S trength training can go in two directions depending on the path you choose: it can make you strong and fit or it can make you strong and big. Its purpose is to put your muscles at work and stimulate muscle mass so it starts replacing some of the fat mass in your body. How this training is executed has evolved a lot in the past decades (although the process is pretty much the same), as the market got filled with new machines, and reviewers started the race to find a multi-gym that can fully replace the use of traditional equipment. Yet, some voices argued that since the weight machines only allowed controlled movements, the results may not be as great as with traditional techniques.
This article focuses on analyzing the effects controlled strength training has on the human body. Is it efficient? What muscle groups does it engage? And are reviews accurate when presenting this new technique as the future of strength training and the safest way to get the body of a bodybuilder? Let us proceed.
They usually use a resistance system that is either formed of weight plates, weight stacks, or SpiraFlex plates and a pulley system, so the effect of the weight on the user’s muscles is somehow indirect. More precisely, the trainee doesn’t lift the weights as they would during traditional training. Instead, they use a structure that is pre-defined for a certain type of exercise, which employs the weight plates to oppose resistance. Nevertheless, this still counts as strength training, since the muscles contract to perform the workouts, so home gyms are highly efficient in growing muscle fibers, as this research paper has already proven. They also bring other benefits, so let’s explore them briefly:
This means that you will be able to engage almost all your muscle groups in one session by employing all the workout stations your machine includes. Most models will offer a chest press, an arm press, and a leg developer, but more expensive options also include an EZ bar, a preacher’s curl, or a leg extension post. If you go for a product that uses selectorized weights to oppose resistance, you won’t even need to store weight plates around your room.
There were a lot of discussions around the subject of safety when it comes to weight training since it implies using heavy plates that can cause harm if not used correctly. While there are still voices that argue that traditional Olympic weight training and kettlebell training can be just as safe as machine training if the participants learn and follow the rules, there is no doubt that a mechanism that has in-built safety measures is to be preferred. A study that aimed to find a good way for psychiatric patients to benefit from strength training without being exposed to any risks showed that a machine was regarded as safer both by the caretakers and the patients.
You can start low until you get accustomed to the new routine and add new weight as you become stronger, all without having to upgrade your equipment, which means that machines are the best choice for a beginner since they can offer support through each stage of the evolution. There are plenty of models out there that could challenge professional bodybuilders but which can be used by a novice as well.
A good kettlebell set is often cheaper than a good multi-gym, so the question that arises is if it is worth paying the extra money. And do professional bodybuilders use machines to sculpt their bodies? Some do, and some don’t. Studies did show that free weights have a higher influence over the muscular fibers since the muscles need to contract more to control the movement, but the results weren’t different enough to recommend free weights as an exclusive method to get big muscles. In fact, this research paper from 2017, which analyzed the effects of performing strength exercises with free range of movement versus partial range of movement, showed that the first type was more prone to provoke muscle damage.
Regarding the muscles engaged by the two types of workout, they both focus on the upper body muscles (arm, shoulder, back, and abs) and can provide good training for the lower body muscles as well, although the exercises that can be performed differ from one method to another.
A weight machine will get you all worked out if you know how to use it wisely. It can help you train your biceps and triceps and can be just as efficient when it comes to engaging your arm and back muscles. You will also be able to develop your calves, hamstrings, and glutes with the help of the leg developer and even get rock-solid abs. Here are some of the most efficient exercises you can try for a full-body workout.
This is one of the most popular exercises since the chest press station is offered by all home gym models. Chest presses engage your upper-body muscles and have been proven to be very efficient in boosting cardiovascular health. To perform a chest press, you need first to select the desired resistance level and then take your place on the seat. Use your hands to grasp the handles and start by pushing them to the exterior until your hands are fully extended. After pausing for a moment, bend your elbow and return to the initial position.
Muscles Engaged: pectorals, deltoids, and triceps
This exercise triggers your back muscles, especially your lats. You need these muscles to be developed in order to perform more demanding exercises and lift free weights if you are planning to. To execute this movement, stand with your face toward the machine and grab the pulldown bar with both your hands. Lower the bar towards your upper chest, pause, and then raise it to the initial position.
Muscles Engaged: latissimus dorsi, rear delts, biceps, rhomboids, pecs
By doing leg presses, you will put all your leg muscles at work while developing better mobility in your lower body. This exercise is safe to be performed by everybody, even by individuals with cardiovascular problems, as this study has shown, as long as the resistance level is appropriate. To do a leg press, take your seat at the home gym and place your feet on the platform. Push with your feet until your legs are fully extended. Pause. Then, bend your knees to return to the initial position.
Muscles Engaged: hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, hips, calves, abs
Home gyms are a good pick if you are looking to develop the main muscle groups in your body. They can also help you get bigger with the advantage that you will no longer need the assistance of a spotter. They are safe and provide similar results to free weight training, which is one of the main reasons more people choose them every day. There is one thing you need to keep in mind, nevertheless, before purchasing one of these machines, and this is that the extent of the training they provide is dependent on the number of workout stations they include, thus you should be looking for models that offer at least three to seven stations to be able to reach the best results.