I wrote this in a locally themed forum in response to some discussion about using machines or free weights for resistance training. As is often the case the person who posted the topic hadn’t wanted this discussion, but people wanted to educate her to the proper way to gain strength and form. As is also often the case my response didn’t directly address the topic at hand, was uninteresting, and was more suited to a personal blog post.
I think it’s great to do any exercise routine using whatever tools you feel comfortable with and/or have at your disposal. In terms of time and effect, I think most people I see in gyms would be better served with body weight training, but perhaps they like having a place to go and hang out.
I’m 50 and recovering from injuries due to over-training. I’m thin, “in-shape”, but certain areas of my body are far weaker than the others due to age and the effects of sitting at a desk for 20+ years. At the time of my injury one side of my body reportedly was stronger than the other – out of balance in physiotherapy parlance. I constructed my current training regime on the advice of my physiotherapist and consulting with coaches. I currently spend about 2 – 3 or more hours everyday training.
I spend the majority of this time running, followed very closely by body weight training, then flexibility and weight training.
When I started with weight training I focused entirely with machines. I wanted to take things slow and be cautious. Free weights bring in to play a whole range of muscles which I chose to focus first with simple body weight movements. Yoga moves strengthen stabilizing muscles far better than any machine I have at my disposal. Now as I have spent the past months focusing on technique I spend my time at the gym with the bar, or adding weight to BWM. When doing leg presses with a machine I was moving a tremendous amount of weight. With correct form I was getting a decent workout with little or no weight on the bar with squats. For me, I can instantly feel the difference. Doing a simple squat feels almost like a complete workout for me, and in many ways is the perfect exercise. I started working out at the same time as another group of people. They took it slow and supported each other. Their gains are impressive, with some of the women squatting serious weight. They look great.
I still use machines, one gym provides equipment for a decent hip abduction/adduction set, but most machines I find provide for completely unnatural movements. Natural movements are key to achieve my goals.