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Free Weights Or Machines?
I've heard from tons of people that free weights are better than machines. I was just wondering what the truth is about this subject, because I was thinking about starting with machines. I always use free weights before and they are great but at the college I attend the free weight room is always so packed that you can't hardly move so I was going to use the machines that have at a different location.
The debate of free weights and machines have been going on since the day Arthur Jones started to popularize his new Nautilus machines. Since then the free weight group and machine supporters have been arguing which method is superior. As Strength Coach, Charles Staley, would say, "the truth is usually in the middle." Neither method is best, it depends on why you are using one or the other.
Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. You must look at what the goal of your training program is and if your training methodolgies reflect those goals. Now to be not so politically correct. In my opinion the majority of your training should revolve around free weights. They allow for more variation, greater stimulation of motor units, and higher levels of intermuscular coordination. Machines have their place though as well.
The advantage with machines seems to be more relevant for those involved in bodybuilding or general fitness endevors. The limiting factor of using free weights is that the stabilizer muscles of any exercises are going to fatigue before the prime movers are exhausted. So, once you have used free weights you can still stimulate muscle growth by using machines. For example, you squat first and then near the end of your routine you employ the leg extension. In this example you can get the best of both worlds.
Some may say that machines aren't "functional." Meaning they do not have a good carry over to everyday activity. There may be some truth in that comment, but anything may be functional if it serves a purpose in your overall training program. Just because it is not free weights does not mean it will not have a benefit to your conditioning program as long as their is logical reasoning to use such a method.
So, if you are running into the problem of a busy weight room I would suggest just becoming more creative with your workouts. There are a million ways to use various equipment to avoid the massive crowds. You can do a whole arm workout with two pieces of equipment as long as you understand training principles and how to vary them workout to workout, or within the same workout.
I hope this has shed some light on the subject for you. Like I said, the question shouldn't be which way is better, but what is most appropriate for my goals? Everything has a advantage and disadvantage the idea is to minimize the negative effects of any method and maximize the advantages.