Free Weights vs. Machines – Which is Better

Although I work out in my garage using kettlebells, weighted vests and a pullup/dip cage – conducting only free weight exercises on my hands and feet, there are many benefits to gyms and gym machines. We often hear that free weights are more effective than machines, which is true in some respects but there are advantages to both. The two major benefits of machines are:  They’re dummy proof. You either push or pull on the machine the way it’s designed or it doesn’t work. Second, the inherent safety of a tracked machine allows one to move extremely heavy weights without the danger of losing control. Free weights on the other hand are not tracked movements. This means more stabilizing muscles come into play. You can’t do a free weight bench press without recruiting the shoulders and back to stabilize the movement. All studies show free weights generate more electrical activity in the muscles. But I say use both. Conduct as many free weight movements as you can, but if you’re going stupid heavy – don’t be stupid, use a machine. And remember that variety is the spice of life. Regardless of what equipment you’re using – free weights or machines, go heavy one day, go light the next, go slow, go fast, and do reps of a 100 on another day. Working until failure and muscle confusion generates progress.

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