I would bet they are on or by the 45° leg press machine.
Exercise machines – cautions
Size. That would be my biggest beef. Over the years machines have improved for adjustment and adaptability and I really do like the new line of Atlantis machines. But some of the older stuff out there needed axillary modifications to comfortably use them.
Some of the seats won’t come forward enough and you have to put a pad behind your back.
Ensure your knees are lined up properly when using any pivot machine for your legs – like the leg extension and leg curl. If you do not you can do damage quickly to your knees. If you aren’t sure how to do this then ask one of the trained staff to show you.
Another is the leg press, sometimes the plate is at a very uncomfortable angle, or the bench angle is wrong. If these aren’t set properly you can strain your lower back, hips and knees.
The peck deck is another one, make sure you have it set so you don’t blow our your shoulders. As a matter of fact this is so common the phrase heard often when referring to this machine is “peck deck – shoulder wreck”
The list of warnings goes on because there is a complacency with people when using weight machines because they are touted as being ‘safer’ than free weights – and they are. But safer does not equate to meaning intrinsically safe.
You are also limited to the number of exercises as dictated by the machine. Pivot style machines are more limited than the cable machines but this is because they are designed to actually target one muscle. People can get pretty innovative on the weighted cable machines.
In conclusion – find out which is best – free weights or machines?