Going to the gym for the first time can be daunting for some and it is understandable that you may have a few questions when you first start out. With some gyms now open 24/7 prior to the lockdown you could choose to go whenever it suits you. However, what would you do when you get there for the first time? You might see that in one section of the gym you have an area full of big, grunting and unapproachable people using free weights while in another section you see people flocking around the machines looking rather absurd at times while doing strange leg and arm movements. Don’t let this sight put you off as we will discuss the difference between the two and which is more suited for you.
Free weights can include everything from dumbbells and kettlebells to barbells, pretty much anything you can pick up and hold. What makes them unique is that they make your own body work against gravity when you pick up the free weight.
According to Phil Timmons, a program manager at Blink Fitness, “Machines typically take your body through the range of motion—from the starting point through to the end point, a machine will take you through the same line of motion with each and every repetition”.
Benefits of Free Weights
One advantage to free weights is that they can make you work numerous muscles at a time, including lots of tiny muscles without you realizing it. Take for example Kettlebell Swings, they “work the muscles in the hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs and grip” says Tracy Reifkind, a certified Russian Kettlebell instructor. Free weights are also more functional than using machines. For instance, movements such as deadlifts could help you when you are moving to a new house, because if you are good at a deadlift, you will be great a moving a couch and bicep curls will help you with picking up grocery bags.
Disadvantages of Free Weights
Although, free weights provide people with great results, you must consider the risks and disadvantages from using them. For example, you may run the risk of serious injury if you drop your free weight tools. Before you start using free weights, it is recommended to do research prior to any exercise. Not knowing the proper technique and form could make it difficult to effectively isolate the exact muscles you are targeting or worse, can result in major injury.
Benefits of Machines
Once you know how to effectively use machines with the correct form, you will find many benefits. For example, Machines provide you with stabilization which make it easier for you to focus on your weight training without worrying about maintaining your balance. “They don’t require as much coordination and balance as free weights” say researchers from The Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They assist with control of movement, reducing the risk of injury”, meaning there is less risk of injury making resistant machines safer for those who use heavier weights and new users.
Disadvantages of Machines
If you do choose to use machines as part of your weight training, you must be sure to lift based on your own current ability and level strength, otherwise you may run the risk of major injury on your joints. You must also know how to adjust the machines according to your height and body size. Another disadvantage worth mentioning is the cost. Unless you have your own home gym, you would have to pay for a gym membership to get access to the resistance machines.
As we are all under strict social distancing guidance, some professional sportspeople do have the luxury of having a gym in their home. However, it appears that the quarantine is having a psychological effect on some of the English Premier League football players. Speaking this month to Betway Sports, Richard Collinge, who is the Head of Medical Services at West Ham United in East London, said: “There are different aspects to it, the science behind it all is now a major guide as to objectively clearing a player to return to training and then to return to a match, but the player has to also be psychologically ready.” He continues, “those two things have to match, otherwise that player is not going to be ready to play.” Therefore, the psychological barrier plays a pivotal part in a person’s ability to challenge themselves physically be it with Free weights or Machines.
As long as you exercise with the proper form and strength level your weight training experience will be smooth and at times effortless. Ideally, you will be training with both free weights and machines. However, if that is not likely, then it is possible to develop well rounded programmes with either free weights of resistant machines. Remember to increase or decrease your weight slowly to ensure safety. What matters most is that you chose a program that fits your lifestyle and goal as well as your likeliness to stick to it.