|Free Weights or Machines?
BodybuildingPro.com Training Database Advanced Training Tips Free Weights or Machines?
Training Right for the Best Results
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, recreational
bodybuilding, no matter how you do it, is going to be good for you.
You may not always do every little movement 100 percent right, and
you may leave out details about your diet, but really it’s
all about getting to the gym and trying. Yes, certain exercises
will help you achieve your goals faster, but it’s all good!
Trust me on that one. One frequently asked question about
bodybuilding is which is better: Free weights or machines?
Although free weights and machines are both very beneficial, free
weights normally win. Some reasons are listed below:
Stabilizer Muscles: I’m sure all of you used or seen
weight machines before, and saw how easily weights were lifted up
and down in the perfect arc so many free weight users try to
duplicate. By working with free weights, you are not doing the lift
in an exact range of motion; it is your goal to make it as exact as
possible, and the muscles which help you to achieve this are your
stabilizer muscles. When bench pressing on a nautilus machine, the
range of motion is already set, and your stabilizer muscles do not
have to work at all to keep perfect form. If your left side is
lagging in bench press, you will never know this with machines. You
will continue to train, and quite possibly see your lagging
strength deficits on your left side, continue to get worse. Free
weights prevents this from happening, by working your stabilizer
muscles in all lifts. While doing bench press, you will also find
the motion is stabilized with your lower back and abdominal
muscles. It is truly amazing to see just how much more (and
beneficial) work your body does with free weights.
Versatility: Using either barbells or dumbbells, you can
work almost any exercise and muscle. There are very few exercises
which you can only perform on a machine. This is especially helpful
if you intend to train at home. You would be amazed with the
quality of a full body workout you can get with a flat bench, and a
few free weights. In fact, any beginner would benefit with just
that set up. Once you get past the initial shock of putting
together an exercise bench, it will give you plenty of fulfilling
Dumbbells or Barbells?
Both! Both dumbbells and barbells offer their advantages,
and they are fairly evenly matched. While barbell bench presses are
universally known for their ability to help you gain great chest
mass, dumbbell bench presses will put you at an advantage for
developing a stronger chest. Also, while some movements are
considered preferable using a barbell, other movements you
can’t do, because barbells don’t offer the versatility
of dumbbells. Arnold Schwarzenneger and his famous “Arnold
Presses” are considered an excellent way to gain mass in your
shoulders, and this movement can’t be repeated with barbells.
“Behind the Neck Presses” are also very hard to
duplicate with dumbbells. So to conclude the question, dumbbells or
barbells? Both! Here is a list of some further benefits of both
dumbbells and barbell:
Dumbbell: Dumbbells are helpful because they allow both
sides of your body to work independently. If you find that your
left side is lagging for bench press (such is my current case!),
you will find it helpful to move on to dumbbell bench presses for a
while (maybe four weeks), to try to shock your body into balancing
the left side deficit. With dumbbells, each side of your body will
be carrying an equal amount of weight. There is no way that your
stronger side can carry the brunt of the weight to make up for
strength imbalances, and in most cases, dumbbells can quickly
correct any problems you are finding with this.
Barbells: Barbells are usually considered the mass gainers.
If your goal is to pack on some quality pounds of muscle tissue,
barbells are usually what gets the vote. There are a few reasons
for this. One commonly known explanation is about barbell squats.
Anyone can tell you that barbell squats help your body produce the
most growth hormone. So by doing barbell squats, not only will your
legs grow, but so will the rest of you. Three compound movements
(all with barbell) are well known for being the biggest and best
overall mass gainers: Squats, Deadlifts, and Bench Press.
How about the Weight Bench?
Another essential item, especially in a home gym, is a simple
weight bench. Many weight benches you buy come in an adjustable
format; they are capable of the regular flat bench option, as well
as incline and deline.
Flat Bench: A flat bench is a long narrow bench, fairly
short in all ways. It is padded, and able to handle a lot of
weight. It is good for flat bench presses with both dumbbells and a
barbell, as well as many seated exercises such as concentration
curls, and seated lateral raises.
Incline: The seat of an incline bench is usually
adjustable, allowing you to set the incline to various degrees
depending on your requirements. Incline benches can be used for
incline bench presses with both dumbbell and a barbell, incline
dumbbell flys, and other exercises such as incline dumbbell curls,
or incline dumbbell rows.
Decline: The seat of a decline bench is also usually
adjustable, allowing you to set the decline to various degrees
depending on your requirements. Decline benches can be used for
decline bench presses with both dumbbells and a barbell, decline
dumbbell flys, and other exercises such as incline sit ups, where
you sit in a decline bench, and perform a proper sit up.
Vertical: A vertical bench is set at a 90 degree angle.
Exercises commonly performed on a vertical bench are military
dumbbell presses, and Arnold curs, as well as other shoulder
Smith Machine: The Smith machine is a type of nautilus
machine so commonly used that the name has almost become generic. A
regular free weight bar is used in Smith machine movements, but is
secured in a rack, making for a more strict range of movement, and
on the positive side, some added safety. I personally use Smith
machines quite often on training days in which I cannot find
someone to come to the gym with me to spot me during bigger lifts.
This is especially important depending whether or not you are
inexperienced in a certain lift, or using more weight than usual.
Like free weights, you can change the weight of the Smith machine
bar very easily, and it is especially good for exercises where grip
is your weak link, as the Smith machine provides a much greater
grip. Also, safety pins are in place to prevent the bar from
lowering to a point where it can be dangerous. For all these
reasons, the Smith machine gets a thumbs up from most bodybuilding
Benefits of Weight Machines:
(1) Safety: There is little, if any, ways of harming
yourself if you are working in a properly adjusted weight machine,
even without the help of a spotter.
(2) User Friendly: Machines are easy to use, much more so
than regular free weights. Machines are especially good to start
working out with if you are new to an exercise. If you have never
tried a barbell squat before, you may benefit from doing a few reps
in a Smith machine to get used to the movement.
(3) Efficiency: Weight machines are a lot easier to adjust
than free weights. When using free weights, it takes a lot of time
to adjust the weight. With some machines, it is as simple as moving
Cable machines, also known as pulley machines, are used very
frequently, and are probably the most versatile type of machine you
can get. A cable machine is a large machine, with a pulley attached
to both sides. You can adjust the height of the pulley so that it
is either above the ground, or floor level, both of which are
beneficial depending on how you want to workout. Aside from being
versatile as to where you can position the cable, the different
types of attachments you can use can use. A list of these
attachments are included below (These attachments are found at most
(1) Ankle Collar: The ankle collar is a wide, leather ankle
bracelet which you clip to pulleys to perform exercises such as
left lifts, and leg curls. It is largely used for leg
(2) Curved Short Bar: Some of these are U - shaped and some
are V - shaped. Both of them are used frequently for triceps
exercises, but other exercises are also possible with them.
(3) Horseshoe: The horse shoe is an individual hand grip
you can use to perform exercises such as one - handed cable curls,
and one - handed triceps pressdowns. This can also be used for
other body parts, such as back (one - handed cable rows), and
shoulders (cable lateral raises).
(1) Long Bar: These bars are commonly used in exercises for
the back, such as lat pulldowns. The advantage of the long bar is
that you can adjust the width depending on how you would like to
work the exercises.
(2) Rope: This attachment is used on a cable machine, and
is commonly used for exercises such as rope pulls, or triceps
(3) Straight Short Bar: This bar is used in exercises such
as the triceps pushdown, as well as biceps exercises such as cable
curls. It can also be used for back exercises, and other body
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