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Weight Training with Free Weights vs Machines

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Sometimes when we show people around our gym, they ask us where the weight machines are, so we thought we’d add a bit about Weight Training with Free Weights vs Machines.

At Hangar HPC we believe in the raw power of Strength Training. Our philosophy is simple yet powerful:

We don’t use machines, we build  them!

This motto is not just a catchy phrase; it’s the core of our approach to health and training.

In this article, we’ll explore why free-weights training is at the heart of what we do and how it can transform your training too.

The Benefits of Free Weight Training

  • Core Strength: Free weights do more than just build muscle; they enhance core strength. Unlike machines that often isolate one muscle group, free weights engage multiple muscle groups, including the core. This engagement is crucial for balance and stability, making your workout more effective and functional.
  • Functional Training: Our daily activities rarely involve isolated movements. That’s where the beauty of free weights comes in. They mimic real-life motions, improving not just your strength but also your functional fitness. Whether it’s lifting groceries or playing with your kids, what you do in the gym with free weights translates directly to your everyday life.
  • Training Experience: Free weight training is also about learning and experience, personal growth. It’s about understanding your body, learning balance, and pushing your limits. Free weights allow for a range of motion that’s natural to your body, making your workouts more personalised and effective.

Our Specialist Trainers excel in crafting workouts that suit your individual needs. With free weights, we can easily adjust your routine to match your goals, injuries, age, body type and so on.

Community Aspect: Our gym is more than a place to work out; it’s a community. Using free weights encourages interaction, support, and motivation among members. We cheer each other on, share tips, and celebrate successes together.

Core Strength: The Foundation of Free Weight Training

When it comes to strength training with free weights, one of the most significant benefits is the remarkable improvement in core strength. The core is not just about abs; it’s the foundation that supports your entire body. It includes multiple muscles stabilizing the spine, pelvis, and shoulder girdle, creating a solid base for powerful movements.

  • Engaging the Core in Every Exercise: Unlike machine-based workouts that often target isolated muscle groups, free weight exercises require the engagement of the core in almost every movement. Whether you’re doing squats, deadlifts, or even a bicep curl, your core muscles are at work. They stabilize your body, maintaining balance and posture, which is essential for effective and safe workouts.
  • Working on Anti-Rotation and Stability: Many free weight exercises involve an element of anti-rotation or resisting movement. This means your core is continuously working to keep your body stable and aligned. When you lift free weights, especially unilaterally (one side at a time), your core muscles engage to prevent you from tipping over. This kind of training is excellent for building core stability, which is vital for everyday activities and overall athletic performance.
  • Functional and Dynamic Core Development: Free weights offer a functional approach to core training. The dynamic nature of free weight exercises means that your core isn’t just being trained in a single plane of motion. Instead, it’s being challenged in various ways, mimicking the kind of movements and demands you encounter in real life. This functional training leads to a stronger, more versatile core, helping you with better posture, reduced back pain, and improved performance in sports and daily activities.

By incorporating free weights into your workout regimen, you’re not just building muscle; you’re developing a strong, functional, and dynamic core that supports every aspect of your physical health and fitness.

Understanding the Difference: A Strong Core vs. Visible Abs

A common misconception in fitness is equating visible abs with a strong core, but these are two different concepts.

Visible abs are often a result of low body fat percentage, which makes the abdominal muscles more apparent. This is more about body composition and diet than core strength.  Someone with very little muscle can still reveal their abs if they are lean enough.
Note for girls: For some women, visible abs mean such a low body fat that their body may stop functioning healthily.  Its very hard for women to maintain a healthy relationship with food whilst trying to achieve and maintain a 6-pack with visible abs, as our fertility relies on at least 20% body fat percentage.

On the other hand, a strong core refers to the functional strength and stability of the muscles that surround and support your spine and pelvis. It’s not just about the superficial abs (rectus abdominis), but also the deeper muscles like the transverse abdominis, obliques, and the muscles of the lower back.

While visible abs might be a cosmetic goal for some, a strong core is fundamental for everyone. It contributes to better posture, reduces the risk of back injuries, improves athletic performance, and aids in everyday activities. At Hangar HPC. our focus is on building this functional core strength through free weight exercises that challenge and strengthen your entire core system, not just on achieving a certain aesthetic.

At Hangar HPC we do have some machines however.  Our 8-Station cable machine has all the pulley stations needed for all cable resistance training exercises, and we have 3 leg machines that are the most useful ones we could find: a strongman leg press, a combined curl and leg extension machine, and a hack squat – all from Watson Gym Equipment in Bath.  Most other exercises we perform using our rigs and squat racks, benches and barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells and other resistance equipment.  Whatever gives you most bang for your buck in the gym.

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