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Freeweights or Machines?

When it comes to chaning the shape of your body, the old-fashioned way is not only the cheapest, but I believe still the best.

You don’t have to spend $1,500 on the latest machine to change the shape of your body.

In fact, all you need to make dramatic changes to your body is a standard weight bench, a set of adjustable dumbbells and a barbell.You will be amazed at what you can do with this basic set of equipment in your home. In fact, if you had nothing else, you could reshape your body in a surprisingly short period of time.

But many people, especially women, are either intimidated by free weights or simply prefer to use machines. I don’t have a problem with machines, especially if you are working out alone. Machines also eliminate the need for a “spotter” – someone who is there to help you with the final few reps of your set to ensure that you don’t drop the weight on yourself.

When we talk about machines, there are two basic categories. There are the all-inclusive machines like a Bowflex or Soloflex, each of which is designed to perform a wide range of exercises to provide a full-body workout. Multi-station home gyms also would fall into this category.

The other category would be the individual, stand-alone machines you would find in a gym. These machines are designed to target a single muscle group, like the pec deck for the chest. To put together a group of these machines in your home would be very expensive and take up a tremendous amount of space.

So which should you use, freeweights or machines?

There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. If using a machine will get you started on a fitness program, then that’s what you should use. But if you have nothing more than a bench and some dumbbells, you have everything you need to get started.

Also keep this in mind: Every machine is designed to replicate a freeweight exercise. For example, the standard biceps curl with a barbell or pair of dumbbells is replicated in a variety of ways by machines – some better than others. Ultimately, you have to decide which you feel gives you the best workout.

I believe freeweights have several inherent advantages over machines.

Machines can sometimes eliminate or reduce your range of motion because the bar is often restricted to a single “track” that does not allow for movement. That’s why many people feel they get a better workout from freeweights.

I believe freeweights offer another big advantage. Freeweights force ancillary muscle groups into action in order to balance and support the weight of the bar or dumbbell. These “stabilizer” muscle groups not only make you stronger, but add a finished look to your body.

An example would be riding a bicycle. There is nothing wrong with riding a stationary bike, but when you ride a real bicycle on the road, you have to use additional muscles in order to balance your body, steer and keep the bike upright.

That’s why many people prefer dumbbells even to a barbell workout. By forcing each arm to work independently, you can’t “cheat” with your stronger side. And because they are not attached to a bar, dumbbells offer the greatest range of motion.

If you prefer a machine, go for it. But if you don’t have a thousand dollars or more to invest in a piece of equipment, find yourself a simple bench, some dumbbells and a barbell. You will be surprised at how fast you can change the shape of your body.

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