Ever walk in to a gym and wonder what the heck all these things do or what should you be doing? That is exactly what I do when I look at all the gym equipment. I thought I would explain what my trainer(who thinks I have gone AWOL) has me doing and why.
Machines vs Free Weights
- Machines help you. By that I mean, they help your muscles when lifting so you are not using your muscles to it’s full potential. For example: If you bench press using a machine, it will not really need any assistance from the stabilizers as the machine itself is already supporting your main muscles. Because I do have a bad knee I tend to use the machines for some leg work only because it does help alone. One good advantage is that is you do work out alone, like me, machines are safer to use.
- Free weights use more of your muscle. I find when I use free weights the exercises are a lot harder than if I do them on a machine. Why? Because I am pushing my muscles to the max without any help. Free weights are able to stimulate my muscle fibers better than machines.Free weights support my muscles groups which is why I can’t do very much at a time. I can do a ton more exercises and get a better range of motion as well. I personally use more free weights than machines because I love the feeling I get when I have given it my all.
A lot of people debate which is the best to you. I think it all depends on what your goal is. Free weights are best if you want to build muscle but also help with muscle strength. Decide what is best for you and go there. I do a combo of both since I have an injured knee.
Treadmill vs Elliptical
- Ellipticals are low impact machines. I for one have never liked then and never will but I use them. Since I have a knee injury it’s easier for me to “run” on an elliptical. Ellipticals also work my entire body. By holding on to the moving handlebars my arms flail back and worth like I am ready to take off. One of the nice benefits of an elliptical is that you can go backwards. Why I don’t know, I have never tired it because of the fear of falling off, but it works different muscle groups. Ellipticals do have a variety of pre-programed workouts but I for one haven’t mustered up the courage to try any.
- Treadmills how I love thee. Unfortunately my knee no longer loves the treadmill. They are more of a harder impact machine which my knee hates. I feel I get a better cardio workout when I am on the treadmill. Before my knee injury I would actually attempt to run for like 30 seconds which felt great. Treadmills are great if you are training for a marathon or just enjoy running. I do the treadmill at a fast walk pace that doesn’t seem to bother my knee too much and I love the pre-programs they have. Some are very hard. You can also up the incline, but be careful, you might fall off (don’t ask how I know that).
Remember again, to choose what is best for you. For me it’s the treadmill hands down, but unfortunatly my knee determines which I use and for how long.
My trainer has set up a nice program for me that is not only knee friendly but one that I can see maximum results from. It includes every other day free weight training, and the other days cardio of my choice. You need to give those muscles a rest after using them so alternating is the best. I would love to hear your options on these and what you do at your gym.
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