machines vs. free weights?

Discussion in 'Basic Training Principles and Methods' started by bilknu, Jul 19, 2003.

  1. bilknu

    bilknu New Member

    Hi, I am new to weight training and don't feel comfortable using free weights due to lower back problems and feel awkward and am self-conscious when in the gym. Can I use the HST program with machines? Thanks for your time and the great info on this site.
  2. Randy

    Randy New Member

    Absolutely. Then when you gain some strength and confidence, start working in free weights on some basic exercises like bench presses and the advanced movements like squats and deadlifts for later, if ever, only if your lower back problem resolves. Don't challenge it.

  3. bilknu

    bilknu New Member

    Thanks Randy for your response.
  4. andrew

    andrew New Member

    I've been trying HST for the past 6 months for similar reasons. I had never really lifted any weights before. So far so good.
    What kind of advantages/benefits would I gain by transitioning to free weights?
  5. Calkid

    Calkid New Member

    Better physical coordination, better transference to real-world strength, better balance, etc.

    Not necessarily better growth though, but general health and ability are important too.
  6. bilknu

    bilknu New Member

    Thanks Calkid.
  7. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    i fail to see why it'd necessarily yield better transfer to 'real world strength.' i'd go so far to say that it's totally irrelevent for the average trainee :) the only downside to machines is that there aren't a lot of good, viable substitutes for squats/deadlifts, imho.
  8. Calkid

    Calkid New Member

    Because, in the real (ie unsupported) world, you're limited by how well you can balance yourself and activate stabilizing muscles during a lift. This is more important than you'd think. If you don't believe me, try doing heavy dumbell lunges with a fast-ish tempo. Only after a few weeks am I not continuously losing my balance.
  9. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Aren't skill sets specific to the feat being performed? This seems a combination of what little knowledge I have of motor learning as applied to SAID. Any movement would make you primarily better at that particular movement. Also, 'balance' in general, I thought, was a coordination of the various agonists/antagonists of a movement by the CNS. The coordination, again, would be specific to that skill.

    Sure there might be transfer, but I don't think there'd be THAT appreciably more in, say, a routine built on free weights vs. machines. This is the same sort of logic that seems to be applied to training on unstable surfaces to yield 'functional strength.' I don't really buy it :)
  10. Baoh

    Baoh New Member

    Train with Clean & Presses for a while, and see if you still do not buy it.

    Of course, if you've never been exposed to challenge outside of the gym, then I suppose it could be considered pointless.

    I've seen both sides of this make the same arguments over various boards and articles for ages.

    Try it. I know it works because I have gotten the results. Others who have trained with/under me have reaped similar benefits. Maybe we're all exceptions, though. Maybe not.
  11. Lil Popa Pump

    Lil Popa Pump New Member

    I can not believe I agree with Mikey!?!? [​IMG]

    I have trained with "quick lifts" and have not seen much in terms of improvement outside of the gym (including athletic performance). I have been lifting for some time, so any increase should have been noticable - especially considering how much improvement I was told I would see if I started doing them. Don't get me wrong, they are fun and presented a much needed change of pace. I just don't view them, and I don't think you CNS or muscles view them, any different than any kind of movement.

    I think it is generally difficult for someone to say, "I did Power Cleans (or Clean and Press, etc.) and I got results." How do you know that simply strengthening the muscles, connective tissues and bones via training against resistance is not the cause and that the quick lifts are or that they added "something more" ? The "experiment" is not controlled enough to make that claim.
  12. Baoh

    Baoh New Member

    I have trained the various components through other movements in the past. That did not deliver as well as the quick lifts.
  13. robefc

    robefc New Member

    For what its worth my take on machines versus free weights is...

    machines allow you to use more weight for the target muscle
    free weights will work surrounding muscles 'stabilisers' as well as the target muscle.
    with machines you have to follow a fixed path of movement - this can be good as it ensures your form is good if you have it correctly set up but obviously free weights allow you greater freedom.

    personally I use both, usually dumbells rather than a barbell for greater range of motion and to ensure both 'sides' work equally.
  14. Baoh

    Baoh New Member

    An aside- Does the tension implied by the numbers on the weight stack equate to the tension applied to the muscles by the transfer through the lever arm and (most importantly) the handle?
  15. Calkid

    Calkid New Member

    Alrighty, in that case...

    Claim: freeweights improve neuromuscular coordination moreso than machine weights due to greater use of proprioception and challenge to balance.

    Muscles, tendons, ligaments... all have what are called mechanoreceptors. These provide the brain with information on static and dynamic muscle position, movement and sensation pertaining to joint force. It's why when you wake up you immediately realize your arm is in a weird position.

    These provide feedback to the brain (more specifically brain stem and cerebellum) so that movement can be coordinated. This phenomenon is called proprioception. Motor commands will be compared with sensory input to ensure smooth movement.

    When performing exercise in an unstable environment, much proproprioception is needed to execute a movement while maintaining core stability. Otherwise, one will fall or become off balance. If one's core is locked into a position of stability because of a machine, there will be a vastly reduced amount of proprioception. Proprioception and balance, like many other forms of nervous system activity, become more efficient with practice.

    Hence the reason for freeweights. In the real world you have to stabilize.
  16. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    you're suggesting this gain in proprioception applies across all skills irregardless of stimulus? that seems a pretty clear violation of SAID.

    understand that i KNOW what you're trying to say, but i've seen people do both, and if neither were athletes, it didn't matter at all for day to day living. :)
  17. Lil Popa Pump

    Lil Popa Pump New Member

    As stated, what about SAID?

    Further, what about the research in the area of motor learning that tends to say your claim is wrong?
  18. Lil Popa Pump

    Lil Popa Pump New Member

    If you are practicing progressive resistance, does it matter?
  19. Calkid

    Calkid New Member

    Guys, SAID isn't gospel. It's just a guideline for explaning adaptations.

    If you want to get into SAID, how about this: the imposed demand is resistance in an unstable environment, the adaptation is an increase in neuromuscular coordination and balance.

    Just because doing a deadlift is slightly different from, say, picking up a heavy box doesn't mean there's no transference.
    But there's probably less transference than if one only did weighted hip extensions. Y'dig?

    Yes, SAID applies when learning movement patterns. But there also is a general sense of balance and core stabilization that can be specifically trained.

    I'm not claiming freeweights will make you a tightrope walker. In fact, NASM (my cert) has balance training vastly more demanding than a mere squat (try a one-legged alternate arm DB overhead press while standing on a bubble). But freeweights will be noticeably better than machine weights for improving balance and coordination.
  20. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    i've been lifting free weights almost exclusively for 5 years. before doing so, i was no athlete. after doing so, i am no athlete.

    i don't think i've noticed particularly better coordination or general proprioception, but it's possible that i'm now secretly a ninja.

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