Free Weights and Machines - Which is Better?

Here are some common quotes we hear around the fitness industry:

  • “Machines are only for people with injuries.”
  • “I don’t use machines because they don’t help build mass.”
  • “Machines don’t work for functional training.”

 

We lumped quite a bit of nonsense all into one post.  Each quote above has its own issues and we will debunk these in the most efficient way possible.

 

Let’s start with resistance is resistance.

  • Our muscles do not have a brain, nor do they know if a resistance is a machine, a barbell or a bear.  They know one thing… contract.  It’s an all or none philosophy that our muscle tissue adheres to.

 

Quote #1 –

Yes, machines are great for injuries, the proper range of motion and trajectory are already in place.  This helps waste zero energy trying to balance the resistance. Some will argue they do not recruit stabilizers… but, why waste energy balancing and not fully recruiting the desired muscle?  We focus on training each muscle group on their own, stabilizers included, which ensures each muscle group is trained to its full potential.

 

Quote #2 –

Resistance is resistance and we now understand the muscle can’t tell the difference between resistance types.  ALL resistance that progressively overloads the musculature will elicit a demand for greater muscle fiber recruitment, in turn leading to gains in hypertrophy (muscle fiber size), strength and endurance. We would argue the use of machines greatly increases safety and efficiency of each workout.

 

Quote #3 –

How do we define functional training?  It’s everywhere in the media, yet no one can give a solid definition backed by actual tangible research. Most would say functional training is mimicking actions you would perform in everyday life or sport while training in the gym. We like to focus on the “raw materials” or each muscle in the body. With focus here, we create more efficient neurological pathways and stronger muscles which in turn prepares the individual for those activities and the prevention of injuries. Research has shown that the only way to get better at a skill is to perform that skill directly as it will be done in real life. For example, we do not want to swing a bat with a weighted donut to improve swing speed.  This has a negative effect on the swing.  The added weight causes the body to change how the skill is performed, therefore not improving a non-weighted swing.

Free weights are a great modality of training, we simply want our readers to understand the myths behind the use of machines.
If you have questions about any of the above explanations or would like more information about how and why we train the way that we do, please feel free to reach out to us!

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