Which Is Better For Building Lean Muscle: Machines Or Free Weights? by Shawn Lebrun
Want to know the Million Dollar question I get asked probably more than any other?
Which is better for building muscle: Machines or Free Weights?
Well, first of all, overloading the muscle with heavy weight -- whatever the type of equipment you use -- is what promotes muscle growth. Any exercise that limits overload is not a good choice.
However, in most cases, it's much more effective, and more efficient, to overload the muscle with dumbbells and barbells.
Most machines are very inefficient and not nearly as effective at muscle stimulation as free weight compound exercises. That's because they limit the amount of overload you can achieve. Less overload... less muscle fiber recruitment and less muscle growth as a result.
Sticking with basic free weight exercises enables you to handle maximum overload and use natural biomechanics as you perform the movements. Machines restrict your natural movements, again, making them less effective for building muscle.
Now, if I had to use a machine for resistance training, it'd probably be Hammer Strength machines. Hammer Strength is a company that recognizes that humans do not lift weights in a perfectly straight line. The range of motion of Hammer Strength equipment generally follows the natural arc of our own force curve.
And the thing is, you can probably lift more weight on Hammer Strength equipment than a free weight barbell. And it makes sense why. The machines help you out by balancing and stabilizing the majority of the weight for you. This makes it easier to lift more weight. But it's not an advantage. Muscle fiber recruitment will always be less than if a free weight were used.
Even though the absolute poundage is greater on a machine, the actual overload on the muscle is greater with free weights because you're responsible for balancing and stabilizing all the weight yourself. This, along with an increased range of motion, is why free weights are better for more muscle fiber recruitment and maximum stimulation.
Bottom line, good old-fashioned free weights are the number one selection for building muscle!
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