Free Weights vs. Exercise Machines
Anyone who has ever been in a
gym before is familiar with the gleaming banks of shiny exercise machines.
Coming in all shapes and sizes, they are usually cause for the newcomer to the
gym to pause and ask, "What IS all of that stuff?"
Well, according to the price that the gym paid for any one piece of that
equipment, I certainly hope that it not only stimulates your muscles, but also
cooks your breakfast, washes your car, and brings the kids home from soccer
practice! Now the question becomes whether or not those machines were worth the
price, or if you'd be better off doing a home aerobics video with a can of soup
in each hand?
Personally, I would advise you to get the low-sodium version of the soup, serve
it up alongside a tomato sandwich, and then go buy yourself some free weights.
Yes, that is just my opinion, but it does come with some scientific reasoning
Natural movement vs. Controlled movement
One of the things that you need to remember is that when you are exercising, you
are training for LIFE. You may spend an hour a day at the gym, but that still
leaves 23 other hours for your muscles to function without the aid of that fancy
Whenever you do any given exercise, the movement of your body during that
exercise is called the Range of Motion. The greater and more difficult the Range
of Motion, the more effective the exercise is, because your body has to work
harder to perform that movement.
Let's take a classic dumbbell bicep curl for our case study. If you aren't
familiar with the movement, it is basically performed by standing up straight
with your palms facing forward, and a pair of dumbbells held down at your sides.
You concentrically contract your biceps (also known as flexing your elbow) to
bring the dumbbells up to approximately shoulder level, and then repeat the
movement for a prescribed number of repetitions.
Let's take that same muscle movement and do it using a bicep curl machine. You
sit down, brace your upper arms on a pad, grasp 2 handles that are in front of
you, and do that same fancy elbow flexing movement to move the handles in an
upward motion. Pretty easy stuff so far, right?
Now let's examine the muscles that are used in this motion. Wait - I thought we
were concentrically contracting the biceps? That is correct, and if you are
using the bicep curl machine, that is pretty much ALL you are doing. For one,
you are sitting down. You know, like you did all day at work, and then in your
car on the way to the gym. Then, your upper arms are braced on a nice soft pad
to keep your upper body stable while you pull the handles upwards. The machine
has effectively limited the muscles used in this exercise to the biceps, as well
as the muscles in your forearms and fingers as you grip the handles.
Let us now sidestep over to the weight room where the dumbbells are kept, and
once again get in the start position for a standing bicep curl with the
dumbbells. Notice the term "standing". You know, like you DIDN'T do all day at
work, and hopefully also did not do in your car on the way to the gym. So before
we even start the exercise, we are using more muscles than we did on the machine
- namely the leg muscles.
Now let's pick up a 10 lb dumbbell in each hand. We've just added 20 lbs to our
body weight. What is keeping us from losing our center of balance and falling
clean over? The abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back and spine.
Now we are using our legs, our abs, and our back. Flex those elbows and start to
raise the dumbbells. Now our center of gravity has become a fluid state, and our
legs, back, and abs all have to constantly compensate to maintain posture. Oh,
and the biceps are also in on the action by this point, as are the forearms, the
fingers, and the shoulder girdle.
We now have the dumbbells all the way up and it's time to start lowering them
again, via an eccentric contraction of the biceps (also know as extending the
elbow). What muscle group controls the extension of the elbow? The triceps on
the back of the arm.
Did you lose track yet? It's okay if you did because you have illustrated the
Machine Bicep Curl: Uses the biceps, forearms, and fingers Cost: Thousands of
Standing Dumbbell Bicep Curl: Uses the biceps, forearms, fingers, legs, abs,
back, triceps, and shoulders. Cost: $40 for a good set of dumbbells that can be
used for dozens of other exercises
In a nutshell, free weight exercises simply USE MORE MUSCLES than machines do,
which make them more effective. Does that mean that the machines are a complete
waste? Absolutely not! In some circumstances it is BETTER to stabilize the
muscles being used in any given movement. However, those circumstances are the
exception, rather than the rule.
So what do you do? Change up your routine, and incorporate free weights as well
as machine exercises. However, keep the machine work to a minimum - say 20% of
your total time spent working with weights. Spend the other 80% developing your
stabilizer muscles, your sense of balance and coordination, and if nothing else
- just standing up!
After all, you can go home and sit down on the couch to enjoy your post-workout
snack. The bicep machine already brought the kids home from soccer practice,
Aaron Potts is the owner and creator of Fitness Destinations, a content-filled
health and fitness website for consumers as well as professionals in the fitness
industry. Aaron's experience in the health and fitness industry includes one on
one personal training in many different environments, maintenance of several
health-related websites, and authoring of many fitness-related products for
consumers and fitness professionals.
Music | Dating | Humor
Sexy Female Models
| Cool Links|
Link Exchange |