If you ask any amateur gym-goer what the best strength-building exercises are, you will likely get a different answer every time. With all this conflicting information, how should you proceed? Should you stick to the weight room’s free weights? Should you focus on a machine-weight-only workout? Which method will build more muscle?
As it turns out, there isn’t a set-in-stone answer. The type of weights you use will depend on your goals.
Although you are correct in assuming that frequenting the free weights will contribute to building up muscle, it is not the only route to get there. Some studies report that machine weights can be just as competent for building muscle as free weights.
One benefit of free weights is that they use the stabilizer muscles. Stabilizer muscles are ones that work to stabilize one joint while a specific movement occurs in another joint. For example, your abs, back, and legs are the stabilizing muscles when you are doing a chest press. Using these muscles helps you to build overall strength.
Additionally, free weights can work toward burning more calories. This can be a pro or a con depending on the effect you want your exercises to have on your body. If you’re going to build muscle, you might want to focus on activities that don’t affect your calories so much.
Because machines don’t use your stabilizer muscles, you can put all of your focus and energy into the muscles you most want to work on. Although some people think that free weights work toward strengthening your muscles more than machine weights, this is not true. When both free weight exercises and machine weight exercises were monitored over the same period, they proved to build about the same amount of strength.
Professionals encourage gym-goers to begin with free weights and eventually move on to machine weights later in your workout. This will help you to put all of your efforts into strengthening a specific muscle without stabilizer muscles getting in the way of a complete focus on your target muscle.
So if you favor machine weights, go ahead and use them. If you are more a free weights kind of person, go ahead and use those too. Neither will hurt you, and either will be advantageous. However, be sure to switch up your workout so your muscles don’t become also used to one type of exercise, thus nullifying all the hard work you put in. Don’t avoid one method because of pure hearsay from a workout buddy. Do your research and utilize the machines and equipment that will work best for the results that you hope to see.