Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Machines Are Still Okay For Building Muscle

If you've read my past blog entries or articles, you'll know I'm a big fan of using free weights when working out to build muscle. But the thing is, even if you only have access to machines, you can still pack on some muscle size.

Just because you don't have access to free weights doesn't mean you should give up on your muscle building goals. After all, to a point, resistance is resistance, no matter if it's from machines or free weights.

You need to lift progressively heavier weight, over time, if you're going to build muscle. And this can still be done using machines.

Some times, the gym is nuts with a ton of people and you can't get near the free weights and all that's left to use is the machines. Instead of giving up and going home, start cranking out your exercises on the machines.

One reason machines are not as good for building muscle as are free weights is because the machines isolate the muscle too much. When a muscle is isolated, it will not be able to lift as much weight, so the overload is reduced. Less overload to the muscles means less muscle growth as a result.

And machines really isolate the muscle groups, therefore reducing overload to the muscles.

One benefit of using machines over free weights is that machines allow you to just focus on lifting the weight. With dumbbells, you have to struggle and use a lot of energy just to get them in position and ready to lift.

A machine you can just start the lift. You can lock yourself in position and focus all your strength and energy on moving that weight. This will allow you to overload the muscles, since you're able to use more energy on the lifting portion and not trying to get the weights up and ready.

Another benefit of machines is you don't need a spotter. You can hit the point of muscle failure and lift as heavy as possible, without worrying about your safety. The machines have built-in safety mechanisms in place, so you're less likely to injure yourself.

With free weights, it's just you and the weights, so if you get into trouble, you have to dump the weights yourself.

One technique for building muscle on machines is using burn sets. A burn set is when you lift a certain muscle group to failure and then, without resting, get a lighter weight and start doing more reps.

It's called a burn set because your muscles will literally burn with lactic acid build up. They're not something you want to do all the time for building muscle, since you can overtrain if you do too many burn sets. But once in a while, they're helpful for shocking the muscles into more muscle growth.

One other benefit of machines over free weights for building muscle is that of rehab and coming off an injury. Machines offer direct, localized overload to the muscles, without having to worry about stress surges against the muscle. You can go as slow as you need, with as light weight you need, to slowly build back the muscle that was injured.

So, the next time you hear someone say that machines are not useful for gaining muscle, take it with a grain of salt. All overload can help build muscle and machines are just another form of overload.

Include them in your muscle building workout from time to time and you're less likely to get bored any time soon.

If you have any questions about what machines to use or how to set up your workout to use the best exercises, reps, and sets for building muscle, check out my newest program "Muscle Building 101: A Beginners Guide to Weight Lifting and Bodybuilding:

It will cut out the normal learning curve and will help you get right to the basics of building muscle and increasing your strength. If you're new at lifting or just want to get back to the basics of building muscle, you can find more about it here:


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