The debate has gone on now for decades…and at times it feels as if this one will never be settled. Having spent many years in professional baseball, this one feels like we’re knotted up at 2…going into the 24th inning!! Why is that? Because quite frankly, it’s not an easy question to answer…at least until now that is!
You see, I’m going to settle the machines vs. free weights debate once and for all so you can move onto other important training questions like “Dumbbells vs. Kettlebells” (stay tuned for that one too!).
The Origin of the Machines Vs. Free Weights Battle
So back to the origin of the machines vs. free weights battle. It goes all the way back to the days of Arthur Jones and Nautilus. Arthur created some of the most impressive (and space consuming!) weight training equipment to ever grace a gym. It was huge, cumbersome and in my opinion looking back…totally inefficient!
If you guys know one thing about me it’s that I NEED efficiency with my workouts. I have far too many busy guys on my client list (Fortune 500 CEOs, celebs, and professional athletes) that need to be able to get results and get them in the quickest amount of time, and can’t afford to follow or practice training practices that do nothing but waste their time!
Unfortunately, dodging these wasteful programs is like tiptoeing through a mine field! It sucks to have to admit it but it’s true…..and pretty embarrassing for the fitness industry as a whole that I now make a living in, but time wasting programs are running rampant out there (and some even lead the industry right now in sales….but I won’t mention who that is!).
Why Machines Shortchange Your Gains
So how does this relate to the raging debate? Quite simply. Machines tend to isolate muscle groups in a way that maximum development of that muscle is compromised. By limiting the contribution of assistance muscles into the exercises, the machines are inaccurately representing the demands the muscle requires when it’s actually moving or working ANYWHERE ELSE but on that stupid machine!
What happens is, the muscle then only fires the small percentage of fibers that are needed to produce that one isolated movement. Gone are the thousands of other fibers that are voluntarily sitting on the sideline since their participation is not needed due to the restrictions of the machine’s movement.
Less muscle fibers participating, less power output, less stimulus for growth….less muscle! It’s actually not all that complicated. If you want to build maximum lean muscle growth then you need to engage maximum muscle fibers into the workouts and exercises themselves. You can do this by using a hefty dose of free weights and by also pushing yourself beyond momentary muscular failure by throwing in a few drop sets to your next workout.
What Makes Free Weights Better?
The free weights DEMAND participation and help from “assistance” or “stabilizer” muscles when you’re lifting. With the fact that the weights can usually float into 3D space…it is very important that you don’t allow this drift and instead control it by activating smaller core stabilizers, shoulder stabilizers, and back muscles to try and manage the float! Machines can’t offer you this.
Now, I’m not talking about cables. Yes, those are attached to machines but they act very differently. Cables can reproduce 3-Dimensional space and pretty much let you overload your body without fear of being crushed by the them like you may have thought about the last time you crawled under the bar for “bench” day !
Am I saying that machines are the worst possible thing you can do? Not at all. Hey, after all, you’re working out right? And that’s a great great great first start! It’s just that, once you become a seasoned gym goer, you’re body is going to definitely shift into becoming much more responsive to free weights (and the extra stimulation that they offer) than to the unchanging machines.
Don’t make the mistake of relying on them too much now…since as they say….habits may be hard to break! Establish a great base level of strength AND stability (not to mention more noticeable muscle growth) by training your muscles to fatigue in all directions and not just the one that stupid overgrown, single purpose, shoulder machine intended you to!
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