Yes, free weights are the best type of weightlifting to engage in because their use reflects a more natural human movement, but that doesn’t mean that weight lifting machines don’t have uses. Whether it’s for exercising your chest, back, arms or legs, there are a lot of good weightlifting machines out there and you shouldn’t let some over-muscled “bro” intimidate you out of using them.
Seven Reasons to Use Weight Machines
1. If You’re New
If you’re just getting into weight training, then the machines are a great transition method for a number of reasons:
- Less technique is required. Essentially, these machines can offer you a chance to learn better technique before progressing to more complex movements when using free weights.
- They are less intimidating. If you’re unsure about getting into weightlifting, then the machines can act as a confidence-building stepping stone.
- Less risk of injury (as long as you make sure they are properly adjusted and use them correctly).
2. If You’re Injured
Maybe you’re a regular with the free weights, but if you’ve injured a specific body part – say a shoulder – and need to ease your way back into exercise, slowing down during the rehabilitation process, then switching to a bench press machine is going to provide you with a lot more stability.
In physiotherapy and sports medicine a variety of resistance machines are often used in rehabbing injuries. In some ways, it can be like going to back to being a beginner when you’re injured, and these machines can help keep you active and slowly rehab the injured areas to get you back to your old self faster.
3. If You’re Physically Challenged
I’ve done a lot of training with people with a variety of physical challenges and in most cases we spent the majority our time working on weight machines rather than free weights. Because of the physical barriers some of my clients had, such as MS or quadriplegia, free weights weren’t an option, but the machines gave them the opportunity to stay active and improve strength and mobility.
4. If You’re Elderly
Before some senior citizens freak out on me, I want you to know that I think this guy is awesome. I’m hoping to keep on lifting until I’m ancient, but the reality is that humans don’t keep their youth forever. While I’m planning on continuing to fight a valiant delaying action against age, it’s a battle we’re all going to lose eventually. If you’re getting to an advanced age and find that the free weights are getting too hard to handle, then switching to machines can keep you active – hopefully for many more years.
5. If You’re Working Your Back Muscles
If you adamantly refuse to use weightlifting machines, then there are certain back muscles that can only be trained by doing chin ups. Well, there are a lot of people who can’t do chin ups, so what are they supposed to do?
Answer: use a machine.
Many back training weight machines use a cable rather than a hinge mechanism anyway, which means that it closely mimics a free weight exercise. Because the cable has the freedom to move in a wide range, then this is closer to a natural body movement than a machine where things operate at a hinged joint and there is a specific plane that the gripped mechanism must travel through.
6. If You’re Having an Off Day
It doesn’t happen to me that often, but sometimes I just don’t want to go to the gym. Sometimes I’m tempted to join my colleagues at the Chinese food buffet.
On days that I’m feeling well below my peak, I can get motivated to go to the gym if I decide to just stick to the machines and leave the more challenging free weights for another day. A day of weight machines instead of free weights is far better than nothing, and light years better than gorging on greasy food.
7. If You’re Finishing Up
After going hard on the free weights you start to run out of steam. You may be finished with dumbbells and barbells, but if you’ve still got some time you can get additional results and burn extra calories by finishing your workout on the machines. I use weightlifting machines in every workout, but always just for the last ten or twenty percent.
Coming in a future post: What weightlifting machines to avoid.
Written by James S. Fell who is the author of Body for Wife: The Family Guy’s Guide to Getting in Shape.