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How do you know when to use free weights or weight machines? Well, it depends. Both have their pros and cons, and it may just depend on your specific goals or situation. For beginners, free weights may seem intimidating or difficult. Conversely, machines have instructions and are easy to understand. However, both tools can give you a great workout.
There are three dimensions to consider when determining whether to use free weights or machines. The first is knowing what you’re trying to accomplish. Free weights are very functional and act more like real life than most machines. They can mimic the normal things you do in a day such as picking up a child or lifting a box. However, machines do give a general aspect of safety. When using a machine, you won’t usually be able to drop the weights on yourself, unlike free weights. If you don’t have a training partner, machines might be a good choice.
The second dimension to consider is your reason for lifting. Are you lifting for strength, muscle mass, or endurance? You may even try to accomplish more than one of these. If the emphasis is strength, move toward free weights. They require the use of a lot of supporting muscles because you don’t have the support of the machine. Free weights will also help you maintain stability in your core. Lifting for muscle mass could see benefits from free weights and weight machines. This will give you an overall, well-rounded strength. Use machines to focus on the large muscle groups in which you are trying to build mass. If you want to work on endurance, both machines and free weights are good options. You can use free weights to move quickly and build endurance. Similarly, with circuit training, you may also be able to move quickly and cleanly between certain machines.
The third dimension is availability. If all the machines are taken, use free weights and vice versa. Remember, you can get a great workout from both free weights and weight machines.