When it comes to versatility there is no piece of fitness equipment that matches up to free weights. With just a set of weights and a little space, you can perform hundreds of different exercises, targeting all parts of the body.
Mirror real life
Using free weights, you lose the rigidity of resistance machines. This means you can mirror real life movement to a far greater extent, moving the weights across different planes of motion. With a resistance machine, you are limited to the movement of the parts of the machine. With your body, you can twist, bend and stretch, all movements that are an integral part of everyday life.
Yes, free weights will help build muscle, tone your body and help with weight loss but they are also hugely important for general health and well-being. Free weights are the key to developing strong, stable joints and helping your body move efficiently through the demands of everyday life. They also help prevent a decrease in bone density as you get older.
Free weights add stability
Unlike resistance machines, when you are using free weights you are more reliant on your own body for stability and balance. For example, when you are doing a seated press on a machine, your arms can only move up and down, there is no ‘wobble’. If you do the same movement, seated on an exercise ball and using free weights, there is far less stability so your muscles work harder to achieve the same lift. The effort also calls upon the smaller, but highly important muscles that aid our everyday ability to move and balance.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (January 2008,) quotes research by Keith Spennewyn, President of the National Institute of Health Science. Spennewyn investigated the differences in strength and balance outcomes in participants using free weights vs. resistance-training machines. The results of the study indicated that individuals who performed free-weight exercises had a 58 percent greater strength increase than individuals who performed exercises on resistance-training machines.
Free weights also help with weight management. Free weights engage a greater amount of muscle mass to perform an exercise, due to the increased demand of maintaining balance and stability. This in turn burns a greater number of calories than performing similar exercises on a resistance machine.
Convinced but not sure how to go about developing a free weights programme?
The first thing is to talk to a professional. Make an appointment with a personal trainer or fitness specialist who will show you proper form, explain the basics, and set up a weekly programme tailored to your needs. If you are already working with weights and have a good level of fitness but want to move to a new level of fitness, then these professionals can explain how to overload the body so you keep achieving strength and endurance gains.
Here are some basic rules for when you get started:
• Start slowly. This will decrease your chance of injury and soreness.
• Start with single sets and work your way up to multiple sets.
• Use the correct weight amount. Using too much weight will increase your chance of injury because your form will suffer. Vice versa, by not using enough weight your muscles will not be challenged and you won’t experience the desired benefits of weight training. How do you know you are lifting the correct amount of weight? It should be hard to perform the last few repetitions without comprising your form.
• Give your muscles time to rest and recovery. You should wait at least 48 hours before you train the same muscle group once again.
There are so many benefits to following a well-structured free weights programme but too many of us are wary of taking the first steps. Come along to the Outlooks Gym or the Free Weights Gym at Kelsey Kerridge and we will help you discover a whole new way of training.