When many people first step into our studio, they are surprised to see very little exercise equipment. Most gyms are jam packed with machines to work each muscle group. There are machines to target the biceps, and outer thighs, inner thighs, and so on. The equipment in our studio is carefully chosen; there’s a good reason why we don’t have our clients sitting on machines to strengthen their body.
Strength training is a vital part of any fitness program. Whether you chose fixed machines or free weights, strength training will make you look and feel better. A well designed program using free weights, however, will recruit more muscles, decrease your risk or injury, and be more versatile compared to a machine based routine. The result will be a body that not only looks better, but moves better as well.
Machines move in a set track and come with chest pads, back and arm rests to make sure you are sitting upright. As a result, all those stabilizing and postural muscles needed in real life can take a rest.
Free weights, on the other hand, require balance, integration, and strength of every joint and muscle in your body. For example, a standing dumbbell biceps curl requires the strength of you biceps, as well as your back, abdominals, and shoulder stabilizers to maintain proper posture against the dumbbell’s load. Put simply, the standing biceps curl requires a greater stimulation of the nervous system, recruits more muscles, and burns more calories. Free weights then, will not only make you look great in a swimsuit, but you will also improve your performance in sports and in day to day activities.
Strength training with free weights, when done properly, will actually reduce your chance of injury. For example, learning how to perform a proper squat, rather than reverting to the leg press, will help prevent back injuries while lifting a heavy object at home. Older adults should opt for free weights whenever possible to challenge their balance and joint stabilization. This will reduce the risk of falls, and make it easier to perform daily activities such as putting away groceries and walking up stairs.
Regardless of the equipment used, poor technique, often the result of lifting too much weight, will lead to poor posture and overuse injuries. If you are new to strength training, invest in a reputable fitness professional to teach you how to train correctly.
Free weights are less expensive and take up less space than machines, giving you the option to work out at home. You can also perform a greater variety of exercises than with machine weights. For example, the vertical chest press machine limits you to one movement. With free weights, on the other hand, you can perform a chest press on a flat bench, incline bench, or stability ball. You can also opt to use two arms or one arm at a time, or add in a rotational component. Changing up your strength routine will prevent boredom and avoid the training plateau as you are always challenging your body in new ways.
Strength training is an essential component of a fitness regime. For the greatest results for your time spent training, opt for free weights. You will activate more muscles, prevent injuries and enjoy a more versatile workout at home or in the gym.
Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio. Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals works to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.