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Friday, May 1, 2015

Free Weights vs. Machines - What Should You Use?

If you are new to bodybuilding the advice is to use free weights. Advanced lifters use barbells and dumbbells in their workout regularly. I don't think there is any competitor bodybuilder that doesn't use free weights.

These days there are plenty of machines in gyms with new companies designing the best ever equipment. But as a lifter you should know your body is designed to overcome the pull of gravity rather than working against machine resistance. Without a doubt the biggest gains you will make in terms of size and strength is from lifting raw iron rather than jumping from one machine to another.

Alternatively machine weights are an excellent way to get back into training, gain a good muscle stretch and additionally work a body-part with intensity. Personally, I suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon last year. After undergoing surgery and a layoff for 5 months, I found machine weights were the best way to get myself going once again.

Benefits Of Lifting Free Weights You May Not Know About

Did you know the body increases natural testosterone production when you do large muscle group free weight exercises? A report from the Journal of Strength and conditioning research found testosterone increase when carrying out lifting exercise using large muscle groups. So exercises like the squat, deadlifts and clean and press are what we are talking about. Compound weights that will build size and strength.

Free weights allow people of all shapes and sizes to get a complete workout. Whatever weight you are comfortable lifting for any particular exercise you can do compound and isolation movements with great effect. Machines are designed for the average customer who goes to their local health and fitness club. It's more of a one size fits all.

As mentioned previously compound free weights exercise is compulsory for anyone that wants to gain muscle mass. Deadlifts, squats, bench, military press, clean and press, rows are all movements that are essential. Did you know there are quite a few bodybuilders who have a powerlifting background? Powerlifting certainly involves heavy free weight exercise. Arnold Schwarzeneger himself won quite a few powerlifting competitions before ever stepping into the world of bodybuilding.

Lifting free weights will develop a stronger grip (think deadlifts) and balance. Balance and controlling the weight also puts pressure and allows your muscles to adapt i.e. grow.

Finding The Right Balance

Using machines is also important for all round development. You will have seen Cybex and Hammerstrength machines scattered throughout your gym. I use machines for all body parts especially legs. It's almost impossible to get a full sweep workout of the quads without the leg extension or curl machines or to fully isolate the chest without using the pec deck. It's about finding the correct balance in your workout to allow your muscles to fully engage by placing stress on them.

As a percentage I would say do 70% free weights and the rest of your workout machines. Machines are a luxury when doing abdominal exercises because in reality you can do everything using your own bodyweight movements. I use cables to get a good stretch at the end of chest workouts. They work wonders to relieve tightness in the worked muscles. Alternatively you can do dumbbell overhead chest extension to work the serratus for a much deeper chest look. Think about combining free with machine weights, compound and isolation movements so that the muscles never adapt to one routine and are forced to grow.

Author Bio: Az is the owner and webmaster of The focus of this site is to help people gain knowledge on a variety of bodybuilding topics in the UK from product to gym reviews. He provides a variety of useful tips. His contact email is