The Great Debate: Weight Machines vs. Free Weights The debate between free weights and weight machines has been around as long as the machines themselves. From body builders to stay-at-home moms trying to stay in shape, the great debate has been fueled by the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ method. Individuals are encouraged to find the method that works for them. There are many angles from which this argument may be examined such as cost, safety, effective muscle workout, and medical effects of continuous use.
People should use free weights instead of weight machines because they are less expensive, versatile and work more muscle groups simultaneously than weight machines. In today’s economy, it is important for people to get the most for their money. Weight machines are unaffordable for most Americans and gym memberships can also be pricy. Carving out time blocks to get to the gym regularly may be difficult, and the cost of transportation must also be taken into account.
According to the American Council on Exercise “Free weights are more versatile; you can do a wide variety of exercises with a simple set of dumbbells… Free weights tend to be inexpensive, are portable and take up little space. Free weights are significantly less expensive” (“Free Weights vs. Strength-training Equipment”). This means that there is a plethora of different exercises that can be performed using one set of weights; making them the more economically sound approach. Also, gyms offer free weights in addition to weight machines to their clients because they are preferred over weight machines.
Free weights can be used at home or at the gym, and cost about fifteen dollars a set and up. Free wights have numerous benefits, but they also have drawbacks. The safety hazards of free weights can be easily avoided with some training. Weight machines are safer than heavy free weights for beginners and new comers to weight lifting. According to Jeff Bayer, a fitness specialist for Ask Men; “…are important for beginners because they are so often uncertain about the appropriate range of motion and risk of over-extending or under-extending with free weights. Injuries are much more likely to occur
when we go out of our body’s preferred range of motion, and weight machines help to ensure that doesn’t happen” (“Free Weights vs. Machines”). This means that machines are safer for beginners because of the range of motion involved. Machines help limit the range of motion to prevent over extension of muscles. They maintain a pattern that enforces good form which is nearly impossible to deviate from. This makes them safer for beginners. However, where weight machines reduce risk of injury due to poor form or over extension, they have a higher risk of causing injuries due to repetitive movement for weeks at a time.
When using the machine, the same muscles, tendons, and ligaments are used to perform exercises, which may lead to overuse injuries. Free weights may leave more risk of over or under-extension, but it is not difficult to learn and maintain good form. Both free weights and weight machines have safety hazards; however, if safety precautions are taken, free weights offer more benefits then weight machines. Weight machines work very specific muscle groups. According to the American Council on Exercise; “Most machines involve moving a weight along a predetermined path, making it difficult to strengthen the stabilizer muscles.
Machines are much more limited, with most devices allowing only one exercise” (“Free Weights vs. Strength Training Equipment”). This means that when using a weight machine to work a specific muscle, that muscle group is the only muscle group being worked. For example, if a weight machine When proper form is used, free weights work a wider variety of muscle groups while targeting specific groups. Working more muscle groups at once cuts down on workout time by giving a more simultaneous full body workout. Working out specific muscle groups may lead to weaker supporting muscles.
This may cause muscle strain when performing regular tasks such as lifting items because the supporting muscles used in dispersing weight were not used when working out with machines. The article goes on to state; “Free weights incorporate the stabilizing muscles that enable you to perform the movements you choose to make and may be more effective…” This means when using free weights, in order to maintain good form, other muscle groups are involved to stabilize the weight and perform the movement. For example, when working arm muscles, the abdominals and back muscles would be involved in dispersing the
weight evenly to make it more manageable. Free weights work more muscle groups then weight machines and give a more desirable full body workout. When proper form is maintained, free weights are safe and create a more varied full body workout. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to store. Free weights are versatile in use. A set of dumbbells may be used to perform many exercises. Free weights exercise many different muscles, not just a specific group which makes them more desirable for a good muscle work out.