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Beginner's Guide to Free Weights

Here's how to switch from machines to free weights.

Free weights are great, but they are also kinda scary. Unlike with a machine, you don't have that feeling of safety or support because there isn't anything helping you with the exercise. But free weights are a great tool to help you gain strength and overall fitness. Just to clarify free weights are anything that isn't attached to a support, things like barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells.

Although they may seem daunting at first, free weights can really help. They are super versatile, allowing you to complete many exercises targeting most of the bodies muscles. They also allow you to complete functional movements that can be translated into everyday life!

Staying safe when you use free wights.

It's true that since you have no support, it can be easier to injure yourself whilst using free weights, but you can prevent that. Here are some ways how:

Have a good spotter.

A spotter is someone to assist you when you're lifting heavy weights. They are there to help when you are pushing yourself and might drop the weights.

If you go to the gym with a friend, then get them to help out, although you'll need to make sure they are strong enough to spot. If you go to the gym alone or your friend isn't comfortable spotting the weight then just ask around. Most people will happily help out and it'll only take a minute or two. They gyms staff would also be happy to help if they aren't busy, after all, it keeps them from being bored!

Safety Equipment

For example, if you are working out at home or in a 24-hour gym and no one's around to spot you, then use the safety equipment available. This will most likely be the power rack available. These can be purchased online if you're training at home.

The power rack acts like a cage and normally has adjustable bars, these will catch the weight before it falls on you. They are perfect for training alone as the safety bars can be moved to accommodate many exercises from squats to chest press.

These are available in most gyms, with good gyms having quite a few. Or if training at home you can buy sturdy ones online.

Correct Form

This term is used loads in fitness and refers to the correct way to complete and exercise. So depending on that exercise it can mean different things. However, commonly it refers to keeping your back straight, neck in line with the spine and your stomach muscles tight.

If you're worried about form, you can ask someone you know is more experienced, like gym staff, to have a look at you perform an exercise. Having a personal trainer is also helpful, as they'll always be keeping a watchful eye on your form and posture and let you know if anything's wrong.

Worst case, you can always check videos online, but make sure they form a reliable and experienced source. Then film yourself doing the exercise and compare the two.

So why use them?

You're probably thinking why risk it with the free weights, well, with high risk, comes high reward. Here are some benefits of free weight training explained.

Functional

I mentioned earlier that free weight exercises are functional, but what does that mean?

Functional exercises are ones that will help you outside of the gym. They allow the body to move in all three planes of movement as we do in everyday life. This makes them very beneficial for improving the quality of your life.

Something like a standing DB bicep curl can be translated over to lifting up things like shopping bags, things we do all the time!

Improved Balance

Things links in somewhat to functionality as improved balance can help out in everyday life (A lot less falling over). Because there is nothing fixed down in free weights your body has to work on stabilising itself. So it engages multiple muscles to help.

Not only does your body work more than just the targeted muscles but it also works them in unison. This helps massively with your balance and coordination. A study has shown that those who train with free weights can improve their balance up to twice as fast as those who use resistance machines. 

Get Stronger

Work by the University of Saskatchewan showed that when doing free weight squats activated around 43 percent more of the muscle than smith machine squats. Also, it has been shown that a greater hormone response is made with free weights over resistance machine training. These hormones help with the growth of your muscles.

So free weights can help build stronger muscles faster.

I hope you found this information helpful and it inspires you to try adding some free weights o your workout. If you have any questions about this or my other posts please contact me at [email protected] or visit my website.

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