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The Difference Between Free Weights & Machines

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 3 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
   machines Technique Toning Fitness

Using weights to achieve greater toning and better all round fitness can bring great results. The problem is that too many people feel intimidated by them. That image of sculptured men and women pumping large amounts of iron puts so many people off. Especially senior citizens who cannot picture themselves rubbing chalk on their hands and wearing a leotard.But the reality is very different. All gyms will have both an open room with machines as well as a separate area or room for those who want to practice with free weights. Let’s start by smashing one misconception right away. For the vast majority of people the aim is not to build muscle bulk and work up to lifting progressively heavier weights; rather, through the use of repetitions with lower weights, toning, improved cardiovascular efficiency and calorie burn will be achieved.

It is always advisable to begin by using machines because there is a minimal amount of technique required to use them. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you just walk up and start working out straight away. For one thing, you’ll need to know how to set the correct amount of weight. So make sure you book an hour with one of the gym’s fitness instructors, who will not only be able to introduce you to the machines but will also be able to draw up a circuit specifying the weight and the number of repetitions to be completed on each machine. The intensity of this circuit schedule can be revised, depending upon how much progress you make. And making progress means applying yourself. If you don’t put the work in, you won’t reap the benefits.

Move onto Free weights

It may be that down the road, you decide you are ready to move onto free weights. Don’t do this simply because you think there is a natural progression and machines are only for beginners. Machines can be used to satisfy all the toning requirements of the average gym regular, so don’t be too hasty in switching. What free weights can give you is the ability to exercise more than one set of muscles using the same weight, so you will cut down on the time spent wiping down each individual machine before moving on to the next one. But like the machines, be sure that you book a class with an instructor and tell them what your goals are. The instructor will be able to provide technical advice as well as draw up a circuit that will hopefully deliver the results you are after.

Positive Aspects

The positive aspects of the free weights area or room include the camaraderie and friendly competitiveness that exists there. Whether that be tips on technique, suggestions on different approaches to targeting specific muscle groups, or simply providing emotional support when motivation is low, everyone takes strength from both their own progress and the progress of others.

It may be that you subsequently decide free weights are not for you. In that case, simply switch back to machines. The important thing is that you maintain your regime so that the effort put in up to that point is built upon rather than wasted because you lost your focus on achieving better health and fitness.

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