Even serious fitness enthusiasts and body builders need some variety in their training sessions in order to prevent boredom and guarantee solid results. Supersets (working two opposing muscle groups at the same time) and compound sets (using two or three exercises for the same muscle group until fatigue) are great ways to insure a burn. Intersperse heavy training days with lighter training days now and then to prevent burnout. Experiment with different exercise routines and if you like them add them to your regular workouts. Experienced trainers and athletes alike, however, agree that free weights–namely dumbbells and barbell–are the best and most versatile way to train!
Here are a few reasons why free weights should be the basis of everyone’s resistance training regime no matter what:
When you workout with dumbbells and barbells, it’s easier to take your joints through their full range of motion as you work out the muscles. Standing, with your feet spread apart at shoulder width, back straight and head looking straight ahead is the preferred stance when lifting weights. This way you are more effective in developing the smaller synergistic (helping) muscles and stabilizer muscles when you are targeting a muscle group as you perform your rep.
Barbells and dumbbells are more versatile and convenient. You can easily grab two 35 pound dumbbells and do three sets of curls for biceps and then move a few inches down the rack and do triceps kickbacks with the 40 pound weights. Just make sure you rack your weights when you’re finished!
Power is improved more efficiently and to a greater extent through the use of free weights.
Other crucial aspects of fitness including lifting for size, improving flexibility, reducing body fat and muscle toning are all achieved more efficiently through the use of few weights.
There are a couple of disadvantages to free weights. Dumbbells and barbells are sometimes clunky and have to be maintained and stored (if you pump up in your apartment or garage). Most importantly, in certain exercises, it is a little more difficult to derive maximum isolation of a muscle or muscle group.
Here are a few good reasons to use machines:
Some machines, like the pec deck for the pectoralis major, are more efficient in isolating the muscle group. For group use, some machines are better in terms of space utilization. A case in point: one jaunt around the Universal machine and you can practically get a full body workout. Plain and simple, machines are more convenient to use, and therefore faster workouts are possible. Less time is wasted changing plates and waiting for your spotter to get his butt out of the locker room.
The disadvantages of machines are many. Most machines are very large to store, extremely pricey and tend to isolate only one muscle or muscle group at a time. The majority of these muscle building contraptions are built to serve an average sized person. Very short or very tall people find it almost impossible to use many of the machines currently on the market.
Finally, the space-age appearance of many machines lulls users into believing that high technology equals maximum efficiency in achieving fitness goals, a sentiment that is definitely not true. Nothing beats hard work and good old fashioned sweat!
For more tips on how to maximize your time in the gym, contact [email protected]