Weight machine vs free weight

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retire14
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Weight machine vs free weight

Postby retire14 » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:43 pm

Inspired by a question from someone who asked about a 3rd exercise machine. Lots of good recommendations re. weight training. I did not want to hijack that thread, so I ask my question here.
I have been doing cardio (outdoor jogging/indoor elliptical) for several years, but neglected to do weight training until 2 or 3 months ago. So my routine now is about 4 to 4.5 miles every other day (plus stretching) alternate with 1-hr weight lift going through all the major muscle groups. I do 2 sets each and 10-12 reps per set.

My motivation is to maintain muscle strength as I age. I am 64 years old, weight 140 lbs, 5'8''. Blood pressure normal and rest HR is low 45-50.

I have a weight machine that allows me to do all the lat pulls, bicep curls, leg extension, etc...but I am wondering if it is worth to invest some quality free weight since I heard that free weights will give better results, but subject is still somewhat controversial. Thoughts?

auggiedoggies
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby auggiedoggies » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:46 pm

Free weights have their specific situations where they provide a great benefit...however, at your age, and with what I presume to be your goals (better overall health, not necessarily setting powerlifting records) a weight machine will absolutely suffice

Rupert
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Rupert » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:51 pm

There's more risk of injury with free weights as we age. The machines force you to use proper form (assuming you follow the directions on the machines, of course). That said, a set of adjustable-weight dumbbells are nice to have around the house for days when you just can't get to the gym. They don't take up much room, are inexpensive, and get the job done.

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gunn_show
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby gunn_show » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:52 pm

auggiedoggies wrote:Free weights have their specific situations where they provide a great benefit...however, at your age, and with what I presume to be your goals (better overall health, not necessarily setting powerlifting records) a weight machine will absolutely suffice


Summarizes what I was going to write pretty well. This is a classic "many many variables" question and answer. Free weights are always better for growing/gaining muscle (and utilizing more muscles) than stationary machines. But, given age and goals (maintaining health vs. gaining mass) I would stick with the machines. Safer. If it were a 30yo guy asking this question with the goal of mass gain, no question the answer is go get free weights. Now, if you work out at the local gym, and have a trainer guy you can use, then perhaps talk to him about starting small on some lower weight free weights and see how you do. Can always stop and go back to machines.
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mrc
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby mrc » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:53 pm

We have both, and use both. An extensive set of dumbbells augments what the machine offers. I like doing prone, supine, and upright flys with the dumbbells in all different planes. Also overhead one-arm presses and extensions. I can't really do that well with the machine. Feels good too. Don't go too heavy to be safe. Using anything is better than not.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:58 pm

I wouldn't have minded a hijack :D

IMO, free weights have a special benefit for people our age, in that the small postural corrections you have to make improve balance. I also find the arc of machines artificial (e.g., compare the motion of a free weight squat to a Smith machine). I use machines for lat pulldowns and seated rows, but use free weights for military presses, hang cleans, squats, etc.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby 123 » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:00 pm

I think a weight machine is safer since usually it reduces the need for a spotter.
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EnjoyIt
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby EnjoyIt » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:02 pm

Free weights are much much better for weight training as you get more options and angles.

A machine is easier and may be good enough for your needs.

The reality is that both are ideal. A good setup will include:
Free weights
Adjustable bench
A machine that has cross over cables
Pull down machine
Smith machine
Leg curl machine.

That would be the bare minimum in my option for a setup.

mhalley
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby mhalley » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:10 pm

I used to do free weights but as a got older I found I had some shoulder pain with the bench and overhead press. Now I use the machine with cables wich seems to put less stress on my shoulders. YMMV.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby stats99 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:45 pm

I have used a Vectra machine or past 20 years. I have the earlier version of the one in link below, this model takes up minimal floor space for the various capabilities.

https://www.vectrafitness.com/1450_home_gym.html

Radjob4me
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Radjob4me » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:47 pm

I would suggest starting out by getting a decent set of dumbbells or kettle balls or the like. I personally like the adjustable dumbbells since they are easy to store. Mine go from 5-25 pounds each and were pretty cheap and are good for free weight upper body workouts (albeit not great if you are super buff) - chest flys, curls, etc - or adding weight to squats, lunges etc... I know there are sets out there that go from 5-50 and can be pricey but they do end up on cragislist quite often.

I agree with other with the concerns about heavy free weights at home. You would likely need a spotter or a bench/squat rack with a guard if you are going to be lifting heavy free weights. I'd suggest starting by getting the dumbbells and leaving the heavy stuff to the machine.

Oh - and if you are anywhere near a planet fitness or other inexpensive gym, this could be the type of situation that you go there for $10 a month and see if you like free weights before you buy any
Last edited by Radjob4me on Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rgs92
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby rgs92 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:53 pm

Wow, you are thin and in good shape. Good for you and good luck. I think whatever you have been doing, you are on the right track so just keep it up.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby leonard » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:56 pm

I'd prioritize the following for freeweights. I'd add items down the list as interest, funds, and space allows.

1. Power Rack, adjustable bench, bar, weights.
2. Powerblock Dumbbells.
3. Glute Ham Raise.
4. Blast Straps
5. Dip station.
6. 45 degree Back Raise.

Once you get to this point, you'll know what other pieces you might want to add for your workouts.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby alfaspider » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:16 pm

Rupert wrote:There's more risk of injury with free weights as we age. The machines force you to use proper form (assuming you follow the directions on the machines, of course). That said, a set of adjustable-weight dumbbells are nice to have around the house for days when you just can't get to the gym. They don't take up much room, are inexpensive, and get the job done.


To the contrary, some machines force improper form by preventing the body from moving the weight according to its natural range of motion. For example, using a smith machine to bench press means you can only move the weight straight up and down, but the body naturally wants to move the weight in an arc. Not good for the shoulders. It's also very possible to "cheat" or otherwise orient yourself in the machine so you are not getting the intended benefit of the exercise. Finally, you lose much of the benefit to supporting tissue using machines, so you get less functional strength benefit- most things you have to move around in the real world are not affixed to a machine. Cable-based machines or other machines that allow a greater range of motion are less prone to these issues, but not perfect.

Commercial gyms have a bad tendency to over-emphasize machines because they look fancy and because they generally require little to no instruction on proper use. There's also no clean-up for the staff from patrons who don't properly re-rack weights.

None of that is to say machines are worthless. They have two very good uses: 1) to train a specific muscle to absolute failure after you have already exhausted the supporting muscles doing free weights (a more advanced technique), 2) to work around injuries.

Overall, if someone is doing no strength training at all and wants to pick it up, free weights with proper instruction are the way to go. If there are injuries to work around, machines may be helpful supplements.
Last edited by alfaspider on Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby David Jay » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:16 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:I wouldn't have minded a hijack :D

IMO, free weights have a special benefit for people our age, in that the small postural corrections you have to make improve balance. I also find the arc of machines artificial (e.g., compare the motion of a free weight squat to a Smith machine). I use machines for lat pulldowns and seated rows, but use free weights for military presses, hang cleans, squats, etc.


+1
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ponyboy
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby ponyboy » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:25 pm

You may want to ask this questions at forum.bodybuilding.com A place where people actually know what they're talking about when it comes to working out!

I love squats but I also love leg press...one is free weights one is a machine...I say use both.

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telemark
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby telemark » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:42 pm

Strength is important, but as you get older you need to pay more attention to maintaining your overall ability to move. If you can't get down on the floor and back up by yourself, or bend over to pick something off the floor, you have suddenly become very dependent on having other people around. So in no particular order, strength, flexibility, range of motion, and balance are all important. Machines really only help with strength. At 58, I mostly stick to bodyweight exercises plus a little kettlebell work.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Rodc » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:53 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:I wouldn't have minded a hijack :D

IMO, free weights have a special benefit for people our age, in that the small postural corrections you have to make improve balance. I also find the arc of machines artificial (e.g., compare the motion of a free weight squat to a Smith machine). I use machines for lat pulldowns and seated rows, but use free weights for military presses, hang cleans, squats, etc.


+ 1

I am close to you in age and size.

I use machines sparingly, but do use them some. Sometimes they are just easier and I am lazy or in a hurry. Over time I use them less and less often.

I prefer free weights because I am trying to not only maintain strength but functional strength. I do not in real life sit and push something overhead along a one dimensional track. I need to lift a suitcase up off the floor and up into the overhead compartment on an airplane. I do not sit in a seat and press with my legs. I need to life a bag of mulch from the ground and carry it across the yard. I do a lot of hiking and need all the stability muscles to not only be strong, but I need them to work together in a coordinated fashion as I scramble up a jumble of granite blocks with a bunch of weight on my back, upsetting my normal balance. Free weights are better for those things, even if I need to reduce weight a little to keep myself safe.

As you get older balance and stability get more and more important and free weights help there more than machines.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Quark » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:02 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:I wouldn't have minded a hijack :D

IMO, free weights have a special benefit for people our age, in that the small postural corrections you have to make improve balance. I also find the arc of machines artificial (e.g., compare the motion of a free weight squat to a Smith machine). I use machines for lat pulldowns and seated rows, but use free weights for military presses, hang cleans, squats, etc.

Another vote for free weights. They help with balance. They move the entire body in a more natural way, rather than isolating muscle groups and forcing you to move as dictated by the machine.

I highly recommend Starting Strength and, for older people Barbell Prescription.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Rodc » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:05 pm

telemark wrote:Strength is important, but as you get older you need to pay more attention to maintaining your overall ability to move. If you can't get down on the floor and back up by yourself, or bend over to pick something off the floor, you have suddenly become very dependent on having other people around. So in no particular order, strength, flexibility, range of motion, and balance are all important. Machines really only help with strength. At 58, I mostly stick to bodyweight exercises plus a little kettlebell work.


+1

I would just add endurance to your list.

The older I get the more I realize a fully diversified portfolio of exercise is needed. The exact mix would depend on your needs and desires. Plus mixing it up helps reduce overuse injuries. I try to include in every week a couple of sessions running or biking, a couple of sessions on the stairmaster, a couple of sessions at the climbing gym or better outdoors, a session or two of yoga. I also like to include some HIT work doing sprints on the rowing machine. A little stretching and balance after working out (I find stretching cold to be a very bad idea for me so I stretch as part of the cool down). Life gets in the way on occasion so throws you a day off.
Last edited by Rodc on Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Gropes & Ray » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:05 pm

Whatever your preference, you will meet your goals. This is a situation where just doing anything is fine, and there is no reason to over-analyze. However, because the difference between machines and free weights mostly has to do with the use of stabilizing muscles, I would add some small amount of calisthenics (push ups, squats, planks, etc.) from time to time. Push ups and squats can be part of a pre or post-run stretching routine.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby davidkw » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:11 pm

I am a runner and I lift too. I use the machines for upper and lower back, chest and legs. I use dumbells for shoulders and calves, but I do not go near my max. Too easy to get injured with free weights. The recovery for rotater cuff injuries can be close to a years. I just use weights to maintain too. I am a runner at heart. I ran track and cross country in high school and college.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Quark » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:17 pm

telemark wrote:Strength is important, but as you get older you need to pay more attention to maintaining your overall ability to move. If you can't get down on the floor and back up by yourself, or bend over to pick something off the floor, you have suddenly become very dependent on having other people around. So in no particular order, strength, flexibility, range of motion, and balance are all important. Machines really only help with strength. At 58, I mostly stick to bodyweight exercises plus a little kettlebell work.

You can do some very nice things with bodyweight exercises and kettlebells.

If you want to build strength, free weights have some advantages. You can precisely control the amount of weight you're lifting, allowing for more effective progressive programming. With bodyweight, you can make things more difficult, but not with anything like the same degree of control. You can add reps, but somewhere around five reps are much better for strength than a high number. Careful programming is the best way to make progress.

You have various weights with kettlebells, but it's hard to have a very large number of kettlebells with weights in small increments.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Quark » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:23 pm

davidkw wrote:I am a runner and I lift too. I use the machines for upper and lower back, chest and legs. I use dumbells for shoulders and calves, but I do not go near my max. Too easy to get injured with free weights. The recovery for rotater cuff injuries can be close to a years. I just use weights to maintain too. I am a runner at heart. I ran track and cross country in high school and college.

It's a lot easier to injure yourself running than lifting. The injury rate is much much higher according to every statistical study I've seen.

stoptothink
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby stoptothink » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:26 pm

alfaspider wrote:
Rupert wrote:There's more risk of injury with free weights as we age. The machines force you to use proper form (assuming you follow the directions on the machines, of course). That said, a set of adjustable-weight dumbbells are nice to have around the house for days when you just can't get to the gym. They don't take up much room, are inexpensive, and get the job done.


To the contrary, some machines force improper form by preventing the body from moving the weight according to its natural range of motion. For example, using a smith machine to bench press means you can only move the weight straight up and down, but the body naturally wants to move the weight in an arc. Not good for the shoulders. It's also very possible to "cheat" or otherwise orient yourself in the machine so you are not getting the intended benefit of the exercise. Finally, you lose much of the benefit to supporting tissue using machines, so you get less functional strength benefit- most things you have to move around in the real world are not affixed to a machine. Cable-based machines or other machines that allow a greater range of motion are less prone to these issues, but not perfect.

Commercial gyms have a bad tendency to over-emphasize machines because they look fancy and because they generally require little to no instruction on proper use. There's also no clean-up for the staff from patrons who don't properly re-rack weights.

None of that is to say machines are worthless. They have two very good uses: 1) to train a specific muscle to absolute failure after you have already exhausted the supporting muscles doing free weights (a more advanced technique), 2) to work around injuries.

Overall, if someone is doing no strength training at all and wants to pick it up, free weights with proper instruction are the way to go. If there are injuries to work around, machines may be helpful supplements.


This should end the thread. OP, start off slowly and learn proper form and technique. The fact that there is more injury risk with free weights incorrectly is a benefit; you aren't stuck with unnatural range of motions and you have to activate your core musculature and stabilizers. These are factors in maintaining/gaining relative strength and proper movement pattern function which become greater concerns as you age. If you are truly considering an "exercise machine" I would save the money and get a suspension trainer (https://www.amazon.com/WOSS-Military-St ... B006V6D6I0) and focus on bodyweight movements. Like everyone else, just an opinion, but I am a former professional strength coach and a current exercise physiology professor.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Rodc » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:39 pm

stoptothink wrote:This should end the thread. OP, start off slowly and learn proper form and technique. The fact that there is more injury risk with free weights incorrectly is a benefit; you aren't stuck with unnatural range of motions and you have to activate your core musculature and stabilizers. These are factors in maintaining/gaining relative strength and proper movement pattern function which become greater concerns as you age. If you are truly considering an "exercise machine" I would save the money and get a suspension trainer (https://www.amazon.com/WOSS-Military-St ... B006V6D6I0) and focus on bodyweight movements. Like everyone else, just an opinion, but I am a former professional strength coach and a current exercise physiology professor.


Mine came in the mail yesterday! Thanks for the tip. Others I had seen were just more than I wanted to spend. The quality looks fine. Had an early morning meeting today when I would normally work out, so I have not used it, but will give it a spin tonight.

As a bonus, it is compact and comes with a little stuff sack so it can live in my gym bag, so I can use it at my gym at work or at home. Or I can toss it in my suitcase when I travel!
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pingo
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby pingo » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:39 pm

Machines often require more room than might appear and one does have to move around when using them. It seems the smaller/quicker they are, the more limited the machine or the more space they require. I love barbells, too, but they require a lot of space and other equipment to keep clutter to a minimum.

I like the dumbbell or even a kettle bell solution. I used to have a machine and learned that my dumbbells were at least as effective and so much more versatile and convenient. It's impressive what one can do with even one or two kettle bells. Don't go too heavy, too soon: everything in moderation. You can get a marvelous workout and dumbbells will also strengthen the little muscles that assist with balance and coordination of each movement.

Rather than buying an expensive adjustable or flat bench (which can be a wonderful, don't get me wrong), some alternatives may allow you to afford high quality dumbbells, which I think are far more important:

(1) an exercise/balance ball is inexpensive and can be used for many movements including presses while improving your balance and core muscle development.

(2) get a 2 in. x 12 in. x 4 ft board from a home improvement place, and mount 2x4s (14" long) across each end with deck screws. Fold a towel/yoga mat, or cut a thick, dense exercise mat to the same length and width, to serve as a bench cushion during bench presses. Rest the platform on steps or something solid to perform the incline presses from the floor, remove the mat to do toe raises, lean over the platform to perform preacher curls one arm at a time...there's a lot you can do.

(3) Never neglect bodyweight exercises, such as pushups for which one can even balance a weight plate or dumbbell on the upper back to increase resistance.

Keep in mind the size of your hands. These days, most adjustable handweight bars from retailers are 1" or slimmer. (That "1 inch bar" may be less than 1 inch.) <1 inch bars can be too thin for long or slender hands. Thin bars cause discomfort in my finger joints when holding heavier loads for squats or deadlifts. Contoured handles of almost any kind can be just as bad. "Hex bells" are an affordable, rugged solution, but most hex bells have <1" handles and you may have to buy lots.

Powerblocks are expensive, but convenient and clutter-free. I have used them and they are great option. Pros: they're nice looking, they fit in a tight space, they're the most clutter-free, they'll give the quickest and simplest weight changes, and they're comfortable to rest on your knees when necessary. (No bars jutting out from the ends.) Cons: you can't hold them like an old school dumbbell for some movements, but I doubt it's a problem for most.

In terms of durability and having the balance of professional dumbbells, I prefer Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells, which I own. Pros: unrestricted handling of the dumbbell, true dumbbell balance, no bars jutting out from the ends, you can drop 'em without voiding the warranty, they're clutter-free and they fit in a small space.

I also have and love Soloflex Handweights, which may be more appropriate at this stage of your life. They are still more expensive than options you'll find at local retailers. Pros: I find that the urethane grips absorb some of the impact of movements that would otherwise aggravate old injuries and I like how they fill the hand. With high-quality rubber coated plates, they're quiet and you can rest them on hard wood floors. Cons: If you do dumbbell squats using 10 pound plates, the large diameter plates combined a shorter than avg hand space and the rubber coating make it so they don't go up and down as naturally as I prefer due to contact with my legs. My wife and I really like Soloflex's inovative 10 minute daily workout routine, which I think can now be found on the Soloflex User Guides DVD.
Last edited by pingo on Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:46 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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telemark
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby telemark » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:40 pm

Quark wrote:You can do some very nice things with bodyweight exercises and kettlebells.

If you want to build strength, free weights have some advantages. You can precisely control the amount of weight you're lifting, allowing for more effective progressive programming. With bodyweight, you can make things more difficult, but not with anything like the same degree of control. You can add reps, but somewhere around five reps are much better for strength than a high number. Careful programming is the best way to make progress.

You have various weights with kettlebells, but it's hard to have a very large number of kettlebells with weights in small increments.

All very true. I neglected to mention that I have a heart condition, so going heavy isn't an option for me. If you're serious about getting strong, adjustable weights are the way to go.

But kettlebells are fun. Last fall we had some nice weather so I took my skateboard to a nearby bike path, and there was a guy there throwing a kettlebell in the air. You can't do that with a barbell :D

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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby TomatoTomahto » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:03 pm

Re adjustable dumbbells: I was ready to finalize a purchase on Amazon, and then read a review about weights falling off the Soloflex. That frightened me, but a rack of dumbbells of various weights isn't so great either.

Has anyone heard of getting injured with an adjustable dumbbell because of weights falling off?

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby stoptothink » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:28 pm

telemark wrote:
Quark wrote:You can do some very nice things with bodyweight exercises and kettlebells.

If you want to build strength, free weights have some advantages. You can precisely control the amount of weight you're lifting, allowing for more effective progressive programming. With bodyweight, you can make things more difficult, but not with anything like the same degree of control. You can add reps, but somewhere around five reps are much better for strength than a high number. Careful programming is the best way to make progress.

You have various weights with kettlebells, but it's hard to have a very large number of kettlebells with weights in small increments.

All very true. I neglected to mention that I have a heart condition, so going heavy isn't an option for me. If you're serious about getting strong, adjustable weights are the way to go.

But kettlebells are fun. Last fall we had some nice weather so I took my skateboard to a nearby bike path, and there was a guy there throwing a kettlebell in the air. You can't do that with a barbell :D


In my experience, kettlebells are actually very limited in their use. I've used them for years, in countless settings, and I don't get the appeal other than they are different. I don't have a single KB in my very extensive garage gym. Swings (or tossing, I guess) are great. Outside of that and maybe Turkish get-ups, they are quite awkward to use and offer almost no advantages - I hate them for snatches or cleans and a goblet squat offers nothing over a front squat. A barbell is significantly more versatile and it's a whole lot cheaper to buy buy more plates than it is more kettlebells.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Dogsplaypoker » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:05 pm

at your age, I would recommend staying away from free weights. Especially if you have neck or back problems. resistance/crossbow machine will save your neck and back and allow you to workout safely and without injury.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Tycoon » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:13 pm

stoptothink wrote:
telemark wrote:
Quark wrote:You can do some very nice things with bodyweight exercises and kettlebells.

If you want to build strength, free weights have some advantages. You can precisely control the amount of weight you're lifting, allowing for more effective progressive programming. With bodyweight, you can make things more difficult, but not with anything like the same degree of control. You can add reps, but somewhere around five reps are much better for strength than a high number. Careful programming is the best way to make progress.

You have various weights with kettlebells, but it's hard to have a very large number of kettlebells with weights in small increments.

All very true. I neglected to mention that I have a heart condition, so going heavy isn't an option for me. If you're serious about getting strong, adjustable weights are the way to go.

But kettlebells are fun. Last fall we had some nice weather so I took my skateboard to a nearby bike path, and there was a guy there throwing a kettlebell in the air. You can't do that with a barbell :D


In my experience, kettlebells are actually very limited in their use. I've used them for years, in countless settings, and I don't get the appeal other than they are different. I don't have a single KB in my very extensive garage gym. Swings (or tossing, I guess) are great. Outside of that and maybe Turkish get-ups, they are quite awkward to use and offer almost no advantages - I hate them for snatches or cleans and a goblet squat offers nothing over a front squat. A barbell is significantly more versatile and it's a whole lot cheaper to buy buy more plates than it is more kettlebells.


I agree. I don't get the appeal of kettlebells.
C'est la vie

MoonOrb
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby MoonOrb » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:15 pm

Get free weights. They're superior in almost every way to machines. Get a set of adjustable dumbbells and you can do all manner of exercises that will supplement the rest of your exercise routine. You're not very likely to injure yourself doing free weights unless (a) you're using bad form or (b) you're lifting really heavy. It doesn't sound like you're wanting to move a lot of iron around.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby TomatoTomahto » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:33 pm

Dogsplaypoker wrote:at your age, I would recommend staying away from free weights. Especially if you have neck or back problems. resistance/crossbow machine will save your neck and back and allow you to workout safely and without injury.
Years ago, I had back pain. I was told to avoid squats. When I started weight training, I'm naturally built for squats, so I got to doing pretty heavy squats for my age. My back never bothered me again.

I recommend a trainer or experienced partner if you are going to do moderately heavy or very heavy weights.

pingo
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby pingo » Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:55 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:Re adjustable dumbbells: I was ready to finalize a purchase on Amazon, and then read a review about weights falling off the Soloflex. That frightened me, but a rack of dumbbells of various weights isn't so great either.

Has anyone heard of getting injured with an adjustable dumbbell because of weights falling off?


I don't see Soloflex Muscle Machines or Soloflex Adjustable Handweight systems at Amazon. And we might be talking about different things?

There's the Soloflex Muscle Machine (SMM), which has weight plate adapters that can slide out of the floating lever arm, conceivably. There are also Soloflex Adjustable Handweights (SAH) that have locking collars, which also work on SMM weight plate adapters.

The only dumbbells where one doesn't have to make absolutely sure the collars or locking mechanism are securely in place: hex bells, and spinlock collars for threaded dumbbells, but spinlocks still loosen during use, so they need constant re-tightening to prevent plate rattling. Even Powerblock selector pins can be incorrectly placed and gym dumbbell end caps can spin loose. Always double check that plates and collars are secure.

Some people take for granted the locking mechanism of Soloflex's collars. As easily and effectively as they lock into place, there is always a possibility that one or both locking pins have not completely nestled into the bar. After placing a collar onto the bar and hearing the pins click, I always torque the collars a little in each direction to ensure the pins are fully nestled and secure. The collars will (1) not budge, confirming they are fully secure, (2) allow the pins to fully nestle (same result, but you will fell it happening), or (3) turn, which confirms they're not secure so you'll re-situate the collar. If you check your dumbbell collars every time, your teeth and toes will thank you.

Once I wasn't careful and I busted the plastic release button off the locking collar (arguably a design flaw), but the collar still works and is safe as ever.

I never had an issue with plates falling off the Soloflex Mucle Machine, but it's also possible. Moreso, I assume, if one tries to use olympic plate adapters. SMMs come with two 1" bars that each slide into an end of the floating lever arm. You can put plates on each bar and secure with a retainer clip or a Soloflex Locking Collar and push the bar as far into the FLA as it'll go. The FLA doesn't really move enough from side to side during any particular exercise for them to slip out all the way. If you don't check them after every set, I suppose they can slowly come out enough to fall off the FLA.

I'm happy to PM you a detailed critique of the Soloflex Muscle Machine from personal experience, if that's what you were looking at.
Last edited by pingo on Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby TomatoTomahto » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:18 am

pingo wrote:I don't see Soloflex Muscle Machines or Soloflex Adjustable Handweight systems at Amazon. And we might be talking about different things?

I apologize, to you and Soloflex; it was BOWFLEX SelectTech 552.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Quark » Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:22 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Dogsplaypoker wrote:at your age, I would recommend staying away from free weights. Especially if you have neck or back problems. resistance/crossbow machine will save your neck and back and allow you to workout safely and without injury.
Years ago, I had back pain. I was told to avoid squats. When I started weight training, I'm naturally built for squats, so I got to doing pretty heavy squats for my age. My back never bothered me again.

I recommend a trainer or experienced partner if you are going to do moderately heavy or very heavy weights.

http://startingstrength.com/resources/forum/ has numerous articles, posts and videos of people with back pain, including those advised by doctors to have surgery or never to lift anything heavy, who started deadlifting and stopped having back issues. Here's a detailed presentation by a doctor of physical therapy http://startingstrength.com/video/weigh ... -back-pain (links to second and third parts below this video) and here's a video with a marine officer told to have surgery http://startingstrength.com/podcast/epi ... k-injuries.

Excellent form and starting with light weights is essential.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby leonard » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:48 pm

Dogsplaypoker wrote:I would recommend staying away from free weights.


Why?
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby leonard » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:50 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:Re adjustable dumbbells: I was ready to finalize a purchase on Amazon, and then read a review about weights falling off the Soloflex. That frightened me, but a rack of dumbbells of various weights isn't so great either.

Has anyone heard of getting injured with an adjustable dumbbell because of weights falling off?


Go with Powerblocks - preferably used off craigslist. They are better than the competition - including the Ironmasters (the main real competitor).

Have 2 sets and they work perfectly and have held up to regular use with no problems.

No weights have fallen off either.

I've owned the ironmasters as well. They are much more a hassle to change weights compared to Powerblocks. If you are working out with another person, you'll need another set of handles to allow for them to work in. If not, they are just inconvenient to swap weights. Powerblock is superior in virtually every way.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby CFM300 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:22 pm

leonard wrote:Go with Powerblocks
...
No weights have fallen off....

Can you do fast lifts with the Powerblocks? Like one-arm snatches from the ground? Or swings? Just curious. Never tried 'em.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby leonard » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:47 pm

CFM300 wrote:
leonard wrote:Go with Powerblocks
...
No weights have fallen off....

Can you do fast lifts with the Powerblocks? Like one-arm snatches from the ground? Or swings? Just curious. Never tried 'em.


Most "fast lift" or swing-type exercises (like kettlebells) seem to compromise form to a great extent and just look like an injury waiting to happen. Plus, am more interested in strength gains and I think there are better options with much safer form. So, I generally don't do those.

However, I think the weight catch would hold fine, assuming some control is maintained. I'd think the biggest problem with powerblocks is that they have 4 support posts around the handle - so you may not have as much wrist movement as you need to complete those moves.

For any dumbbell exercises I have wanted to do - Powerblocks have worked great.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby stoptothink » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:50 pm

CFM300 wrote:
leonard wrote:Go with Powerblocks
...
No weights have fallen off....

Can you do fast lifts with the Powerblocks? Like one-arm snatches from the ground? Or swings? Just curious. Never tried 'em.


Yes. Because of their shape the grip is a little odd (especially a swing), but there shouldn't be any concern that a weight will fly off.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby CFM300 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:56 pm

leonard wrote:Most "fast lift" or swing-type exercises (like kettlebells) seem to compromise form to a great extent and just look like an injury waiting to happen. Plus, am more interested in strength gains and I think there are better options with much safer form. So, I generally don't do those.

I practice and coach cleans, jerks, and snatches to preserve and enhance rate of force development and fast-twitch fibers. My injury rate (personal and for my clients) is almost non-existent, but it's certainly no higher for the fast lifts than the slow. Good form and gradual progression keeps both types of exercises safe.

My preference equipment-wise (for myself and clients) is barbells and bumper plates. But a lot good training can occur with dumbbells, including snatches, cleans, and swings. I've never seen a need for kettlebells or understood their appeal. Dumbbells are more versatile.

Maybe someday I'll have a chance to try the PowerBlocks. Thanks.

[edited to add comments about injuries]
Last edited by CFM300 on Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby surfstar » Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:04 pm

I'd look into a body-weight setup (aka suspension). I guess the branded version is TRX.

You can easily build / buy a cheaper version off amazon/ebay. It just seems like that is a much better way to go than lifting static weights.

Look into the 7min workout app.

Stuff like that is easy and cheap/free, as long as you can stay motivated enough to use it.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby leonard » Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:56 pm

CFM300 wrote:
leonard wrote:Most "fast lift" or swing-type exercises (like kettlebells) seem to compromise form to a great extent and just look like an injury waiting to happen. Plus, am more interested in strength gains and I think there are better options with much safer form. So, I generally don't do those.

I practice and coach cleans, jerks, and snatches to preserve and enhance rate of force development and fast-twitch fibers. My injury rate (personal and for my clients) is almost non-existent, but it's certainly no higher for the fast lifts than the slow. Good form and gradual progression keeps both types of exercises safe.

My preference equipment-wise (for myself and clients) is barbells and bumper plates. But a lot good training can occur with dumbbells, including snatches, cleans, and swings. I've never seen a need for kettlebells or understood their appeal. Dumbbells are more versatile.

Maybe someday I'll have a chance to try the PowerBlocks. Thanks.

[edited to add comments about injuries]


To be clear - I am not against all fast lifts - just the fast lifts like dumbbell snatch. Dumbbell snatch always struck me as too much about the balancing and technique. I'd think barbell lifts - where balance was somewhat less an issue - made more sense.

I incorporate dynamic effort lifts in to my routine - so not against speed/fast lifts per se.
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby CFM300 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:31 pm

leonard wrote:To be clear - I am not against all fast lifts - just the fast lifts like dumbbell snatch. Dumbbell snatch always struck me as too much about the balancing and technique. I'd think barbell lifts - where balance was somewhat less an issue - made more sense.

One-arm dumbbell snatches are definitely easier to learn and execute than two-handed barbell snatches, although both are pretty easy. For one, there's no issue of bringing the bar around the knees. That's based on having taught both to hundreds of beginners. But okay, maybe you just don't like snatches, dumbbell or otherwise.

To be clear, I'm talking about a straight vertical pull, like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0mhHuVrLHA

or this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9520DJiFmvE

Not an arcing snatch as is often presented in the kettlebell world, which seems to be a swing variation.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby stoptothink » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:48 pm

CFM300 wrote:
leonard wrote:To be clear - I am not against all fast lifts - just the fast lifts like dumbbell snatch. Dumbbell snatch always struck me as too much about the balancing and technique. I'd think barbell lifts - where balance was somewhat less an issue - made more sense.

One-arm dumbbell snatches are definitely easier to learn and execute than two-handed barbell snatches, although both are pretty easy. For one, there's no issue of bringing the bar around the knees. That's based on having taught both to hundreds of beginners. But okay, maybe you just don't like snatches, dumbbell or otherwise.


Yeah, huh? I can teach a complete novice to do a correct DB snatch in like 1min, a barbell snatch is a different story; usually takes a while with a PVC pipe...I'm still trying to teach my wife this one. If you want to talk "unnatural", that's the first word I think of when describing a kettlebell snatch.

Some people just don't like explosive movements, that's OK, but it doesn't make them inherently dangerous. I had more and more serioues injuries in ~5yrs of long-distance running than I have in 20yrs of olympic lifting.

pingo
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby pingo » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:54 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:Re adjustable dumbbells: I was ready to finalize a purchase on Amazon, and then read a review about weights falling off the Soloflex. That frightened me, but a rack of dumbbells of various weights isn't so great either.

Has anyone heard of getting injured with an adjustable dumbbell because of weights falling off?
leonard wrote:Go with Powerblocks - preferably used off craigslist. They are better than the competition - including the Ironmasters (the main real competitor).

Have 2 sets and they work perfectly and have held up to regular use with no problems.

No weights have fallen off either.

I've owned the ironmasters as well. They are much more a hassle to change weights compared to Powerblocks. If you are working out with another person, you'll need another set of handles to allow for them to work in. If not, they are just inconvenient to swap weights. Powerblock is superior in virtually every way.


I handled SelecTechs years ago. I wouldn't buy them unless you've had an opportunity to physically handle them, but I suppose I'd prefer to handle any option before purchasing. Keep in mind that when you only want to lift 5 pounds, it'll still be to be 17.5" long. If you ever want to do a highly dynamic movement, you may have to be more careful too ensure the weight doesn't smack or catch anything you wouldn't want it to smack or catch. Personally, I don't like contoured handles or the use of plastic (I seem to recall plastic covered plates?) and I'd still be worried about the handle rubber wearing down. Obviously amazon reviews can be helpful for you to put my criticisms into perspective.

As an Ironmaster fan, I can still agree with almost every detail leonard posted about Powerblocks. Chances are they're optimal for those who can afford them. Despite having "Quick" in the name, Ironmaster dumbbells only achieve a small improvement in speed. When I bought them off craigslist, I already had experience with Powerblocks and I was well aware that weight changes wouldn't necessarily be faster than before.

I don't like to change weights frequently and I do have another pair of adjustables--still to leonard's point. Powerblocks can be adjusted almost as fast and easy as grabbing a different pair off a fully stocked dumbbell rack. By contrast, I usually need one "heavy" and one "light" pair for each workout, with maybe a weight change somewhere in the middle of the workout.

I think most would prefer Powerblocks because they won't know or care about the subtle, but real difference in feel when curling one vs. the other. Most won't need or care to hold a dumbbell between the the legs just above the knees for weighted pullups and dips in order to avoid straps, belts or machines. Holding a dumbbell by its plates for some exercises probably won't be important, either. I don't worry about damaging an Ironmaster dumbbell in the event it rolls off my back during weighted pushups (it could happen and they're practically indestructable), but most people wouldn't use a dumbbell like that and serious garage warriors will probably have an olympic plate they could use for the same purpose. Those who would appreciate the perks of Ironmaster's traditional design are just as likely to prefer the convenience of Powerblocks' speed.

I like Ironmaster's compact size, smooth flat end caps, durability, solid steel construction and authentic dumbbell dynamics with no rattling.
Last edited by pingo on Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:40 pm, edited 7 times in total.

CFM300
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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby CFM300 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:10 pm

stoptothink wrote:I had more and more serioues injuries in ~5yrs of long-distance running than I have in 20yrs of olympic lifting.

I've never had an injury from an olympic lift, but I will admit that when they get heavy, all the eccentric work in receiving the load can be taxing. In that sense, I can see the benefit of using dynamic deadlifts -- especially if you essentially drop the weight at the top, thereby making it mostly a concentric effort.

The thing that I don't like about dynamic efforts with the traditionally slow lifts (bench, deadlift, squat) is that it's very hard to judge speed, and truly max efforts require serious violation. The olympic lifts and their variants, on the hand, are binary: you make the lift or you don't. Much easier to judge.

Back to teaching, I feel like a two-hand barbell HANG POWER snatch is nearly as easy to coach as a one-arm dumbbell snatch. Sure, there'll be issues with early arm bend, foot movement, and coordinating the landing and the catch. But I've been able to get most everyone moving pretty well in about 15 minutes.

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Re: Weight machine vs free weight

Postby Geneyus » Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:24 pm

Rupert wrote:There's more risk of injury with free weights as we age. The machines force you to use proper form (assuming you follow the directions on the machines, of course). That said, a set of adjustable-weight dumbbells are nice to have around the house for days when you just can't get to the gym. They don't take up much room, are inexpensive, and get the job done.


I've heard the opposite. My physical therapist said machines force you into a specific range of motion, and not everyone's bodies move the same way. Free weights are better because you involve more stabilizer muscles instead of just the ones pushing/pulling.

I used to have a lot of shoulder pain while bench pressing. I would use a lot of machines and the barbell. After swapping to dumbbells, my pain went away. The idea was the same... the barbell keeps my hands in a certain position throughout the movement, and it didn't fit my body.

Dogsplaypoker wrote:at your age, I would recommend staying away from free weights. Especially if you have neck or back problems. resistance/crossbow machine will save your neck and back and allow you to workout safely and without injury.


No reasoning to back that up?


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