A common question I have been asked over the years is which is better, free-weights or resistance machines? While I recognise that resistance machines have their benefits, I have always preferred to use free-weights for most of my training. For a start a free-weight is fully adaptable to the proportions of the individual, where as a resistance machine will only move along a fixed path. This means that resistance machines can not adapt to the natural leverages of the individual user. The cams are set to fit the “average user”.
The case for free-weights also includes:
1. Free- weight exercise require the stabilisation muscles to work as well as the prime movers.
2. Free- weight exercises develop greater muscular balance and coordination. In the Dumbbell Bench Press the weaker arm must work just as hard as the stronger arm. With the Chest Press machine, the stronger arm will always take over.
3. Free- weights are relatively cheap and take up less space than resistance machines.
4. Free- weights provide more useful strength for sports as well as everyday life as they require the body to move as a single unit.
5. Free-weights provide greater muscle stimulation as they do not force the individual to move along a fixed path.
6. Free- weights provide greater variation of the same exercise then a resistance machine can.
The case for resistance machines includes:
1. Easily adjustable resistance levels. You simply need to adjust a pin.
2. Machines allow users to isolate specific muscles, such as the Hamstrings in the Leg Curl.
3. If an individual is training on their own resistance machines offer a level of safety which free-weights do not.
4. Machines allow beginners to develop the motor skills and body awareness of a movement.
When designing a complete exercise programme for yourself or another person it is a good idea to include some resistance machines, especially if the programme is for a beginner, however they should not dominate the exercise programme.