Free Weight vs Weight Machines
Machines are the modern day health dilemma in the gym. A trend that took off in the 70’s and hasn’t finished since. A trend that just won’t budge. In fact a lot of gyms I go to now have favoured machine resistance over free weights simply because it can appear more attractive for the almighty sales pitch.
Weight machines are stations that are mechanically designed to work specific muscles by using pulleys, levers and weight stacks. Examples include the leg extension machine, smith machine and cable machines. Free weights constitute a wide range of apparatus from barbells and dumbbells to sandbags and kettlebells which require you to work much harder in order to maintain balance and stability.
Weight machines force your body to move in straight lines compared free weights where the actions have to be learned. Weight machines actually contribute to poorer long term health development compared to free weights and in my gym, they are not allowed. We will see why later. So what gym equipment do I use. Let me reveal my secret weapon… the barbell.
The first barbells became available to the public in European gyms towards the end of the 19th century. Many were manufactured by Kaspar Berg and these revolving barbells were adopted by Olympians.. Ever since than we have not been able to make more effective equipment for training our bodies. The barbell is the most effective piece of fitness apparatus you can own. I mean it really is the pinnacle of gym equipment separating the noobs from the elites. Crossfit is very quickly becoming mainstream and their model is not unlike my own model. Most crossfit workouts involve some form of bodyweight exercises and barbell exercises. Crossfit gyms are becoming increasingly popular and are expensive to join, proving that there is a business model for safe barbell exercise. multihead weigher
So, what’s wrong with weight machines? Simply put, they isolate one muscle and limit your range of motion. It is very easy for your body to adapt to this Range of motion so it quickly stops becoming a challenge. This means by using machine weights exclusively you are going to reach a plateau much quicker.
Exercises using barbell or dumbbell forces your body to recruit extra muscle fibres and motor neurons and allows for a larger range of motion. This means your body becomes stronger and fitter and it becomes much harder to reach a plateau. In fact comparing the difference between a smith machine squat and barbell squat, you will find in the smith machine that it is the quadriceps that play the biggest role. A barbell squat forces all of the large lower body muscles to stabilize and work together to carry the load. This motor alignment become more beneficial as it decreases risks of injury and increases performance in sport.
Every exercise that we recommend is a compound exercise that is proven to be more beneficial than all other simple machine or isolation exercises. They burn the most calories and also create an afterburn effect. They also go a long way towards making your body look natural, the way it’s supposed to look. This than leads us to the question of which type of exercise is better for your body and fat loss.
Multi-Joint Exercises v Single Joint Exercises
Multi-joint (compound) exercises are much better for you than single-joint exercises (isolated). Compound lifts work many of the large muscle groups at once whereas isolation exercises focus on a single joint movement. For example, a Bicep Curl only moves the elbow joint, however, the Squat moves the knees and hips as well all the muscles in the leg and hip.