Written by Onfit Tutor Rob Gardener
There has always been debate as to what exercises beginners should and shouldn’t do when it comes to resistance training and why. Body weight, machines, or free weights, which ones should be used?
I will give you a little food for thought with regards to machine exercises and a complete beginner client. We know that body weight and machine exercises are recommended for beginners over 16 years of age. Is there one which is better than the other? The true answer is no, both are great for beginners and both have advantages and disadvantages. As good place to start is the advantages and reasons for choosing machine exercises for beginners.
Machine Weight Exercises
Machine weight exercises are of great benefit to beginners who have no experience in the gym or training in general. There are a few different reasons why these would be preferable over free weights and to a lesser extent body weight. Beginners who are just starting out will need to develop not only the muscles to perform certain exercises, but also the coordination for that exercise. In order to develop the coordination to complete certain exercises neural adaptations will need to take place. These adaptations are greatest within the first 4 weeks of training and this period is crucial to reinforce correct technique and motor patterns.
Since beginners need to develop this muscular control, the best way to help with this is to use fixed plane machines where lesser recruitment of stabiliser muscles is required of the client. This helps the client develop the neural patterns required to perform the exercise whilst also increasing muscular strength and minimising the variability with stabiliser muscles. This also helps the trainer when teaching correct technique as this reduces the amount of variables in the motor pattern, allowing for minimal adjustments needed to get a client into the correct posture for an exercise. Not to mention, the client will feel more successful.
Free Weight Exercises
When using free weights, stabiliser muscles are heavily recruited to ensure the safe plane of motion for that particular exercise. If the stabiliser muscles aren’t accustomed to the motion their strength will cause deviations from the desired plane of motion potentially causing harm to the muscles, ligaments and tendons. With resistance training using machines the stabiliser muscles (whilst not heavily recruited) will still be used and gain strength benefits which will aid in the development of the motor pattern allowing the addition of free weight exercises as their strength increases.
Once this initial training on machines has been completed and technique is impeccable, free weights can be incorporated as the motor pattern is already set and the client’s muscles are trained to a point where stability can be maintained throughout the movement.
These benefits are definitely something worth considering when prescribing exercises to beginner clients.
For further information, the following resources indicate the importance of having a good base level of strength and coordination before moving into free weights due to the increase muscular demands with free weights.