Using just weights has its advantages. Too much time can be spent on the wrong side of the gym, using only machines and cables. I explain here the reasons for incorporating a majority of weights in your routine. Of course, I acknowledge that machines and cables have their place in most workout programs, but sometimes focusing just on weights can be a big help in breaking that plateau.
Benefits Of Weight Training
When you use weights, a lot more energy is used by your body than if you did the same movement on a machine. This is because some of the support is taken up by the machine, whereas with a free weight your body must stabilise the weight more. With stabilisation, your core is much more incorporated, as well as other muscles.
With this higher volume of exertion on your body, your central nervous system takes more of a beating. This means that your body will respond to this by getting stronger, and fitter, in terms of stamina. The plus side of this means a stronger, fitter, and albeit, more muscular body. In this regard, the advantage of machines becomes apparent – that you can isolate a muscle, and stimulate it without fatiguing yourself too much. Of course, this side of machines is great but do not over-rate it.
Isolating is fundamental when you have achieved your general goals, and you need to start nitpicking. But until then try to see the bigger picture, and do not get too lost in the super fine details. It should also be noted that you can go heavier on weights. The reasons for this are threefold. Firstly, when you start pushing your strength, it is quite difficult to find machines that actually have enough weight on them to push your short-burst and explosive strength. A bare barbell and some weight plates are the easiest way to go about addressing this.
Secondly, machines limit your form. They do this to prevent injury, which is good. But when you start lifting heavy, properly, you need to allow your body to lift in the way that is most natural to it. While some people might bench press, or deadlift, in one way, you might be different, whether it is the positioning of your hands, feet, elbows, or the trajectory of your movement. While injury prevention is fundamental, sometimes an unorthodox form is safer for your body to prevent injury. In this regard, machines do not work.
Lastly, you are limited to the angles that the machine provides for. When doing a chest press, for example, there is a big difference between an incline press and a flat. Generally, this is taken account of in the fact that you get machines specifically designated to either angle. However, when dealing with other movements, like rows, you are very much constrained to the angles assigned to that machine. While I do emphasize not getting caught up on the superfine detail, there is a big difference between a row that hits the bottom of your lats, versus a row that hits the top of your traps – getting these angles is much easier to achieve on free weights.
Using Only Weights
Using just weights is simple. You stay in practically one spot and don’t have to wait for other people to give you the machine. Walking around the gym at peak time is absolute chaos. Sometimes you have to queue for a machine and the amount of time you spend waiting for it you could have completed all your sets in! This time spent waiting means you fatigue quicker. This is because your body is warming up and cooling down over a more extended period of time. Your workout, therefore, becomes less efficient, and less intense.
When you spend the majority of your session in the power rack, however, it is another story. You have no one else to worry about but yourself in that space, you do not have to line up every time you want to change the exercise, and you do not have to quickly change the format of your workout to compensate for the person doing 10 sets in a single movement.
Lastly, there is the aesthetic side to it. Your core gets more incorporated when means better definition on the stomach region. As well as more muscle incorporation. This incorporation of supporting muscles means fuller, more defined, and commonly more symmetrical, muscles. If aesthetics is not your thing, there is still a plus side for you here in terms of strength. A stronger core and stronger supporting muscles mean a stronger body and better lifts.