What do you prefer - free weights or weight machines? When I used to have a gym membership a few years ago I preferred using the various weight machines. There seemed to be machines designed to target just about every muscle in the body! So I'd pick out the half dozen or so machines that I liked (or thought were good for me) and worked my way around them, gradually increasing the weight and number of reps as I got better. I have to admit I got a little bored with this routine and so I engaged the services of a personal trainer to see what else I could be doing.
He introduced me to free weights and various other non-machine dependent exercises explaining that these were better and more effective than weights machines. He said that the problem with weight machines was that though they ensured you isolated the target muscle to exercise it, they also prevented any of the smaller muscles supporting it getting any exercise at all. Whereas with free weights exercises, providing they were done correctly, not only targeted the required muscle but also ensured that you engaged all the supporting muscles as well, including core muscles - so basically you were getting more for your money.
Here's an exercise I particularly like, taken from Loren Christensen's book, Fighter's Fact Book:
Lie on your back on the floor (or on a bench if you have one). Hold a comfortable weight in your right hand (3kg is optimal for me at the moment). Hold your arm in a chamber position (as if you were going to punch) with your palm facing towards your head. Push the weight vertically upwards (as if punching) and rotate your wrist round so that your palm is now facing your feet. In other words mimic a punch. Push the weight up as quickly as you can but return it to chamber slowly. Make sure you are using your arm muscles to lift the weight up and not thrusting it up with your shoulders. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Repeat 10 times with each arm.
Why I like this exercise:
- It exercises biceps and triceps, not to mention forearms muscles, strengthens wrists and probably various other muscles in one go. All sorts of muscles are engaged to keep your arm balanced and the weight steady.
- It helps improve your punching technique.
- Punching out fast helps increase fast twitch fibres
- Returning slowly builds muscle
So is it free weights or weights machines for you? Let me know which you prefer and why....