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Too weak for free weights... do machines count?

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Old 12-08-2014, 03:41 AM   #1
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Default Too weak for free weights... do machines count?

I've seen on fitness blogs how much everyone who is losing weight loves weight lifting, so I've started the gym hoping to do both cardio and weights to get a better bod! But it turns out I can't even lift the BAR to squat

So I'm doing resistance machines at the minute.... 3 times a week, and I'm doing lots so most muscle groups get worked. I was just wondering.... am I going to have similar effects? Or do I need to be doing the free weights? (obviously I realise I'll still have to work up to them regardless, I was just wondering if I should expect to be seeing any improvement.)


(For me... what I was at when I was 117lb
Bust - 97cm; Waist - 71cm; Hips - 93cm; Arms -29cm; Thighs - 52cm; calves - 36cm)

Goal: ~110lb, waist < 64cm! or Happy!!

Last edited by cantgetenoughchoc : 12-08-2014 at 03:43 AM.
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Old 12-08-2014, 02:32 PM   #2
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I had trouble lifting the bar at first to. Does your gym have EZ curl bars? I started off with the 20 lb bar for squats and worked my way up to the bar. Lighter dumbbells for bench press would also help build your strength until you are able to bench the bar. I did the machines for years and never got any stronger. I love free weights!
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Old 12-09-2014, 05:50 PM   #3
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i had good results using the weight machines and in fact, stayed with those because i don't want to risk doing a bad move with free weights and putting my back out again
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Old 12-09-2014, 06:45 PM   #4
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I agree with the suggestion to see if your gym has a lighter bar. I am getting back into "heavy" lifting (heavy for me, anyway!) and in the process, there are definitely some exercises I do where the 45 lbs bar would be too heavy at this point.

Another option is modifying movements with dumbbells. I do this for some moves as I work out at home and can't risk a barbell for some moves without a spotter (like if I did a bench press). For example, you could try weighted squats with 10 lbs dumbbell in each hand, or lighter/heavier weight depending on your current abilities, then work your way up to the barbell.

I also suggest that you check out a written program to follow. This would possibly allow you to progress more quickly than building your own program (unless you have a good exercise education - which you may well have!). Some popular ones are starting strength, stronglifts 5x5, or new rules of weightlifting for men/women.

It's not that you won't see any good progress on machines, but it is my understanding that free weights are often preferred because your range of motion is limited by the machines and therefore you're not getting maximum benefits for the movement you're doing.
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Old 12-09-2014, 08:35 PM   #5
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Have you tried resistance bands? I recently started using them and can't believe how much I enjoy them (the control, the resistance {lol obviously}, etc.). I didn't realize how much benefit I could get from them until someone showed me.
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Old 12-09-2014, 09:43 PM   #6
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Free weights are, in my opinion, the best way to start weightlifting before moving on to machines which go heavier. It's also a lot more difficult to hurt yourself with free weights than machines imo. Can you not use the teeny weeny dumbbells? In fact, I have been lifting for over a year now and still just use the free weights. I will only start using the machines if I get very very serious and - by implication - big.

The only machine I use is the smith machine for squats and sometimes bench. But, again, dumbbells is a safer option for both.

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Old 12-10-2014, 04:19 AM   #7
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I was trying to do the squats with the bar for a long time but my knees aren't so good and I was so worried about dropping the bar, I think I wasn't using enough weights to make a difference. When I decided to try the leg press instead, I actually had sore muscles after, for once.

I still use free weights for most everything else, and dips and lats on the dips thing but instead of bar squats I rotate in machine leg stuff or regular squats with just my body weight. Yes, free weights engage the core better than the machines but if I'm not doing so well with that particular free weight , the machine is going to be better than nothing.

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Old 12-10-2014, 08:31 PM   #8
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To the OP, you are wise to do what you feel safe with and never try to squat with a bar you can't even lift.

There are all sorts of resistance training programs and both free weights and machines (as well as body weight exercises and many other things) are effective.

I personally have hurt myself on machines as my body doesn't fit into the standard gym equipment and it stopped being worth it to me to keep trying to adjust them. I love free weights best because they are safer for me.

If you haven't already, it would be a good idea to have some sessions with a personal trainer before lifting on your own.

The main thing is to know what you are doing with weights as there is a huge potential to do damage.
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Old 12-11-2014, 07:58 AM   #9
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I would say that for things like squats, you don't even need weights. Before you start squatting weight, use no weights. You can add things like dumbbells and then later on just the bar, no added weight.

I'm a fan of body weight exercises and free weights and even as someone who has pushed myself to the limit of free weights, I'm more in the mind now to scale back and get better without weights and then add weights later.
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Old 12-11-2014, 04:15 PM   #10
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I agree with Nelie, you don't need to start off with any weight at all to do squats. My suggestion would be to use a broomstick or something similar across your shoulders in place of the bar. That way, when you do become strong enough for weights, you are already familiar with the balance needed to complete the exercise properly.

In my experience, you can achieve just about the same results from machines as you can from free weights. But with free weights, it's also a balance thing that adds an extra punch.
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Old 12-13-2014, 02:33 AM   #11
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You're going to see lot's of improvement with machines. They work just as good as free weights. They just work differently.

The most important thing to do is to try to do one more repetition at each workout than you did at the last one. And once the repetitions start getting high move up to the next weight on the machine. You'll do great!
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