For years, hardly any topic has been driving the minds of the exercisers in such a way as the discussion around the effectiveness of machine-supported workouts, compared to the training with free weights. Especially when it comes to the effect on muscle hypertrophy, there is a true ice age between the warring camps.

Advocates of the free exercises constantly swear by the power of iron, because even Berend Breitenstein, founder of the "German Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation" used to say "that there is nothing better to build massive muscles than the good old iron". Proved advocates of the use of exercise machines are determined against statements like these and support their argument mainly on the fact that the targeted isolation of individual muscle groups a greater increase in muscle can be achieved. Justifiably, this religious war not only causes insecurity among newcomers to training, because even science of sports has so far failed to provide any unambiguous, universally valid results.

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The supreme discipline of fitness sports

Free exercises, which include the so-called bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups, are not unjustifiably known as the supreme discipline of fitness sports. In particular, complex composite exercises such as squats, deadlifts and power cleansing require a considerable amount of body control due to the large number of involved joints and muscle parts. Furthermore, they guarantee a natural range of motion during the execution, which can be varied by the athlete at any time. Accordingly, the movements of the free exercises are very similar to those of other sports, so that athletes of various disciplines can benefit from it. The reason for this is the improved intermuscular coordination, ie the cooperation of the muscle parts involved, which, in addition to hypertrophy, is chiefly responsible for the increase in strength. Since the dumbbell has to be balanced during the entire movement, free exercises require deeper underlying synergistic auxiliary muscles particularly strong. In addition, when training with free weights, it should be noted that a clean technology has the highest priority, because otherwise inexperienced practitioners threaten painful injuries. In this context, shoulder blemishes such as bursitis or tendinitis, which are mostly due to an unclean design with too high a weight, are particularly common. Inexperienced athletes in particular are advised to have the correct technique demonstrated by a competent trainer and to increase the training weight only when they are 100% fit.

Machines make getting started easier

Above all, beginners will be advised to use exercise machines at the beginning of their studio career, which is often treated with a smile by experienced athletes. But these devices have their raison d'être and are far better than their reputation. Especially newcomers make high-quality devices easier to get into the sport of fitness because they are almost self-explanatory in their use. Furthermore, both the position of the exerciser on the device and the range of motion of the machine is given, so that individual muscle groups are charged isolated. At the same time, the risk of injury due to the guided movement process is considerably reduced. Because of this fact, the machine training is also suitable for rehabilitation after injuries, so that the original level of performance can be recovered gently and promptly. Meanwhile, professional bodybuilders appreciate the benefits of exercise machines. Due to the isolation of the target muscle, this is subjected to maximum load, which not only sets a significant Hypertrophiereiz, but also trains the intramuscular coordination, so the interaction of the muscle fibers. Consequently, it is possible by the use of machines even without training partner, to train with high weights and drive the target muscle to its limit. A popular representative is the leg press, on which the exerciser can reach his limit largely without danger. Furthermore, machine-based training can systematically eliminate optical deficits of individual muscle groups. In this context, for example, the leg extensor to call, especially the inner Quadrizepskopf trained. However, there is no corresponding pattern of movement in everyday life, so that the acquired strength can not be fully exploited.

Free exercises vs. machinery

Since no general statement can be made about which training method is more effective, a detailed consideration of both the objective and the level of experience of a trainee is fundamental. Especially the training with free weights makes it possible to use the body as it was designed by nature, thanks to free movement patterns. In contrast, the freedom of movement of machines is severely limited, which indeed prevents the wrong exercise execution, but at the same time leaves lower auxiliary muscles out. In this case, although the growth or an increase in strength of the target muscle is recorded, but this can lead to postural damage due stunted deep muscles. For those who build an athletic body and want to use the power gained in an active sport, there is no way around free exercises over. Certainly, most bodybuilders are mainly concerned with the look of their bodies and not primarily with their functionality, yet they do not train exclusively on machines, but only supplement their training plan specifically with equipment to eliminate weak points. However, beginners benefit greatly from training on equipment, as this is very safe due to the guided movement and thus build a foundation of strength and basic muscles. After a few weeks, however, it is also advisable to supplement with free exercises, since the lack of auxiliary muscles significantly increases the risk of injury in this case as well. Another advantage of the free exercises compared to the machines is simply the unlimited number of exercises that can be performed with short and long dumbbells. This saves especially time, because at peak times it is not uncommon to have to wait ten minutes before a certain device.

Disagreement in sports science

Considering the heated discussions that have been held on this topic since time immemorial, sports science is also preparing to clarify its findings on the basis of research. Although there are numerous studies, however, these usually lead to completely different results with regard to which training method is more effective. This is due to the fact that the study design is sometimes very different and cross-comparisons are therefore difficult to draw. A study conducted by Oregon State University in 2000 has at least confirmed that free exercise stimulates both the deep muscles and the nervous system to a greater extent than machine-aided training. Furthermore, the increase in the functional performance of the musculature through the complex movement sequences in the context of training with free weights, was attested in 1998 by a scientific analysis. However, a difference between the two training methods, especially in relation to hypertrophy could not be determined until today, even if a study of the University of Saskatchewan in 2008 showed that performing free exercises leads to an increased testosterone release.

There is no way around free exercises

Not least because of the unclear study situation, no clear decision can be made as to which method is the more effective purely in terms of muscle growth. However, the basic thing is that good old iron is the basis of successful training. Machines should only serve as a supplement to the training plan, especially to compensate for muscular deficits. Pure equipment training is only recommended for beginners in the first weeks of their sporting activity. Furthermore, machines have their raison d'être in the context of rehabilitation training, as they enable the person concerned to re-enter the sport after a short time. However, healthy and serious muscle building requires complex exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses.

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