Weight machines are devices that generally guide the resistance through specific ranges of motion as you exercise. As with free weights, your goals, personal needs, and lifestyle guide your decisions about including specific machines in your weight training program.
Machines include multi-station equipment, such as Bowflex Gyms, which use flexible rods for resistance. Large stand alone machines using cables and pulleys attached to selectorized plates (you place a pin at the weight you want) are typically found in fitness facilities.
Simple lever machines, such as seated calf raise machines, allow you to add loose plates to increase resistance. See Fitness Training Goals
Isokinetic machines are complex. They adjust resistance as you apply more force so that the speed of the movement remains the same throughout the range of motion. These devices are often used for muscle testing and rehabilitation.
Some machines strengthen muscles that are more difficult to exercise with free weights. These machines include lat pulls and trunk rotations. See Arm Exercises Core Strength Exercises
Machines generally emphasize strength in specific muscle groups. They can target specific fitness goals, prevent injuries, or rehabilitate specific muscles. See Strength Fitness
Machines are generally considered to be safer than free weights because they control the range of motion. For fitness facilities, multiple stations can accommodate more people who need little supervision.
Overhead Press on Selectorized Machine (Courtesy of Snap Fitness)
Machines create largely artificial conditions. In real life, activities are typically weight bearing, and require balance, coordination, and other components of fitness that are not as well addressed by weight machines.
For female athletes, transfer of training to sport performance is minimized due to the lack of common elements between movements performed on machines and sport skills. See The Principle of Transfer Sports Training Weightlifting Exercises
Weight machines without adjustable parts sometimes do not accommodate smaller women, making it difficult for them to perform exercises properly.
The Smith machine has become quite popular due to its capability of allowing athletes to closely similate free movements. See Free Weights vs. the Smith Machine for Sports Training
Select machines that contribute to achieving your goals. Most likely, some combination of free weights and machines will allow you to capitalize on the benefits of both.
If you are considering buying home gym equipment, there even more options to consider. While convenient, costs can be high and space can be an issue. Warnings have been issued by the Federal Trade Commission about false claims made about some products.
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