by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Variety is essential to fitness success. Maximize your workout. Know the best time for free weights and when to use exercise machines …
Even if we repeat the same fitness program at every workout, each session is unique. Our physical presence is influenced by countless factors, from how much we slept the night prior to what transpired before we walked into the Center. We are influenced by many factors since our last workout. Each affects the upcoming one.
Choose a fitness class based on those factors, whether you need the energy of Zumba® or the full-body stretching of Pilates. Determine how to strength train by considering your current needs, as well. Here’s a guideline:
Best Time for Free Weights
When You’re an Exercise Vet: Dumbbells and all their relatives, including trendy tools like kettlebells, ropes, and balls, allow you to get creative. That assumes you know how. If you’re just starting out on the Exercise Floor, get introduced to the exercise machines to increase strength and familiarity before attempting to grab the iron.
A personal trainer is available to help you any time, including when you’re ready to be introduced to free weights. However, newbies often find building confidence and learning proper form comes easier on the equipment at first pump.
When You Want Better Movement: Free weights are ideal for functional training. The free flow of movements replicates activities performed daily. This helps increase range-of-motion, improve balance, and assure proper lifting beyond the weights. (Think: groceries, little tikes, and that 20-pound bag of mulch in your trunk.)
If functional training is your goal, speak with a personal trainer. S/he can share techniques that focus on safely, efficiently improving movement, whether swinging a golf club or reaching the top shelf of your closet.
When You Want a Full-Body Workout: The self-supporting nature of a free-weight session allows you to work a variety of muscles simultaneously. Secondary or stabilizer muscles, not directly involved in a specific execution, become engaged as they offer support. Free weights can maximize strength training benefits in minimal time by engaging more muscle groups.
Training with weights is great for hectic days when you need more freedom and are advanced enough to multitask your efforts. Muscle-targeted training also helps build weak areas without simultaneously engaging its stronger counterpart muscles, as done through the symmetrical nature of machine use.
Best Time for Exercise Equipment
When You Could Use a Little Support: Newbies aren’t the only ones who need support during strength training. Perhaps you are overcoming a setback or simply fatigued from a long day. The well-placed padding and rest areas on equipment help maintain form and coordination. A fixed path of motion prevents careless or incorrect movements.
When You Want to Focus on Specific Muscle Groups: If your goal is to strengthen your upper or lower body, machines are the perfect method. A personal trainer can direct you to the best machine based on your needs. Strengthening specific muscle groups is often helpful for sport performance training. For example, a swimmer looking to improve the back stroke can benefit from a machine that engages those muscles involved.
When You Want Fast and Simple: You can become quickly familiar with a variety of exercise equipment. This gives you options at each workout, without the set-up and changes required with free weights. You also can increase resistance without enlisting a spotter because there is not a risk of dropping weights.
The Center offers a sophisticated selection of fitness equipment and a large variety of free weights. Combined with the professional guidance of a personal trainer, you can accomplish a balanced workout with either option or both. Experiment to determine what makes you feel comfortable and powerful. Then, work with a trainer to assure the most effective, enjoyable workout using whichever methods you prefer.
“Free Weights or Machines?” by Paige Waehner at about.com.