Many people knock on machines saying they provide no benefit, only wimps use them and that they’re a waste of time. I strongly disagree with this statement.
Sure, if all you use are machines, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunity. You are getting off easier since they are less physically and mentally draining. And you likely aren’t using your training time as efficiently as you could be.
Notice how even in the most extreme case of EXCLUSIVELY using machines, I didn’t say they were 100% useless, that you’re a wimp for using them and that they are a total waste of time? Let’s find out why.
Why Why Why?
Free weights tend to provide more bang for your buck since they develop stability more effectively, activate more muscle groups and they can be programmed better for progress for your goals. However, machines have specific and highly effective roles within training. This makes them NOT useless.
Free weights are usually more challenging than machines. A set of back squats done close to failure puts you in a lot more fatigue and “pain” than a set of the leg press done close to failure. But taking a machine-based exercise close to failure is no easy task either. Chances are, you will feel an immense pump and burn within the muscle.
Since free weights challenge stability, activate more muscle groups and tend to allow for better and quicker progress, they are a better use of your time in a lot of cases. With that being said, machine-based exercises have specific roles where they can be used most effectively, even over free weights.
Machine Training Roles:
The thing that machine-based training has going for it is that it better isolates specific muscle groups and induces less overall recovery demand on our muscles and on the body as a whole. Because of these points, machine training can be programmed as the most effective method for specific objectives within a program.
Machine-based exercises are phenomenal for putting direct and targeted volume on a specific muscle group or muscle group(s), without putting a ton of recovery demand on the body.
It is because of this direct and targeted volume that usually, a lighter weight is all we need. So although machine-based exercises may not provide as many programming options and can’t be trained as heavy as free weights, when used for the objective of applying quality volume to specific muscle groups with minimal recovery demand, machine training is the most effective tool.
When Would We Use Machines?
There are a variety of situations when machine training comes in handy.
The scenario that I most commonly use is during strength training. Most of my strength training time is spent with heavier weights with compound exercises. However, I want to ensure I am maintaining and growing muscle mass as well. Quality volume with minimal recovery demand is perfect to get in the volume I need without taking away from my heavy training.
Are you new to the gym and aren’t comfortable with the big lifts like the squat, bench press and deadlift? While you are working on your competence with those lifts, isolation and machine-based exercises can be a great option for you to still benefit from your training time!
Do you have difficulty feeling a mind-muscle connection? Machines are great for feeling the muscle work since they take care of other factors such as stabilization. This can help to make your sets more effective but also help to develop your overall mind-muscle connection. You can then apply this newly developed mind-muscle connection to your free weight training as well!
That’s All She Wrote:
Totally discrediting machine training is likely doing you a large disservice. I firmly believe that those with the capability should lay the foundation of their training with compound exercises trained as heavy as safely possible and as heavy as is relative to your goals. This does not however mean that machine-based training is useless, as you can tell from this article.
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Until Next Time,
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