When I started working out at the gym, I was told that machines are useless.
Everyone told me to use free weights and focus on compound movements such as squat, bench press, deadlift, etc.
The reasoning behind that advice was simple and convincing.
Since free weight exercises (especially compound movements) activate more muscles at the same time, they’re more efficient and therefore better for building muscle.
But is that really true?
Well, the first part is 100% correct.
Free weight exercises really do activate more muscles than isolation exercises on a machine.
But that doesn’t mean they’re better for building muscle.
In fact, if I had to start all over again as a total beginner, I’d almost exclusively use the machines.
You see, there’s no difference between machines and free weights when it comes to building muscle.
They can both have the same effect.
That’s because the main two factors for building muscle are time under tension and progressive overload.
Time under tension refers to the time your muscles are in contraction.
And the rule for muscle building is that more time under tension equals more muscle growth.
You can increase time under tension significantly if you do every movement slowly and spend more time on the eccentric part of the movement while minimizing pauses between each rep.
Progressive overload, on the other hand, refers to adding more weight (or reps) to your workouts as you progress.
So the basic way of implementing progressive overload in your workout is to add more weight as soon as you hit a certain number of reps and sets.
For example, if you’re benching 100 lbs in 4 sets with 10 reps, you can add 10 or 20 lbs.
The next step would be to add more weight once you’re able to hit 4x10 with 110/120 lbs.
If you’re following those two basic principles, you’re going to build muscle no matter what kind of weights are you using.
Besides that, machines have a great advantage for beginners.
When you’re using machine weights, it’s almost impossible to get injured even without a spotter or personal trainer standing behind you.
So, as a beginner, you can completely rely on machines to build initial strength.
And once you’re comfortable lifting heavy weights, it’s easy to switch to free weights and practice the more complex movements.
That’s how you’re going to build not only muscles, but also your confidence.
And I think that’s the most important factor when you’re starting out.
Stay fit my friend,
Founder & CEO