Two weeks ago, a new lad joined the gym. He is already well built, young and has been working out in a gym for 3 years, four days a week. He told me that he has been using machines at his old gym and has never used free weights before.
I have been asked to show him the ropes and work with him to help him progress and understand how free weights work. I will be honest and say that I’m very eager to help him out and it feels good not being the new boy.
Right then, here’s the thing with free weights and machines. Machines don’t require as much as free weights. The machines guide you and isolates your muscle movements, causing a bit of a problem when moving onto free weights. Let's take a bench press for example. On a machine you just have to push, with one arm compensating for the other and in a simple forward movement. With free weights, you have to balance the bar and push equally on both sides, as well as making sure it doesn't twist whilst doing the reps. Free weights bring many more muscle groups into play when bench pressing, one of them being legs.
The new lad looks strong and I guess he could push 60kg on the bench press no sweat, but I was wrong. He jumped on the bench press all eager, but he couldn’t find the sweet spot when lying down and his balance was just all over the place. He managed to rep 45kg, which was looking very uncomfortable for him and he didn’t understand how to take the bar off the stand himself.
We had exactly the same problem with squatting. He just couldn’t get it right and he really struggled with 40kg. Bearing in mind that he does have some strong legs on him, he just doesn’t yet know how to balance and squat correctly.
I’m going to have him working with me for the next few weeks, to show him and teach him the right way to lift. I have told him that I’m also new to the gym and I’m learning myself, but I know what I’m doing with what exercises I do and I’m more than happy to pass that knowledge on.
I’m sure that he will be lifting some heavy weights in just a few months, but as for now, he’s starting from the beginning again.
What I’ve said above is not my opinion, we were talking and he was telling me how much harder free weights are. I am not putting him down at all and machines are good if that’s all you have. It’s just a complete different game if you use free weights.