Resistance or strength training has proven to be essential for just about everyone. After all, it can help with everything from heart health and back pain, to burning calories and reducing stress. Oh, and let’s not forget it prevents bone loss, and helps to reduce body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol, too.
It isn’t just the benefits that make strength training so appealing, though. It’s also the fact that you can do it pretty much anywhere—gym, home or office—with almost anything—resistance bands, heavy soup cans and body weight—so essentially none of us have an excuse not to be doing it.
However, most people choose to stick to machines or free weights (dumbbells, barbells and weight cuffs) when it comes to their strength training needs. But is all resistance training equipment created equal? Or is one better than the other? It depends. Everything from personal preference and current fitness level, to training goals and equipment availability factors in.
If you're new to strength training (or exercise in general), machines are often considered the safer choice. This is largely due to the fact that machines guide your range of motion and help with form—which is essential for free weights.
Machines are also easily adjustable. You can increase the resistance or weight, as well as the positioning of the machine so that it fits your unique body shape and size. This is a great way to learn how much weight you can safely lift.
Finally, machines are ideal for targeting specific muscle groups. In some cases, you may want to focus on certain muscles that are a part of one of the 5 major muscle groups (chest, arms/shoulders, legs/glutes, abs and back), you can do that without fatiguing other muscles.
The most compelling reason to utilize free weights is that you can target more muscles at one time. This means that all those stabilizing muscles—no matter how big or small—get involved in the strength-training process.
In theory, this means that you’ll likely work more muscle groups and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. But that’s assuming that you’re utilizing correct form. Try partnering up with an experienced friend or personal trainer while you get started.
Another benefit of free weights, once you have them mastered, you can customize your own workout. There are an endless number of moves you can do with them, and they’re much cheaper than machines.
You don’t have to weight.
While strength training can be slightly overwhelming at first, there are several easy steps you can take to get started. First off, make sure to partner up with an experienced strength trainer, or ideally a personal trainer, to ensure proper form and technique.
For instance, the experts at GMC’s Fitness & Performance Center can help you to overcome any obstacles, prevent injury and reach your fitness goals, the perfect fit for all of your strength training needs.
Also, start by utilizing body weight exercises and resistance bands to build up strength before moving to weights. And as a general rule-of-thumb when strength training, start with large muscle groups, then move to smaller ones. Train at least two days a week, but always with one or two days off between workouts.