Whether you see some gym motivational videos or pro-bodybuilders training at the gym, we usually see them grinding on weight training machines more often.
While many weight-training enthusiasts can be seen mocking the machines for not being the most effective way for strength building and gaining muscle size but on other hand we see many elite bodybuilders devoting most of their time to those gym machines.
Free weights haven’t changed much in the last 50 years, dumbbells and barbells are still the same. But machines have been constantly evolving to be more effective while providing greater safety.
Ahead in this article, we are going to decode the reasons for bodybuilder’s love for weight-training machines.
Why Bodybuilders Loves Machines
From my perspective, both the machines and free-weight are good and it’s ridiculous to mock the effectiveness of machines, instead, you should be concentrating on squeezing the benefits of both.
Machines and free weights both have their own set of benefits, and we are going to discuss the top reasons bodybuilders love to train with machines.
1- Better Muscle Isolation
Muscle isolation is something every bodybuilder prefers over anything.
Technological advancements and a better understanding of the body’s biomechanics allow machines to offer better muscle isolation benefits.
With free-weight training, balancing the weight and controlling the movement requires the activation of stabilizer muscle groups.
Machines have made the muscle isolation process easier by eliminating the role of stabilizer muscle groups and allowing the lifter to focus only on the target muscle group.
2- Prevents Injuries
When you train with free weights, injuries are inevitable.
Machines on the other hand offer a high degree of built-in safety. Although they are not 100% safe either but machines offer far better safety.
Bodybuilders prefer to train with machines because it lowers the chances of serious injury, they don’t need to worry about losing control or any sudden jerks.
A bad injury may cost a whole bodybuilding career which makes the bodybuilders too conscious about injury prevention.
3- Proper Form And Alignment
Many people think that bodybuilders don’t need any assistance when it comes to proper form and body alignment, that’s not very true.
Bodybuilders have deep knowledge of form and techniques but when you are trying to push yourself for those extra 2-3 reps then even a professional can mess up with the form and technique.
Machines are designed to move in a fixed path of movement which allows bodybuilders the liberty to concentrate on movement.
4- Push Through The Limits
Free weights are good for progressive overload and to develop absolute strength but some training patterns can be difficult to perform with free weights.
Bodybuilders are involved in a wide range of training patterns, they follow, progressive overload, supersets, drop sets, giant sets, pyramid style training, etc.
For example: machines make the drop set training a lot easier than ever before, switch between different weights can be done in a matter of seconds.
In addition to lifting the weight with proper form and technique, free weight training requires the lifter to balance and control the weight.
Machines are designed to move in a predetermined path which terminates the need for weight balancing and allows the lifter to focus on the mind-muscle connection.
Some people might argue that free weight allows functional strength and superior relative strength. We agree with your point but bodybuilders train for muscle definition and hypertrophy; strength-building is not the primary focus.
5- Continuous Tension
Putting muscles under stress and tension makes them grow bigger and stronger, we all know that.
Training with machines offers continuous resistance throughout the range of motion which makes them a better workout partner.
Example 1: Imagine that you are doing dumbbell flys, at what position do you feel the maximum resistance? At the bottom, right? And the resistance goes down as you move the dumbbells up.
It happens because free weights are destined to move in a single direction (gravity’s direction).
On the other hand, doing pec flys has a totally different impact on the chest, muscles feel the same level of resistance throughout the range of motion.
Example 2: Doing dumbbell bicep curls on a preacher bench offers maximum tension only till the halfway but you lose the contraction as soon as you bring the weight to a fully flexed position.
Similarly, doing the same exercise on a preacher curl machine offers max contraction throughout the range of motion.
6- Reduced Stress on Joints
Free weights require a lot of stabilization which requires the joints to go through tremendous amounts of wear and tear.
Machines offer proper biomechanics and predetermined movements which allows them to reduce the pressure from joints.
Every bodybuilder has his weak point and experiences some kind of soreness, training with machines allows them to isolate the targeted body part and avoid pressure on the sore body part to facilitate faster recovery.
7- No Need Of Spotter
Machines are built to terminate the need for spotters, which makes them a better choice especially when you are training alone.
When Do Bodybuilders Use Free Weights?
As we have already discussed the various reasons behind bodybuilder’s love for machines, it’s important to understand that they don’t rely 100% on machines.
Strategic use of free weight should be learned from bodybuilders.
- Bodybuilders usually train free weights at the beginning of their training session to keep up with the strength gains and muscle size.
- Bodybuilders prefer free weight training in their bulking phase, it’s a period when they train for size and strength.
Benefits Of Free Weights
Since we have discussed the benefits of training with machines and why elite bodybuilders prefer to train with machines, it gets important to understand the role of free-weight training in bodybuilding.
1- Gain absolute strength
Most of the bodybuilders who can be seen grinding on sophisticated machines now have used free-weight to get to the level of strength they are on now.
Training with free weights improves muscle coordination to exert force in symmetry.
Machines’ chest presses will never be able to match the benefits of raw bench press.
2- Gain size
The basic requirement to grow bigger:
- Fee your body enough food
- Lift heavy ass weights.
Do you think Dorian Yates built that massive back with the help of some machines? NO. He gained that massive muscle size with heavy deadlifts, barbell rows, and shrugs.
Tom Platz, also known as ‘The Quadfather’, is known for his massive legs. Do you think he crafted those massive but beautiful quads with the help of leg presses or leg extensions? NO.
3- Growth hormone secretion
Lifting heavy weights elevates levels of anabolic hormones—specifically testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)—which are used to repair muscle fibers damaged during exercise.
4- Functional capabilities
Training free weights improves the functional strength of lifters. Functional movements are movements based on real-world situational biomechanics.
Functional movements involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements.
Basically, training with free weights allows you to perform daily tasks in a better way.
5- Strengthen the joints
As we talked about the benefits of machine training are to reduce the tension on joints but they also leave them untrained.
Most bodybuilders have trained with free weights in their initial training years and already have strong joints.
Any average lifter should never neglect the importance of free weights in their strength training routine.