Exercise! - free weights vs. machines




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unpretty
12-02-2011, 02:46 AM
A lot of people have said to me its better to use free weights rather than machines. Do I have to use free weights? For some reason I find machines more fun, and also I feel more safe using them (because I wont accidentally drop the weights on my head).


indiblue
12-02-2011, 03:14 AM
There is a sticky thread on this actually: http://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/weight-resistance-training/60005-machines-vs-free-weights.html

You don't "have" to use free weights... you don't "have" to exercise even :P But free weights are much more beneficial to your muscles and joints. You get more out of free weights than you do machines. Personally, if I am going to spend 45 minutes lifting I would rather maximize the benefit... and get 100% of the benefit of free weights than 60% of the benefit of machines. (These are numbers I totally made up so please don't put any stock into them. My point is that you do get a lot more out of free weights than machines.)

If you are worried about safety, perhaps you could ask a trainer or other gym personnel pointers about free weights. It's worth getting really knowledgable about form and safety before attempting them.

Another thought is bodyweight and resistance bands. You can get a lot of strength training out of just your own body weight and/or bands-- pushups, wall sits, calf raises, etc being just a few of them. Those combine the compound/ergonomic benefits of free weights with some of the safety issues you are concerned with.

Ultimately, if you want to really start lifting properly, you have to move to free weights, not machines. Starting off with bodyweight exercises good be a good bridge towards that.

unpretty
12-02-2011, 03:19 AM
I see :/ well I do have dumbbells at home (proper ones which I can put maybe up to 40 lb of weight on each).

How much should I start on? Keeping in mind that I'm so weak that I look about 160lb even though im only 135 because I'm made of fat.


sontaikle
12-02-2011, 05:45 AM
unpretty, I lift heavy dumbbells, but I started out with free weights. You can get them really cheap at a lot of places if you want to start at home—especially the lighter ones. Try searching online to find stores near you :)

You can start off with 2 or 3lb weights if you feel you need to. I started off at 5lbs, but I had been doing a bit of strength training without weights prior to that point. Once you build up you can move to heavier ones such as 8lb, 10lb and 12lb free weights (and even higher if you wish)

Also, please, you look great! I was 160lbs once at just an inch shorter than you, and trust me you definitely look better than I did then ;)

sacha
12-02-2011, 06:56 AM
I left you a more detailed response in 20-somethings.

There is no reason you should be in the position to 'drop them on your head' - that would mean you are not doing an exercise correctly or are using inappropriate equipment. Power racks/benches/squat racks come equipped with safety pins (despite most men not using them - this is an ego thing and not safe training!) plus catch bars.

As you can see in this image, if he drops this, it will catch & not hit his face:
http://www.eiyc.com/images/partials/partial_bp_front2.jpg

As for being more "fun" well that's probably because you're afraid to use the free weights! Because free weights are much more fun, provide much more range of motion, and allow you to do much more.

I personally detest machines, but that is because I have been lifting for almost 8 years now (eek am I getting that aged?) and I am very familiar with lifting & equipment. I suppose it's fine for a beginner but I also think it teaches bad habits in the beginning when someone could be learning good habits from the start.

Weight machines are somewhat new (more of a 1980's health club trend that continued) and not as effective as free weights can be. Sorry, I am a bit of a lifting snob so I don't want to rant :( LOL

unpretty
12-02-2011, 08:08 AM
Nah you're alright :P so yeah as I said, I already have dumbbells at home and I can put more weight on them or take weight off with those metal disk things. These kind:

http://images.paraorkut.com/img/pics/images/d/dumbbells-13935.jpg

When I used to use them, I started off with 13 lb on each dumbbell and did squats, chest press and shoulder presses. Is it supposed to be basically impossible? I struggled to do more than 5 reps per set, and could only do about 3 sets. And I thought that my muscles were supposed to hurt heaps the next day (doms) but they barely hurt, only when I moved in certain ways.

Also say if I put on muscle mass with weight training, how would I know if I lost fat or not? Because I'm assuming the number on the scale will stay the same and possibly even go up, which could be really discouraging.

sacha
12-02-2011, 08:15 AM
The scale may or may not change. Remember it takes many months, if not years, for women to build any sort of noticeable mass so part of weight training is letting go of the scale obsession. You are a normal weight (heck, you're the same height/weight as me!) so you are much better off going by visuals/measurements then the scale. Letting the scale mess with your mind will only hold you back from long-term success.

If you want to work just with DB's that's fine, here's a decent DB-only routine.
http://www.hotnfit.com/weightlifting/beginnerdb.html

You should be able to squat with far more than what you can shoulder press. Consider the size of your quads/glutes compared to shoulders. Most people should, on average, be able to squat a good 2-3x more than they can press, if not more for women (as our mass distribution in the upper body is much less than men).

DOMS is not always required. I don't even get DOMS anymore. Soreness is not an indication of effective workouts. It is very typical for a new routine but is only temporary.

unpretty
12-02-2011, 08:24 AM
OHHHH, this explains why I was alright with squatting 26lb but struggled so badly to shoulder press the same weight! :dz: and we may be similar weight/height but we look totally different :( So when you say it might take years to build noticeable muscle mass, does that also include noticeable fat loss, or does that come seperately? :S

sacha
12-02-2011, 09:10 AM
OHHHH, this explains why I was alright with squatting 26lb but struggled so badly to shoulder press the same weight! :dz: and we may be similar weight/height but we look totally different :( So when you say it might take years to build noticeable muscle mass, does that also include noticeable fat loss, or does that come seperately? :S

If you eat at maintenance or just a bit below maintenance calories, then you will notice some recomposition within a few months and in a few years, can make quite a difference. As an untrained beginner you can both build muscle and lose fat. Losing fat is easier than building muscle (muscle takes years for women to make any substantial progress). If you keep at it, you will certainly notice differences.

Yes, we look different - now. When I first started weight training at 5'5 (well, I'm 5'4.5) and 137lbs, I looked identical to you (except I had no boobs lol). It took many years of work. You might find this article interesting and it will illustrate why going down to 115 will not fix anything, but staying at 130ish and lifting for years really will make changes:

http://nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/07/21/meet-staci-your-new-powerlifting-super-hero/

unpretty
12-02-2011, 09:36 AM
Thats a great case story. And she's 5'4" like me lol. I want to do that, but I'm too scared that I'll eat too many calories and gain fat not muscle, or that I wont be lifting heavy enough (hence not lose any actual fat). It says that girl ate 3000-4000 calories a day which is obscene, surely I don't have to eat that much? Would 1500 be enough for fat loss/muscle gain?

sacha
12-02-2011, 09:45 AM
Thats a great case story. And she's 5'4" like me lol. I want to do that, but I'm too scared that I'll eat too many calories and gain fat not muscle, or that I wont be lifting heavy enough (hence not lose any actual fat). It says that girl ate 3000-4000 calories a day which is obscene, surely I don't have to eat that much? Would 1500 be enough for fat loss/muscle gain?

Well she is a powerlifter and I suspect she's fudging those numbers a wee bit but 3000 is not unusual (remember she's probably lifting a good 150-200lbs in her compound lifts, not 15lb dumbbells).

1500 is fine for fat loss. Not really for muscle gain, no, but as a beginner you can do both in the beginning. 1500 is a good number for you right now.

sontaikle
12-03-2011, 01:13 AM
Yes, we look different - now. When I first started weight training at 5'5 (well, I'm 5'4.5) and 137lbs, I looked identical to you (except I had no boobs lol). It took many years of work. You might find this article interesting and it will illustrate why going down to 115 will not fix anything, but staying at 130ish and lifting for years really will make changes:


I just have to add that this one one of the reasons why I'm stopping my weight loss around here and focusing on strength training and building muscle. My stomach is flabby and is really my own problem area and I realize that losing more weight isn't probably going to fix it all that much. Instead I'm going to focus on maintaining this weight and adding muscle mass (hopefully you know, getting rid of the fat and building muscle).

I really like feeling strong. I like seeing the muscles in my arms and legs. I like feeling solid. Now to get some of that damn ab muscle!

CherryPie99
12-03-2011, 09:57 AM
I just wanted to add my $0.02 here. I bought a Bowflex machine the week after Xmas last year. I knew NOTHING about weight lifting at the time - other then a lot of people were saying how important it is to strength train - but they were having an AWESOME sale and I scooped it up.

Afterwards, I read all this stuff (not just here but other places) about how free weights are a lot better. But I have to tell you, I LOVE my Bowflex. I use it about 3X per week, and get in such a variety of exercises. I lift anywhere from 10 pounds on some exercises to 170 on things like deadlifts (which I know that 170 on that is not the same as 170 using free weights) so I like having the flexibility of such a difference in weights without having to buy and store a ton of weights.

I have some pretty cut and noticeable biceps and just this week I noticed I can begin to see some pretty serious muscle definition in my triceps when I flex, which is pretty surprising given my start weight and the extra skin I have in that area.

Personally if you are in a gym, I would do both, but if you enjoy the machines more, do the machines!

unpretty
12-05-2011, 05:11 AM
I'm a bit confused about strength training for fat loss- I thought that when you start to strength train, you put on a bit of fat because you eat extra calories (1500 a day or so)? I don't want to put on any fat, and I'm a bit worried I might put some on without realising, maybe because I won't be lifting enough or something. It makes it harder to monitor fat loss because you cant just measure your weight on a scale to determine it.

sacha
12-05-2011, 06:18 AM
I'm a bit confused about strength training for fat loss- I thought that when you start to strength train, you put on a bit of fat because you eat extra calories (1500 a day or so)? I don't want to put on any fat, and I'm a bit worried I might put some on without realising, maybe because I won't be lifting enough or something. It makes it harder to monitor fat loss because you cant just measure your weight on a scale to determine it.

At your size, consistent 1500 calories should provide you fat loss whether you strength train or not. Strength training merely helps in the journey, the diet is what does most of the magic. The reason you lift is to really preserve muscle (and if a beginner, build a little) while losing fat.

Yes, it's harder to monitor. Which is why most women don't do it, and years later, they end up with a lower body weight and yet still unsatisfied with their bodies appearance. Taking up strength training means forgoing the scale obsession that most women go by. I don't know any women who do a proper strength training program, along with a proper diet, and are unhappy with the outcome, wishing they never bothered. None.

The plan will work - what you now need to deal with is whether or not you can mentally commit to it and accept that the scale will not move the same. And it will take time - months, years. Again, why most do not commit to it. But that's because they want short term scale results. Most good things are worth waiting for.

indiblue
12-05-2011, 06:32 AM
I would echo sacha's comments. I think to work on body recomposition through lifting you have to let go of the desire to see day-to-day results, changes on the scale, and stressing over every calorie. It's learning to switch over to maintenance- which sometimes involves a temporary gain of a few pounds as your body readjusts to a bit higher food intake. Like sacha said, it's thinking long-term rather than short-term.

I'm speaking as someone who is going through the same process right now. (While I already lift and have visible muscle definition, I am committing to do more serious strengthening.) I am refocusing my desire to see numbers drop on the scale each day to see real changes in my body. I have stopped overanalyzing every calorie and instead am working on reshaping- not reducing- the body I have. I have stopped calorie counting and caring about daily fluctuations in the scale. It's about letting go and trusting that the long-term process will take care of itself.

Good luck to you!

sacha
12-05-2011, 09:08 AM
Great post indiblue :)

Strength training at a normal healthy weight is basically identical to maintenance in that you don't "see" daily results. You may feel them (feel good, feel 'healthier', more energy, even muscle soreness in the beginning) but you won't see it. I recommend a good front/back/side bikini/undies pose when starting. Now, stay on plan for a full year, take your pics again, and WOW, you will really see it.

With weight loss, you "see" results every day on the scale, whether they are real or not (ie. a 1-2lb weight 'loss' is very likely just water fluctuations). This is what pushes many people through weight loss. You can see in the weight loss support section that people who don't see this change often give up and throw in the towel - even though they can 'feel' daily changes (ie. better nutrition).

This focus on the # at YOUR size is what holds a lot of girls back. Yes, at 300+lbs, seeing weekly/monthly scale weight changes is important, but girl you are NOT overweight! So it's time to brave strength training. Remember that this is for the long term - if you can push yourself to do strength training and stick with it, no matter what the numbers say (I mean obviously if you gain 10-15lbs there's a problem but a 1-2lb fluctuation here & there is no big deal) then you will really thank yourself.

And you will be much better prepared for maintenance. I've maintained for 8 years and trained through 2 pregnancies - believe me, training will help you get through maintenance, which many are sorry to say is actually a lot harder than weight loss.