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Free weights or machines?

From Friday's Globe and Mail

What's the difference and which should I use? ...Read the full article

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  1. ByB ImYmI from Canada writes: ..//

    Free are better if you can.

    ..//
  2. Johnny Choy from vancouver, Canada writes: Machines focus on one muscle group where as free weights target multiple groups. In my workout days, I wanted to build muscle...did machines at first, but it got moderate results, then I did free weights and did old school excercises like deadlifts and squats, excercises that take tremendous balance and effort, and I blew up like a balloon shortly after that!! If you're looking just to tone your body, machines are fine, but if you want to take it to the next level, and be the strongest you can be free weights is the only option.
  3. David Smith from United Kingdom writes: THE QUESTION

    Free weights or machines: What's the difference and which should I use?

    ANSWER

    Neither. Stay away from the gym. All they do is spread disease and suck money out of your wallet. Get a set of kettle bells and beat the hell out of yourself in the garage (if you're lucky enough to have one). Depending on what you want, fat burning, or fat burning and muscle growth. I'm sure there is someone out there willing to sell you a set. However, if you are reasonably fit, I would recommend a 10kg pair to start with. Just to get used to the way they are used. Then, move up as you see fit.
  4. john doe from toronto, Canada writes: Weight machines have another advantage: no spotters needed. With a spotter your workout will take twice as long as it would going solo.

    With free weights, if you're lifting heavy barbells you need a spotter (but you can do dumbbells on your own). On a machine, on the other hand, the machine functions as your spotter.

    I do a combination of free, machine, and "guided" free weights (like the smith press). Free weights are a must for biceps, chest and shoulders. Everything else -- back, abs, lats, legs, core... -- works better using a combination of machines, pulleys, bars, and exercises on mats.

    If you only use machines you'll end up looking a bit... deformed.
  5. C C from Canada writes: A few weights and a bench ... about $300 new but I put my set together for maybe $100 total. A bar for chins ... $1.50.

    You are set for life ... the weights don't wear out at all.

    Dumbbells are the way and safer if you are alone.

    Machines are dangerous, they build unsupported muscle in strange proportions. You can hurt yourself if you actually use the muscle for more than impressing girls.

    I'm 62 and I'm slowly getting stronger. Bench 100lb, squat 160lb, curl 40lb. It is nice to be resilient and helps when the dirt bike decides to lie down for a while ;).
  6. Dennis sinneD from Canada writes: Free weight, when you have friends. Machines only when you absolutely have no free choice.
  7. Bob Macdonald from Liverpool, United Kingdom writes: I agree: stay away from gyms if you can. They are too expensive and a big time suck. I have a set of free weights, which I do in combination with outdoor running and cross-training. I stay very fit and it doesn't cost a dime. I started out in a gym on machines because where I lived was very dangerous and not a place to go outside. But once out of there, I found free weights offer the best of all worlds: a great workout, the freedom to do it whenever you have energy to burn, and the balance benefits. Start with machines, but once you get the shape you want, then maintain with free weights.
  8. Richie Rich from Riptville, Canada writes:
    I have to agree with the comments on just having a set of free weights at home. That's what I have at home along with weight bench and a chin up bar. This doesn't take up much space in my basement and costs the fraction of a year's gym membership. After years of futility at the gym, I've found a good system involving free weights, pushups, chinups, crunches, and other exercises not involving weights. Skip the magazines that are full of ads and the same old articles, and buy a good book on getting in shape, that will save you some cash in the long run as well.
  9. edward prior from montreal, Canada writes: Nont sure why all the antipathy towards gyms. It is all a matter of choice and what one wants out of their workouts. For me, going to the gym is something productive to do on my lunch hour. I work hard at it, but I also enjoy the social aspect of being with other people. Which is not to say I stand around chatting, but I still like the sociability of the place. As for free versus machines, I use free mostly, except for lats and squats because I am not going to risk a lower back problem from doing squats freestyle. And yes, one can say, just watch your form, but all it takes is one small movement the wrong way.
  10. sam johnson from Canada writes: machines have their advantages but take up too much space. i have free weights, bench, dumbells and a rowing machine.
    i detest gyms. too often they are noisy and smell bad. there is rarely a shortage of loud, ignorant zeroes and i hate rebreathing everybody else's air.
    i have my schedule and when i workout, my weight room is right down the hall.
    p.s. gym's are best for beginners. you can always get someone to spot for you and lots of people to give you hints or show you the mistakes you might be making.
  11. Mowho33 Who from Canada writes: I love the Y. I know it is a bit germy and costs almost $50 a month, but I don't mind paying. I started in April running on TM and casually lifting on machines. Then I bought the book "New Rules of Lifting for Women" and started on 08-08-08 . I'm in stage 2 now. The program is mainly old school lifts like squat and deadlift- mainly free weights and only a few exercises on cable machines. I love the way I need to stabilize the wt with my core when I'm using free weights. This should really improve my balance and make me a stronger runner.. I haven't needed a spotter yet - only squatting 75lbs now.
  12. AH Razorwit from Belleville, Ontario, Canada writes: No one mentioned that beginners should focus on isotonic - concentric contractions of large muscle groups and attempt to reduce the isotonic-eccentric contractions because they cause delayed onset muscle soreness. Machines can be setup to reduce eccentric (lengthening) work to focus on concentric (shortening) work. This would enhance the workout experience for beginners because it will reduce the amount of second day soreness (DOMS) and make the experience more positive and get them to keep at it longer. Free weights can be added as the lifter progresses and the muscles adapt to the exercises. Free weights could then be used to focus on imbalances of smaller muscle groups. As well, beginners should be working on the core 4 muscle groups (as I call them) that stabilize the low back and enable them to lift with good core stability. Without this core strengthing first, they are much more susceptible to low back injuries.
  13. H B from Canada writes: I just got off the bench in the basement. For around $300 you can set yourself up well, and you can work out when you want. If I was using machines, it would cost a lot more and I find the gyms near me are full to bursting most of the time when it's convenient. The only thing I miss is a squat rack. For the weights I'm doing, 3 sets of 12 reps to build endurance and strength for running, I don't really find the lack of a spotter to be an issue. If I ever wanted to switch it up and start growing, it'd obviously be a different story. Putting a lot of weight on the bar starts to get dangerous if you're approaching failure alone. I also echo the votes in favour of free weights as a way to condition your core. Just paying attention to holding your pelvis in neutral through even just curls gives your mid-section a good workout.
  14. David Gibson from Hamilton, Canada writes: I've trained with weights for many years, and concluded a long time ago that the "isolation" principle, in which one tries to use only one muscle and not a group of muscles, is so much abstract drivel. It is inferior even for the muscle one is trying to isolate. Somebody just came up with a stupid hypothetical idea, and other people thought that it must be right. In practice, it's wrong.
  15. K Kal from Canada writes:
    buy a set of weights and some benches, chairs and yea the chinup bar and do everything at home

    wayyyyyyyyyyyyy cheaper and wayyyy more effective.

    you can get by without a spotter if you dont go overboard

    step up the weights gradually and setup some chairs on the side of the bench just in case for when doing bench press

    for squats, you can do a front squat (aka put the bar in front of you across your chest) instead of putting it behind your head when there is no spotter available, you can also get a short bar and this gives you more control over the weight

    http://www.exrx.net/Lists/Directory.html

    good site with many different exercises for each set of muscles involving machines, barbells, dumbells, etc etc
  16. Tony . from Waterloo, Canada writes: K Kal from Canada writes: "buy a set of weights and some benches, chairs and yea the chinup bar and do everything at home wayyyyyyyyyyyyy cheaper and wayyyy more effective."

    For me this would be MUCH more expensive than going to the gym because it would require me renting a larger apartment to have room for this stuff. The extra cost for the bigger apartment would be significantly more per month than I pay for a my gym membership.
  17. Mike Expat from Ireland writes: KKal,
    I haven't been able to put a barbell behind my head (or even deadlift) for 20 years because of a rugby injury to my shoulder. So I'm very interested in whaty you say about squats with the bar in front. Tried it once or twice but the balance felt weird and I was afraid of straining something. But you'd say persevere?
    Cheers,
    Mike
  18. Lord of the Sith ! from Vancouver, Canada writes: Full disclosure: I am physician and former Varsity athlete with kinesiology background.

    The core movement has its validity. However, each category has it uses in specific situations.

    1. Weightlifting on a Ball does confer the benefits of core activation but it should be regarded as core focussed. You do not build power or ability to increase workload like free weights or even stationary weights. CON: many more injuries to the shoulders and lower back because many people are too deconditioned to begin with ball work and suffer injuries due to weights falling or hyperextending their back during the movement. It is an advanced movement.

    2. Free Weights: Best power builder and standard by which all is compared. It is not core exempt if you use very good form and do exercises standing. E.G. Heavy squats create massive core strength. CON: Less flexibility and dynamic range than with ball weights.

    3. Machines: BEST for beginners and de-conditioned. By and far the safest and best for those who are new to weights. It is also great because strength gains are more rapid and that is essential positive feedback for sustainability.
  19. Midtown Bob from Toronto, Canada writes: Free weights or machines? Whatever works for you.

    However as Johnny Choy correctly states. if you really want to get big, get a trainer to show you how to squat, deadlift and benchpress correctly. I'd add military press because I really enjoy working shoulders.
  20. emilio D from Canada writes: With exercise machines, depends on how much money you have in the bank. You can start with Chuck Norris's total gym which will set you back about $500.00. This machine uses your own body weight as a resistance. Then comes the Bowflex which is more expensive than the Total gym. This machine uses steel rods with equivalent stiffness to provide the challenge. Then you can get the Universal gym of different designs and prices. The most sophisticated is the Isokinetic machines like the Cybex and KinCom to name a few. This machine provides the equivalent resistance at constant speed. Which means the faster or harder you push or pull the more resistance it gives. The advantage therefore is you are getting uniform resistance from the inner range to outer range or vice versa.
    These machines are very expensive because they can be used to diagnose particular muscle weakness. Particularly used by professional sport teams like hockey and basketball. But if your objective is to just tone up muscles so the t-shirt will look more macho, just buy weights at Canadian tire or buy Tony Little's, gazelle which about $200 bucks. Ok, have a nice day.
  21. David Gibson from Hamilton, Canada writes: Yes, military press is my favourite. You can alter the angle to work the chest or various upper back muscles.
  22. K Kal from Canada writes: Tony . from Waterloo, Canada writes: K Kal from Canada writes: "buy a set of weights and some benches, chairs and yea the chinup bar and do everything at home wayyyyyyyyyyyyy cheaper and wayyyy more effective." For me this would be MUCH more expensive than going to the gym because it would require me renting a larger apartment to have room for this stuff. The extra cost for the bigger apartment would be significantly more per month than I pay for a my gym membership. well yea i guess if you dont have a basement but if you have the space, buy the stuff for home!
  23. K Kal from Canada writes: Mike Expat from Ireland writes: KKal,
    I haven't been able to put a barbell behind my head (or even deadlift) for 20 years because of a rugby injury to my shoulder. So I'm very interested in whaty you say about squats with the bar in front. Tried it once or twice but the balance felt weird and I was afraid of straining something. But you'd say persevere?
    Cheers,
    Mike

    Yea it feels strange like yer gunna fall forward but if you get a shorter bar the weight is more centralized and easier to control
    http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BBFrontSquat.html

    similar to that but you can even use a tricep bar
    http://www.newyorkbarbells.com/im-0020.jpg

    and hold it across your shoulders and the grips gives you more control

    im not a big fan of putting weights behind my head either hehe
  24. AH Razorwit from Belleville, Canada writes: Lord of the Sith ! from Vancouver, Canada writes: Full disclosure: I am physician and former Varsity athlete with kinesiology background.

    Ibid LS. I liked your summary. Good stuff!
  25. Bill Smith from The Wilds of the GTA, Canada writes: The two weight machines I use are the lat pulldown and leg press, everything else is free weight.

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