Equipment training vs. Free weights: the conclusion from 20 years of experience

Neither really common for my blog, are they?

You’re right, that’s why I looked for an expert on the subject.

You will surely be able to draw exciting insights from this guest article – have fun reading it!

This is a guest post by Benny Braun. He comes from Augsburg and has been an active natural bodybuilder and personal trainer for 21 years. Benny has been running his fitness blog called “Fit’n Sexy” for over 6 years.

We all know the goal of “building muscle”.

Hypertrophy is probably the most common reason why you and I run to the gym several times a week. Or how Pat tries something similar with his own body weight.

There is also the possibility of training with the free weights in the form of dumbbells and barbells.You have a variety of equipment to choose from in the gym. Mostly it’s not just one machine, but five for one muscle group. Equipment training is always easy to do in the gym.

I remember the time of the Corona Lockdown a few months ago. The dumbbells at home and a flat bench were my best friends and I think you will have felt the same way. Especially after this time when many athletes came to the gym with a “restart”, the question arose once again: Training on the equipment or with free weights?

What is the best way to start your new training plan after illness or forced retirement? What are the advantages and disadvantages of devices and vice versa the free weights?

And above all: What builds your muscles faster and more massively?

Let’s take a closer look at this and more.

The pros and cons of equipment training

Equipment training means that the machine’s freedom of movement is severely restricted and the machine tells you what your movement looks like.

Training on equipment offers the following advantages:

  • The sequence of movements is limited and specified. This prevents the risk of injury, especially for beginners and amateur athletes.
  • The limited range of motion also protects the joints, you don’t have to balance or stabilize the weight.
  • When training on the equipment, the focus is on targeted and isolated stress on the target muscles. You can train the muscles you want in isolation.
  • You can move the weights within a few seconds. Especially when you do intensity techniques such as reduction sets, this is an enormous time saver in training.
  • No training partner required – should you no longer be able to do this, you can simply drop the weights. You don’t have to be afraid of “failure” and you can go to your limits and complete muscle failure, especially with maximum strength training.
  • When you train on equipment, you can do targeted, guided partial repetitions. This is an enormous advantage for the aforementioned maximum strength training or for the “pump”.
  • Rehabilitation – training with fitness equipment is ideal, especially for older people or after injuries.

Now we come to the disadvantages of equipment training:

  • The movement sequence on the machines is predetermined, so you cannot follow your natural, individual movement pattern.
  • Your auxiliary muscles are often not used or only very little used because the muscles are trained in isolation.
  • “A lot helps a lot!” Even if training on the equipment involves a lower risk of injury than with free weights, the equipment is often used by beginners loaded with the highest possible weight. There is an acute risk of injury here! The same applies to the training equipment: A clean execution (especially for beginners!) Always takes precedence over weight! So hang up a little less and train clean and focused.

As always, there are two sides to the coin. This is also the case with the free weights that we will now look at.

Free weights have other advantages and disadvantages

Training with free weights means that you train with barbells or dumbbells and have so many degrees of freedom.

Training with free weights has clear advantages for advanced athletes:

  • The movement is not limited. You can take full advantage of your individual range of motion or your range of motion. Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by it for building massive muscle mass!
  • Due to the multitude of possibilities for exercises with dumbbells and barbells, there are almost no limits to your choice of exercises. You can let off steam and you will always discover new exercises. A pair of dumbbells is theoretically enough for your full body workout at home.
  • “Back to basics!” Here, too, I can only remind you of the “golden era” of bodybuilding. Basic exercises with free weights such as squats, bench presses and deadlifts are a guarantee for strength, mass and muscles!
  • Use of auxiliary muscles and stabilization of your core – your target muscles are not trained in isolation by training with free weights. When performing the exercise, more muscles are used to help, this makes the exercise stable and more fibers outside the target muscle are used.
  • You shouldn’t forget to use it in your own four walls, because the cheap multi-gyms at Amazon and Co. are often only partially suitable. You can get a pair of dumbbells at a much lower price.

But free weights also have their disadvantages.

Although these are based on three essential points, they are all the more important:

  • Your risk of injury is much higher. When training with free weights, you need a lot more experience and should know your body. Exuberance and wrong techniques can quickly lead to bad injuries and consequences in old age
  • Do you have a training partner? If so, congratulations! Your partner should always be by your side when training with free weights and be able to give you help if necessary. During solo training you should therefore be confident in handling the weight you put on.
  • Technology, technology and more technology! It takes time to learn the correct movement and you should perfect it. So for impatient fitness athletes: grit your teeth and hold on!

My conclusion from 20 years of strength training

I also started small once.

My focus is clearly on training with free weights, but I also always enjoy using the equipment. On the one hand, you can specifically train a muscle here and pump it up to the limits (or beyond) and on the other hand, I feel much safer with heavy weights than with exercises with the dumbbells or the barbell. Especially with super sentences, I like to include a device in my station wagon.

During equipment training I feel an enormous pump in the target muscle and can really feel into it. Free weights are just “old school” for me and the noises and the smell of iron alone will certainly make your heart beat faster. Basic free weight exercises are an absolute must in my training plans. For you too, free weights should come first in the advanced area of ​​training. And together with your sport-appropriate diet, you will gradually achieve visible, measurable and muscular success. Your reflection will thank you and in the workout you will be rewarded with more and more strength.

The training with free weights is aimed at bodybuilders and ambitious athletes. Strength training on equipment is ideal for health and rehabilitation training). Beginners should approach the free weights slowly and sensibly

Have fun in your workout!

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