Strength training is essential for overall fitness. Both free weights and machine weights are designed to strengthen and tone muscles. Regularly done, it also increases bone density to protect against fractures and osteoporosis. Mindful ‘range of motion’ combined with the use of resistance through weights challenges the muscles. Range of motion (ROM) measures how far we can extend and flex our joints. The greater the resistance our muscles must overcome while doing ROM exercises, the more effective the exercise will be, and the stronger our muscles will become.
Now, let’s examine your choice of free weights and machine exercise equipment.
Classic dumbbell bicep curl:
- Stand up straight with your palms facing forward, while holding a pair of dumbbells down at your sides.
- Flex your arms to bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height, and slowly lengthen them again downward through a full range of motion.
Challenged: Biceps-forearm muscles and fingers.
Bicep Curl Machine:
- Sit down, while bracing your upper arms on a pad
- Grasp the 2 handles in front of you, and move them in an upward motion
Note: By using the curl machine, the only muscles contracting are your biceps. This is because you are sitting down and the additional support the machine offers, your range of motion will be confined to the muscles you want to exercise.
Both exercise routines have its advantage:
- Limits the type of exercise you can perform.
- Ensures proper body alignment and thus minimizes your risk of injury.
Note: Exercise Machines are designed to follow a strict procedure and thus enforce perfect body alignment to help protect against injury. Unfortunately, you are usually restricted to working a very particular muscle (or muscle group) so to get a very well-rounded strength building workout, you’ll have to become familiar with a variety of different machines. Another point to consider is that exercise machines are often bulky, take up a lot of space in your home, and are inconvenient to move around. Lastly, these exercises can become repetitive and boring.
- For example, dumbbells are more versatile
- They don’t limit your range of motion
- Help work more muscles at a time.
- Increased risk of injury.
Note: You can achieve dramatic results building muscle tone and strength with just a simple set of weights. Your range of motion is only limited by the need to keep your body from being injured. Bad body posture while strength training with weights can lead to injuries, even if you are only using 1.5 pound dumbbells. When using free weights, you must pay considerable attention to form and body alignment. If you want to press weights you will also need a bench to align your body safely and a partner or trainer to overlook your body posture.
To conclude the comparison, exercise machines are designed to be safer on our body than free weights, generally by letting you exercise only selected muscle groups and by limiting range of motion. Not so using free weights. In order to get the most out of a workout with free weights we must engage the mind by concentrating on the muscle group we want to tone and strengthen. We must also be aware of balance by using other muscle groups in support of particular movements, by tightening the stomach muscles, keeping the back straight, and setting feet shoulder-width apart. This can make working with free weights a harder but more effective exercise for overall body fitness.
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