There are so many options that are in the gym to get the most out of your cardio or strength sessions. Gym equipment such as strength machines, free weights and resistance bands are at your disposal to help you perform different exercises. However, do you know what to choose each time to make your training the most effective it can be? We will help you learn how to make the best choice for your development.
When you start in the gym you have machines at the gym, as well as complementary equipment, that can increase the efficiency of your work. In both cases, they are tools at your fingertips, which you can include in your routines to achieve a more varied and also more precise training. Just because you see a machine to use for your exercise, it does not mean that this is the best equipment for your development at that time.
When choosing to train with machines or accessories, it is important to know the function that each one of them fulfils, and to use them only when they are really necessary. Personal trainers insist that it is not advisable to abuse these types of elements (especially machines). This is because it is our own body that must exert itself in the exercise, by its own means, although a ‘help’ is welcome. This help is great for certain things but should not be relied upon heavily.
Choosing the best gym equipment for your needs in a training session
First of all, we must insist that before using a machine or a gym accessory you must know what it is for and how it is used correctly. All commercial gym equipment has been designed for a specific purpose that you need to keep in mind.
In general, strength training machines are designed to perform limited movements, which follow a perfectly defined trajectory to accurately work certain muscles or muscle groups: pectorals, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, deltoids and more. In addition, they are a good option if the objective is working with high loads safely. There are more reasons to consider using machines in the gym, but again it is important to note that it shouldn’t be the only thing you use.
On the other hand, alternative gym equipment accessories can be an excellent choice to carry out functional training, that is more ‘free’ and based on our own movements. Some, such as resistance bands, are designed to add greater resistance to basic exercises such as arm or leg extensions. Other equipment like exercise balls are excellent for working on balance and strengthening the core. These are all good at adding difficulty and resistance to exercises while maintaining muscle engagement without machine support.
What is the ideal balance when using gym equipment?
The machines and complementary materials ‘coexist’ in the gym and the ideal is to alternate training sessions in which you use one or the other. With the gym machines, you will focus on a specific area of your body. With the accessories, if you perform a specific and isolated exercise, the rest of the muscle groups will always intervene.
The classic argument of free weight vs machines often comes up with many exercises such as the bicep curl. Each version has their own weaknesses that can be dependent on the person doing the exercise. However, most times you will find that balancing both out in a structured program will yield the best results for variety and performance. Try both, test your own experience.
Examples for when to use certain gym equipment over another
To give you an idea of when to opt for specific gym equipment for exercises based on your fitness and goals, here are some examples:
- If you are starting out in strength training and want to improve your overall muscle tone relatively quickly, machines are a good choice. They will allow you to feel supported as you improve in your journey from skinny to muscular.
- If you need to improve the execution technique of an exercise, it is preferable to opt for complementary materials. Because many gym machines do most of the work, it makes you rely too much on the machine for the movement. If you want to learn, for example, how to do the deadlift, the better practice comes with a simple barbell and not on a machine.
- Whenever you opt for a functional training, which is enhancing your own natural movements by working the body as a whole, choose complementary accessories to achieve your goals. Most things like free weights allow you to be less restricted in your movements as you add resistance
- When you want to increase the weight you usually train with, doing it first on a machine is always safer when it comes to preventing injuries. A good example of this is doing exercises on cables vs free weights in the beginning. The cables provide more support in the control on your movement as you adapt to the load.
- If you notice some stagnation in your sessions or a lack of motivation, trying to do the same exercises you normally do but with a new accessory can help. This will add for you a greater difficulty and a new challenge to can reinvigorate your time in the gym.
Give some of these suggestions a try
These are all merely suggestions that you do not have to follow, however they have worked for many people who have tried them. At the end of the day it is important to use what you are comfortable with as well as what works best for you. If you are new or returning from injury, it is advised to get a personal trainer to help make these choices for you as you adapt.
Make sure you give everything a go before you decide on what to use, as you may miss the best way to complete the exercise. Try the different gym equipment out now and make your workouts better!