Are Free Weights or Machines Better For Muscle Growth

Weights V Machines

Rings Used By Gymnastics Do Build Impressive Bodies Can The Same Be Said For Machines In The Gym?

So What Are The Differences Between Free Weights And Machines

The first thing we should mention before we begin this debate, is the necessity to always remind oneself that exercise is a life style and is for life.

And in any 24-hour period we are only ever going to be exercising for maybe an hour or two, leaving 22 hours for the muscles to repair and develop.

It’s important to understand this philosophy and to religiously stick to your routine without fail, because it doesn’t matter if you use weights or machines without living, breathing, eating, and enjoying this activity, no advancement in fitness or muscle mass will ever materialize.

Also, it’s necessary to understand that when doing any type of exercise, the range of movement during the exercise, known as ‘the range of movement’ is just as important as the exercise itself. Generally  speaking, the more difficult or grater the range of movement is, the more affect the exercise will have, because your muscles simply as to do twice the amount of hard work performing the movement than if the movement was shorter.

Let’s take as an example a classic dumbbell bicep curl. Just in case you are not familiar with this exercise, let me take a moment to explain.

The bicep curl is performed by standing up straight, with the palms of your hands facing your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand straight down by your sides. You begin by contracting your biceps to bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height, at about a 45° angle, twisting the dumbbell at the beginning so that when reaching shoulder height, the palms of your hands are now facing towards you, and this is all done without any twisting of the body.

You repeat for a set number of times, rest and repeat again for three sets.

Now let’s examine the same bicep curl, but this time executed on a curl machine.

To start with, the standard bicep curl machine requires you to sit down and brace your upper arms, with the triceps pressing down on a plate. Now using the two handles that will be in front you, perform the same motion as above with the dumbbells, pulling the handles in an upward motion, lowering, then repeating.

Now let’s inspect the difference between these two exercises. The first thing to notice is that when using the curl machine you are basically only essentially contracting your biceps, which is pretty much all you are doing. Also, when using a machine you are sitting down, this will severely restrict how much your shoulders can give.

The free standing dumbbell bicep exercise brings into play many muscles that will help the bicep to raise the weight, the forearms and fingers as examples. But the important thing here is to note that the machine moves only in one plane, up and down, whereas when using the dumbbells, the arm is allowed to twist giving a much larger range of movement.

Because your freestanding the biceps has to work very hard to lift the dumbbells, where as with the machines you can pull, brace against the machine to gain leverage.

gym equipment Also, with the machine the stronger arm gets an opportunity to dominate the exercise, whereas with the dumbbells, the arms are working independently of one another and therefore, the weaker bicep as to work harder to keep up with the stronger bicep.

Something you must watch out for when using a bicep curl machine. Some machines look like a bicep curl exercise, but they aren’t. If the machine has you gripping a handle that’s vertical; your palms would be facing inwardly towards one another, with thumbs on top of your hands, then it’s not for training the bicep.

This type of exercise almost excludes the biceps from the exercise; instead they are for performing a hammer movement that’s designed to work the brachial muscle, which lies between the bicep and triceps. Yes you do need to train the brachial muscle, but it should be done on a separate training day, so as to not over-train the bicep…remember that the bicep muscle will shrink if over-trained.

One of the best things about using a machine is all the weights are on the stack as opposed to dragging dumbbells or barbell plates all over the gym, especially when the biceps are beginning to fade.

There are a lot of people out there that would argue the fact that free weights are better at developing muscle size, I’m one of them and pretty much agree with this. Free weights have been around a lot longer and have been proven time after time to achieve dramatic results.

There are however, some pros and cons to both disciplines.

In a nutshell, there is absolutely no doubt that free weights will develop more muscle mass than machines do and from a bodybuilders point of view, this is the most effective way to achieve it, but this doesn’t mean that machines have no value for a bodybuilder.

In order to develop any muscle mass, it is necessary on occasions to introduce some stability exercises into the routine schedules. Although it’s pretty much well established that standing dumbbell, barbell, bicep curls will produce the desired effects, in order to develop shape and symmetry it’s necessary to introduce some stability exercises, and machines are excellent for this purpose.

I have personally used machines for certain exercises, for example, cable crossovers, triceps push downs, cable rows, lateral pull downs, and so on. And when on a competition diet, machines are invaluable, because as you approach the day of a competition your strength and stamina hits rock bottom and struggling with carrying weights takes too much energy.

Machines are very useful for people who have never been to the gym before. They allow the tendons and connective tissues the opportunity to adjust to the stress and strains of their new routines, and takes away the extra concentration required to balance or stabilize the free weights, it helps with their confidence too.

Machines are also very useful for helping people with health or injury conditions, helping to strengthen and build range of movement, getting them back into training with free weight.

Machines do add a dimension to your exercises that free weights cannot, so the argument should be…” how best to use these machines”. And leave the arguments and debates to those who have nothing better to do, but dream about owning a body that’s worth some discussion!




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