There’s a fair amount of hate directed towards the resistance machines in the gym, somewhat unfairly directed in my opinion. Seen as the area that the girls and the informed frequent, there are endless articles that spout off the benefits of free weights as opposed to resistance machines.
And while I am inclined to agree with them, there are times when the machines beat the dumbbells when it comes to specific goals.
1. Beginners in the gym
This is the obvious one. For those that are new to the gym or are, at the very least, new to weight training, the resistance machines are a safe haven in which newbies like you can pump some iron without fear of injury or lacking inspiration. Hop on a machine, do what the picture says, work those muscles. Job done.
If it gets skinny boys off that treadmill and away from the misconception that they can bulk up by running and rowing alone, then I am all for those machines.
2. Training one muscle at a time
Those PTs and fitness articles that rant about how good free weights are for your training are absolutely correct. Using a bar or some dumbbells to perform a chest press instead of the chest press machine will use more muscles to stabilize the movement. Crossfitters and PTs will throw words at you like functional training or compound movements. All great terms and good for your training to make your fitter and stronger…
HOWEVER, some of us are just looking to make some aesthetic gains, either as well as or instead of improving their level of strength/fitness. Or you could want to train one under-developed muscle in particular, and by only training compound movements with free weights you won’t be able isolate one without using others.
For example, squats. When you squat with a barbell or dumbbells, you will be training your quads (obvs), as well as your glutes, hamstrings, core, and your inner and outer thighs. Great if you’re looking to train all those muscles, but if you want to specifically develop your quads, you can sit on a leg extension machine or a leg press machine and keep working the quads when all those stabilising muscles are fatigued.
3. Physiotherapy for rehab and prehab
Similarly, if you’re recovering from an injury, or hoping to prevent one in the first place, the ability to isolate and train individual muscles on individual limbs is invaluable. It also allows you to keep training in the case where an injury or fatigue mean that you may not be able to do those compound movements for a while, but you can still keep your muscles working and strong.
If you don’t have the luxury of having your own gym, or training whenever you like, the free weights section of your gym will often be the busiest (and the most intimidating). So if you need to train when the meat heads are dominating every single bar and bench in the place, it might be easier and a more efficient use of your time to do your workout using resistance machines, and maybe grabbing a few reps on the cable machine to finish off.
Better a machine-based workout than no workout at all, right?
Ask a personal trainer
If you’re stuck for ideas, have an injury, or would just like some advice, why not get in touch with one of our lovely gay personal trainers.