Alternatives to Free Weights?
Have you ever gone to the gym and the place is just packed like a can of sardines? It feels like everyone in the world decided to hit the gym that day and at your detriment, you can’t find a single area open in the free weight section. The benches are mobbed, the squat racks are full, and every dumbbell is missing from the rack and currently being used, and you are left standing there looking like a lost puppy. To avid gym goers, this is a scene of horror.
If you train religiously, then unfortunately it’s something that’s bound to happen at one point or another, especially at the beginning of a new year. But, does that mean you should just throw your hands up and just head home? Absolutely not. It’s just an opportunity for you to discover some other possibilities that are open to you at your particular training facility.
The Top Gym Machines for You to Try
If you don’t have a home gym to rely on as a back up, and the gym is so packed that you can’t use any of the free weights, then why not try some of the machines that you have never tried before? We’ve got a list of gym machines that are sure to help you out while you’re waiting for a bench press or possibly even supplement the exercise entirely.
Let’s break it down.
Horizontal Chest Press
If you can’t bench press then why not use the machine that attacks the same muscle groups in a similar manner. The horizontal chest press simulates the bench press pretty handily and will give you a great muscle pump. The chest press isolates the muscle group and can guarantee that your pecs will get an awesome workout.
Lat Pull Down
Need to work your back, but someone is hogging a barbell? No worries. You have the lat pull down machine to supplement your rowing exercises. If you want to get a really great back workout then try hitting the machine after performing some wide grip pull ups. It’ll put your back, particularly your lats, under some great tension for growth.
Is the squat rack full? No problem. The leg press is great machine that will give your legs, from calves to quads to hamstrings, an awesome burn. The movement simulates the squat rather well and has even proven to give bodybuilders even more leg development than doing free squats. Even Dorian Yates, who was a 6x Mr. Olympia winner known for his insane mass used the machine for his leg development, so you can’t go wrong with this one.
Pec “Deck” Flye
This is another great machine for your pecs that can give you some great chest development. Much like dumbbell or cable flyes, this machine will ultimately give your chest some excellent size and striations. Like most machines, the pec deck will isolate the muscle group which will ensure some great hypertrophy for your chest.
Cable stacks are one of the most versatile gym machines you can use to complete your workouts. You can do virtually anything on the cables, and they can be a great substitute for your free weight exercises. There are a multitude of attachments you can use for the cables, like ropes, straight bars, d-handles, you name it. The cable stacks can be great for arm exercises like bicep curls or tricep pushdowns. It also can be great for things like pullovers, rows, rear delt flies, or lateral raises. There also are ways to set up some leg exercises on the cable stacks, such as cable RDLs.
Overall, the cables are one of the best gym machines you can use because of the variety they can bring to your workouts.
Benefits of Gym Machines
Aside from machines offering an alternative to free weights when the gym is packed, what other benefits do they provide? Gym machines can actually provide a large amount of benefits to strength, hypertrophy, and overall lifting benefits. Let’s dive in.
Strength Benefits of Gym Machines
When it comes to compound lifts like barbell squats or bench press, there are a variety of stabilizing muscles being worked alongside your targeted muscle groups. For example, with barbell squats even though you are targeting your legs, your lower back and core are still being stressed. When bench pressing, even though you are targeting the chest, the core is being stressed as well as the shoulders.
With gym machines like the leg press or chest press, the stabilization aspect that comes from the core strength is virtually removed and the targeted muscles have a larger emphasis placed on them. Due to the increased isolation on each muscle group, strength increase can come from within these muscle groups. With gym machines you may not develop the strength needed to carry things in the real world, but your targeted muscle groups will become stronger. This can also carry over to your free weight lifts. For example, if your triceps get stronger, it can help out with movements such as your bench press or overhead press. That is one example of many.
Hypertrophy Benefits of Gym Machines
Look at some of the biggest, most shredded bodybuilders in history like Ronnie Coleman, Nick Walker, or just about any Mr. Olympia winner; they utilize gym machines like there’s no tomorrow. Sure, the barbell lifts are awesome for overall strength and size, and you shouldn’t completely rule them out, but the gym machines help fine tune the muscles.
As stated before, the gym machines take away the stabilizing muscles on exercises, allowing for more emphasis on the targeted muscle groups. When you are able to place more stress on the desired muscles you want to hit, the more they will grow.
Overall Benefits of Gym Machines
While the ability to increase strength and hypertrophy certainly are good, there are more benefits that involve just sheer convenience and variety. For example, you can incorporate drop-sets much easier on a cable stack than with free weights. That being said, you also can add or subtract weight much easier on gym machines, a lot of times with just the movement of a pin or lever. You do not have put plates on or take them off as much, or switch out your dumbbells; you can simply move the piece that adds or subtracts the weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have provided a lot of information on gym machines, but you may still have some questions. Let’s take a look.
Are gym machines better than free weights?
Free weights or machines, which is better? Each option provides their own benefits. The free weight exercises will tend to provide more “real-world” strength as they recruit more than just the targeted groups of muscles, and this can be translated to tasks like moving things or carrying objects around.
In the flip side, the gym machines provide more isolation to the muscles. They each provide a large list of benefits, so one really is not better than the other. It is a matter of finding both!
Should I only use gym machines?
While everything depends on your goals, do not be afraid to incorporate free weight lifts as well as machines. It is always good to have variety in your workouts. Developing overall strength as well as hypertrophy can be done through a variety of exercises and equipment. You do not have to limit yourself!
Gym Machines Wrap Up
Overall, gym machines are something that can be used to add to your training, whether that be due to you wanting to stray away from free weights or simply because the gym is too crowded. There are benefits to both free weights and machines, so find what works best for you. This list was compiled of what we find to be the most beneficial!