When it comes to working out, there are so many tools, machines, and techniques. How do you know which one is best for you? The answer isn’t so simple since each one has their own unique advantages. However, fitness and health expert Emily Schromm shares some benefits of free weight training to help navigate the world of free weights vs machines.
Benefits of Free Weights
Decrease Imbalances- Using weight machines or barbells can lead to strength differences in each side of our body. When using these methods, it’s common for one side of the body to become more dominant and take on more of the work in an exercise. Free weight exercises allow us to load each side of our body equally, which prevents muscle strength imbalances. Often times, we don’t realize that strength imbalances are there until we incorporate free weights.
For those with goals related to strength training, there are countless options for increasing lean muscle or adding strength. Choices include the traditional weight machines, barbells or dumbbells, as well as a wide variety of specialized equipment such as kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags and even oversized tires. Some forms of resistance training equipment, such as barbells, are more effective for developing max strength, while weight-training machines can help increase muscle definition and lighter forms of resistance such as medicine balls and kettlebells can be useful for improving movement-specific power output. Dumbbells are often used for joint-isolation exercises such as biceps curls, chest flyes or shoulder raises. Using dumbbells for full-body, multiplanar movements, however, can provide a variety of different strength outcomes. It also offers many benefits for cardiorespiratory fitness and flexibility. To help you select the best equipment for your needs, here are five benefits of dumbbells:Dumbbells allow the user to focus on one arm or leg at a time, which is one way to initiate strength gains by using a heavy overload. A single dumbbell can be used for exercises such as a one-arm overhead press or a split-leg goblet squat to create overload in one limb at a time.
Weight plates make a great replacement for dumbbells and kettlebells, but using one also comes with a unique benefit: It improves grip strength because of the way you have to hold the plate (on the edges, with all fingers actively engaged) and core stability because of its positioning (typically in front of your chest). Plus, they can double as raised platforms for push-ups.
There are a number of terrible reasons to love bumper plates. They are rubbery, bouncy and don’t smell like rust. They take up tons of room on the bar, creating the illusion of lifting lots of weight. You can even slam them down from overhead if you enjoy using a bent barbell. Most importantly, you mysteriously set PRs every time you deadlift with them after training with steel plates. I hate to be the one to burst your bumper plate bubble, but deadlifting with bumpers is significantly easier when compared to iron plates.
This doesn’t mean that your coveted PR no longer stands. It just means that you have introduced another variable to consider when measuring your strength. When you PR your deadlift using bumper plates, you obviously still lifted the weight. But were the conditions the same as the last time you hit a personal best? Did you really get stronger? Or did your equipment simply give you additional mechanical advantage? The real answer is probably some combination of the above. We can solve the mysterious case of the bumper plate PR with a little science and engineering.