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Free Weights vs Machines

In the beginning there were only free weights. Dank, sweat-smelling, ill-lit, unattractive rooms filled with racks of free weights, benches and rubber tile floors.

The closest thing to a machine was a crude pulley-and-cable arrangement for latissimus dorsi work.

Then someone had the bright idea that a better utilization of space would be to have a multi-station set-up surrounding a central stack of weights.

This caught on in hotel and corporate fitness rooms that had limited space.

Other companies in the gym equipment business came up with designs of plate-loading machines, then those with integrated weight stacks.

Along came Arthur Jones and Nautilus; eccentric cam, variable resistance, efficient machines.

Today, the modern fitness center has both free weights and a horde of machines of assorted sizes, shapes and colors, each with a specific fitness function.

The serious bodybuilders and old-timey weightlifters gravitate to the free weight area. Modern fitness buffs use the machines. Some people use both.

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Since the advent of the machine age there has been a controversy; which is better for working out, free weights or machines? There are advantages to both and both are effective tools for fitness and bodybuilding.

Free Weights The term free weights is used to indicate bars of varying lengths onto which are loaded plates of metal, rubberized metal or plastic coated metal of different poundage. The plates may be changed.

The weights are employed using racks and benches with which are performed a multitude of exercises.

Free weights have been around for as long as people have been working out to build strength for war, athletic contests and fitness. Free weights are effective as a bodybuilding tool.

Weightlifting contests, both Olympic and Power Lifting, use free weights, usually what is known as an "Olympic Set." This is a long, rigid bar with large diameter, rotating collars at each end.

The plates are cast iron with a large center hole that matches the ends of the bar. The plates are held in place with screwed down collars.

Machines Resistance training machines are of two types; simple weight loaded ones or more elaborate set-ups with an integrated weight stack.

There are a number of manufacturers of these and most of them appear to be sturdy and well made.

Most of the machines are for single exercise, though some, like lat machines and cable-pulley machines, can be used for multiple exercises.

Nautilus machines, conceived by Arthur Jones, utilize a eccentric cam to provide a variable resistance during the full range of muscle and joint movement.

Nautilus is injury preventive and many professional athletic teams use the full range of their machines.

A number of other manufacturers have attempted to copy the Nautilus principle, but Jones was smart enough to patent his cam designs and machines.

It is possible to perform resistance and strength training with either (or both) free weights and machines.

Users of free weights are more injury prone, however, because they have to both balance and move the weights through the range of movement of the muscle and exercise.

When working out with heavy free weights it is wise to have a spotter or workout partner to provide assistance with sticking points or to enable you to get those extra few reps.

Machines do not require any balancing act to complete the exercises, but they are subject to much more wear-and-tear and require a lot of maintenance.

Machines like Nautilus are designed so that you can do heavy work without a spotter.

Free weights or machines, it doesn't matter. Properly used they can both be effective for power-lifting and bodybuilding, as well as general fitness.


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