Different stages of training require different equipment. If you’re looking to build muscles, it’s important to know whether weights or weight machines are best for you right now. In this post, we will take a look at the difference between these two options help you make an informed choice to effectively grow your muscle.
Is Your Goal More Functional or Structural?
The two are connected because in order to reach structural goals you need to change the function in some way (increase reps), however you can focus on achieving over the other.
For the most part bodybuilders are more interested in the structural goal of attaining muscle mass, while a competitive swimmer or gymnast would be more interested in improving specific skills like increasing speed or precision which is more of a functional goal.
Benefits of Free Weights
Free weights are used to build a lean body and strong muscles and if used properly are good for both functional and structural goals. It improves functional goals because weights provide more freedom of movement and allow you to use your full range of motion. Because of its versatility, there are countless variations to the way you can use them and workout all the muscles in your body.
If it’s too expensive or you have no time to belong to a gym, then free weights are the way to go for you. Not only are they cheaper but you can take them with you to keep up with your workouts when you travel or even at work.
Free weights are known to stabilize muscles during training which keeps your joints healthy and prevents injuries. However, if you do have an injury, they can expedite rehabilitation. Professional athletes use free weights while competing at the international levels to prevent injuries and professional bodybuilders use free weights to build stronger muscle.
Drawbacks of Free Weights
Since there is a technique to be learned, free weights carry higher injury risks if the workout is not performed properly. It takes longer to learn how to properly use weights and get the form right. It is best to have a qualified trainer or find the right website show you the ropes, because you might create problems for yourself by learning someone’s incorrect form in a YouTube video.
There are some exercises where you need a partner to spot you so it can be difficult to move past a certain point without help.
Benefits of Weight Machines
Beginners generally gravitate towards weight machines because there are clear instructions of how to use them, however that is not the optimal way for them to develop their muscles. Because machines allow you to focus on a very specific large muscle group it is ideal for people who already have a strong muscle base and are looking to build bigger muscles.
It can also be incredibly helpful for the elderly or those recovering from injuries because it provides a quick and safe way to build up their strength in certain muscle groups and avoid others.
There is a low risk of injury while using weight machines and it is possible to increase the weight without the need for a partner unlike with free weights. It can also save money in its own way because there is no need for a trainer to show you how to use it properly.
Drawbacks of Weight Machines
Weight machines generally leave out the smaller muscles around joints, which can cause chronic injury or damage posture if more functional exercises are not performed. Also, while your muscles may get bigger, since they don’t follow the pattern of typical human movement it does not really affect your athletic ability or strength which can be addressed with functional exercises.
Which should You Use?
Almost everybody–from bodybuilders and athletes to beginners and people in recovery can benefit from using free weights. By building functional strength, you provide a great basis for your body to stay healthy and strong throughout your fitness journey.
Weight machines are best for bodybuilders who already have a foundation to work off of and are primarily interested in bulking up their physique, beginners who have not learned proper technique with free weights, and those who are elderly or recovering from injuries.
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