Regardless of your age or gender, you’d be wise to incorporate some form of strength training into your fitness regimen. As we age it becomes even more important.
Free weight exercises, include workouts with equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls or body weight. They focus on activation from multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Resistance machines however, are often isolated targeting specific muscle groups individually.
Free weight exercises are useful for explosive type exercises. They are most beneficial for performance development, however it is essential to have a balance of both deepening on the sport and desired outcome. With this considered, if a performer wanted to improve their vertical jump ability, sprint or swimming speed, throwing velocity or running, a specifically selected group of free weight exercises would be beneficial, depending on the performance targeted.
Among the disadvantages of free weights, it can be mentioned that they seem to be more likely to generate injuries among the inexperienced and distracted clients. Proper form will insure reduction of injury. On the contrary, machines appear generally easy and safe to use. Considering this, beginners should choose machine based exercises over free weights when they starting.
It should also be noted that it is difficult to isolate certain muscle groups such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip adductors, hip abductors, and erector spinae with free weights. Although, all of the forementioned muscles groups CAN be worked independently with the use of resistance machines.
Both free weights and machines provide progressive resistance training that fatigues the muscle groups you are working on and stimulates strength development. Resistance machines will have fixed movement patterns, whereas free weights may be moved in any direction–this completely allows the body to perform what it was made to do—MOVE.
Overall, it is important to note that both methods of resistance training, provide significant benefits when performed properly. Any difference in strength improvement is mainly associated to a difference in intensity, volume or rest period adopted during the training. The ideal solution is to adopt both of them. Neither type of workout has demonstrated absolute superiority. Numerous studies have shown that several weeks of strength training results in about 3 pounds more of muscle and 4 pounds less of fat.
I hope this helps you decide which is best for you. At the end of the day, the form of strength training you choose should be based on what your goals are and what makes you feel good & most comfortable. After all, isn’t that what exercise is all about? Have fun & improve your fitness at the same time! ❤