Free weights or machines?

July 12, 2018 by Len Canter, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Resistance or strength training isn't just for bodybuilders—it's for everyone, and it's essential to combat the natural tendency to lose muscle mass with age.

It also helps prevent and lowers body fat, and cholesterol.

You can strengthen muscles with everything from resistance bands to heavy soup cans. But most people choose between machines or free weights, which include dumbbells, barbells and cuffs that go on wrists and ankles. Factors influencing your decision include personal preference, your current fitness level and your training goals, as well as what equipment is most available to you.

If you're new to (or exercise in general), machines found at the gym are often considered the safer choice. Each one typically targets one muscle group at a time. You might like having the machine guide your range of motion, and you can increase the resistance with the touch of a lever or by moving a pin. You may need to adjust the seat or back position to accommodate your height. All-in-one weight machines with different stations are available for the home, and some styles are very compact.

While some people start with light free weights, others move to weights as they get stronger. They're safe as long as you use proper technique. That takes practice and often more instruction than machines, so you might want assistance from a fitness trainer to get you started.

Remember to be cautious when moving around . A good gym will have a wide variety of bars and plates to accommodate your increasing strength. For home use, a starter set of free weights is often affordable, and you can add to it as you progress.

If money is an issue, try exercises that use your own body weight as resistance, like chin-ups and push-ups.

Remember that proper form and technique are more important than what equipment you use. Always work large muscle groups first, then move to smaller ones. Train at least two days a week, but always with one or two days off between workouts.

More information: The University of Delaware has details on choosing the best weight-training system for you.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Don't count on your chickens counting

May 16, 2017

Clocks and calendars, sports scores and stock-market tickers - our society is saturated with numbers. One of the first things we teach our children is to count, just as we teach them their ABCs. But is this evidence of a ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.