Pat Henry: Is free style lifting the way to go with weights?
Pat Henry's lowdown on the humble dumbell
WITH the increase in hi-tech equipment in gyms, people in general are confused as to which is the most effective -machines or free weights. With machines, the selling point can be that they offer the user a path of least resistance in a safe plane of motion.
Machines allow you to take the path of least resistance as you're not engaging your supplementary muscles - but surely the point is to make the muscle work through the path of maximum resistance?
Having said that, personally I use some modified machinery where the angles are correct.
The difference using dumbbells or barbells is that you have control of the movement and with things like simply turning your wrist in some exercises you can change the shape of a particular muscle.
When using free weights you get a better feel for what you are doing and what is happening to your body. By focusing on the exercises you will actually see quicker and better results.
Now don't get me wrong - doing machine weights in combination with free weights and stretching is a fantastic system of training for great results.
If you are in a gym at the moment ask your instructor to include some free weights into the weight-training programme for you.
Dr Pat O'Shea from Oregon State University agrees no machine can provide full range multiple joint movements as well as free weights can.
Free weights give a more natural movement and by simple modification of angles, the shape of the major muscles can develop a more symmetrical line to the body, giving more balance to the physique.
I believe no machine on it's own will give you the optimum condition you require to be your best. Nautilus was one of the originators of machine training, developed by Arthur Jones.
They were favored by many of the top body builders and pro American footballers, where brute strength and power were the targets.
Lots of gyms now have rows of very fancy machinery and you would need a manual to try to understand them.
Vince Gironda, who in my view is one of the best trainers in the world, once said: "Some machines are as big as a Sherman tank" and he felt you would "get more benefit from lifting the tank", as often on the machines, angles only offer half -ange movements with no full extension meaning range of motion is restricted.
Often machines are used as the least amount of effort for the staff because people don't need much instruction when they're on machines - but they need good support while using free-weights to maintain good form.
If you are working with machines, simply supplement each movement with a full range exercises with dumbbells or barbells to get the best results.
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