Maximize your workout with free weights
Machines that you'll commonly see in a gym are cable workstations and Smith Presses. Free weights include numerous types of barbells with plates and dumbbells varying in weight. Typically, you'll find beginners without a personal trainer near the machines. This is because machines offer a sense of safety as the weight is controlled and instructions are written on the side. It is a false sense of security as a machine can do more damage than a free weight if used improperly.
Another reason that individuals may stray away from free weights is embarrassment. You'll often find free weights front and center, which means if you mess up, everyone will see. You're going to have to get used to them at some point, and there's no better time than now. In this article, I will discuss three alternatives to machines that will allow you to maximize your workout.
1.) Machine Bench Press vs. Racked Barbell/Dumbbells
The bench press is a perfect exercise that cannot be duplicated by a machine. There are bench press workstations that are made up of an adjustable bench, two handles, and pin selected weight. You can't win with this one. If you attempt a flat bench press, you are depriving yourself of full range of motion. If you go for an incline press, you put most of the work on your shoulders. Stick to a traditional bench and barbell. If you want to mix it up, use dumbbells instead of a barbell. Just stay away from the imposter machine.
2.) Smith Press Squat vs. Racked Barbell Squat
I consider the Smith Press a last resort option when it comes to power movements such as the squat. The problem with the traditional Smith Press is that it does not allow the freedom of movement. It has one stay-the-course direction and this puts your back at risk for injury. Not to mention, you are cheating your legs of the full extension and hypertrophy they deserve. Instead of a Smith Press, use a standard barbell. If you are worried about falling over, try one or two warm-up sets with just the bar to adjust. Some gyms like Elite Edge even have cages which offer the freedom of movement with a barbell and the safety of a Smith Press.
- Butterfly Machine vs. Dumbbell Fly
This is one machine that I refuse to use. Aside from hearing too many horror stories of torn muscles, all you have to do is look at the starting position of the exercise to see the potential injury risk. Your shoulders are pushed into an awkward and unnatural position, placing strain on the surrounding muscles. The butterfly machine is supposed to target your chest but that's the last place you feel it. Do yourself a favor and perform a standard or incline fly using a weight bench and a pair of dumbbells.