Published July 23, 2023, 7:40 p.m. by Naomi Charles
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I’m sure there'll be some defensive comments on this one...
When it all boils down to it though - whether it's a barbell, dumbbell, cable or machine - these are all simply forms of resistance and one is not inherently "better" across the board for hypertrophy training.
(Note: we're talking strictly about muscle growth here and nothing else.)
They all have their place and it just depends on what specific movement you're performing and what the goal of that movement is.
Muscles only experience tension, and that tension can be created using a variety of different tools.
The pedestalization of free weights and the idea that they must make up the majority of your training is really just an appeal to tradition fallacy of sorts and doesn't have any solid rational basis.
In fact, in a hypothetical scenario where I HAD to choose only one, I'd actually go with machines since the right machine can replicate any free weight lift with equal (or greater) effectiveness whereas the reverse isn't true.
Machines allow you to train in certain positions that are harder (or impossible) to duplicate with barbells and dumbbells, and they also decrease the need for balance/stability so that you can just put 100% focus on hammering the targeted muscle without other outside factors interfering.
In the real world though most people will just use a mix of different tools - my current plan is about 70% machines/cables and 30% free weights.
The one argument I could see in favor of free weights is that since they're a more basic and universal tool, getting well versed with them would be helpful in situations where equipment is limited.
Free weights are also generally going to be the same between gyms whereas machines differ.
So if you know that you currently dumbbell press 100's, barbell curl 90 pounds etc., it's easier to go into an unfamiliar gym and replicate that whereas trying to get accustomed to different machines can be a bit harder.
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