269 Aulin Ave Ste 1011, Oviedo, Florida 32765


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Wednesday I wrote how standing is now considered exercise. I also mentioned the four factors that I consider when writing strength & fitness programs for clients. Here they are if you missed it:

  • Standing (mostly)
  • Free weights (body weight is the ultimate free weight)
  • The body is one piece, not individual muscles.
  • Move at different speeds

Over the last 27 years, I have used an array of barbells and dumbbells, numerous leg machines, a host of pulley machines, and a diverse selection of weight-plate loaded machines. I’ve used medicine balls, kettlebells, suspension straps (TRX, gymnastic rings), stability balls, resistance bands, sleds and ropes.


I often get asked, "which is better: free weights or machines?"


You can build strength, endurance, and change the shape of your muscles using both free weights and machines. But, which one is right for you depends on a few different factors.

  • Goals
  • Access
  • Enjoyment


Law of Specificity: you get what you train

A professional bodybuilder or fitness competitor's goal is about having the biggest, well-balanced, ripped physique. This type of training requires lots of volume and muscular fatigue. Machines can be a good choice, since form may start to break down when we push to failure and beyond.

A grandma who wants to be able to lift, carry and move around freely with her grandchildren would probably benefit more from free weights since we can replicate the movements she wants to do: squat, bend, carry, and lift.


Use what you have access to.

The best workout is one you’ll actually do. You’ll get results by showing up and doing the necessary work.

Effort, intensity and consistency matter far more than the "tools in your tool box."



I believe everyone should do some form of strength training 2-4x per week.

I suggest trying a variety of styles using free weights and machines and find what you enjoy the most.


My personal opinion - free weights most of the time


The fact that standing is now exercise tells me our society needs more free, natural movement on a daily basis.

When more movement is part of the equation, I feel it should be done with free weights.


And the first weight we should learn to use is our body - the ultimate free weight!


I like the learning curve that comes with free weights. You are forced to pay attention to the movement. Over time, your body adapts and coordinates the multiple actions that need to take place for smooth, fluid movement.

I think this creates more usable strength, balance and coordination that enhances our daily lives.

There is a hidden benefit in grabbing a pair of dumbbells off of the rack, standing tall, tightening up your glutes and abs, hoisting the dumbbells to your shoulders and pressing them overhead for a prescribed amount of repetitions and then safely getting the weights back to the rack or floor.

Then when it’s time to repeat, you have to bend over, grip the weights firmly, create tension through the body and hoist them back up.

There is a lot of value in getting down on the floor for planks, birddogs, hip bridges, and crawling exercises.

Carries- walking for distance or time with a heavy weight in your hand(s) builds grip strength like nothing else. A strong grip is a sign of vitality and vigor.

There are research studies that conclude grip strength is a predictor of muscular endurance and overall strength. Also, studies have found that a stronger grip correlates with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.


Machines are Valuable tools in your tool box


Just because it’s a good exercise doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Pull ups are fantastic for building upper body strength, but are they for you? Do you have shoulder problems? Are you just getting into fitness? Are you a middle-aged person like me?

I have a threshold on how many pull ups I can do in a training session. When I go over my limit my elbows hurt and a past collarbone injury flares up. So, while I can still do them, I prefer a variety of pull-downs and rowing patterns done on machines.


A good program should never ask you to do something you can’t do pain-free.

Every aspect of fitness and life improves from strength.

You could say, strength training is “everything” training,

The body enjoys moving in a variety of ways, so have fun, experiment and try new things.

As you try new things make sure to add them one at a time. See how it goes for a while, then make a decision about whether it’s useful. If it is not useful, toss it aside and move on.

And remember...

Keep moving,

Coach Dom

At Breakthrough Fitness, we help busy people across Oviedo become STRONGER. HEALTHIER.

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