Dumbells/Bench vs. Weight Machines

  • Yesterday was Day 2 for me and I completed my upper body workout.  I joined the gym on Monday.  I have been a member of a gym in the past but only for treadmills/elipticals.  I am sooo uneducated on weights.  I started with dumbells and the bench, and I was very uncomfortable.  I just felt like my form was off or I was going to drop something.  Not to mention it was somewhat crowded.  So I moved over to the weight machines and found that most of the machine names were my workout names on my sheet.  I was VERY comfortable doing those!  So my question....do dumbells and bars HAVE to be used?  Or can the machines take their place if they are doing the same thing.  For instance, Instead of doing a bench press, I moved to the press machine.  Any suggestions?

    Thanks Guys!


  • Really, you should think of machines as "supplements". So, you really want to stick to free weights. Practice really does make perfect. You have to do exercises a few times to get the form down and feel it working the muscle(s) correctly.

    I'd suggest doing a bit lighter weights to start out, just in order for you to get your form down. From there, increase the weights according to your strength and intensity levels.

    When I say machines are supplemental i'll give you an example. Say for instance i'm doing squats. Well i'll do 12 reps, increase the weight then 10 reps, etc...all the way down to 6 reps. Then i'll drop the weight by 10% and bust out 12 reps. THEN, immediately after I will go to the leg extension machine and but out a hard earned 12 reps. This machine is what delivers the "pump" to really engorge your muscles with blood and help expand muscle fibers, leaving you with lean muscle mass.

    Hope this makes sense.

  • I totally agree with Jarhead.  Getting used to the feel of the dumbbells and to concentrate on the feel of the muscles being worked is priority especially if you've never trained with weights.  Focus on form these first couple of weeks and then you'll get more comfortable.  Here is a great link to various exercises and the proper form for doing them.


    There are title choices off the the left side that will get you to the exercise videos.

    Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right ~ Henry Ford

    Michelle Simpson ~2009 Body-for-LIFE Champion 46+ Catagory

  • Thank you Michelle for posting that link!  What a great site!  I'm in week 12, and wish I would have found it sooner, but I'm continuing so thank you!!

    Karol :)

  • Indeed. That is good information CHAMP! ;)

  • Glad to help. :)

    Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right ~ Henry Ford

    Michelle Simpson ~2009 Body-for-LIFE Champion 46+ Catagory

  • I feel like a bit of a dope asking this but with dumbell exercises when people talk about the weight is that combined or each?? sorry for the stupid question in advance :)

    Upward and onward. It can only get better!

  • Becca,

    I can undestand where you are coming from but trust me free weights will build more muscle than machine weights. With free weights you are in control of the weights throughout the whole lift and between each rep and because of that you will be working mulitple muscles in the process other than your target area. Also, what you actually want  in your lift is for your muscles to contract -- therefore, in comparison to a machine and free weights your muscles contract more with free weights because you have to be in control of the weights throughout the entire process meanwhile you get that brief rest period on the machine after each rep and the machine guides your lift instead of you pushing it that extra inch and holding it there yourself.

    BUT since you joined a gym, get your money's worth, ask an assistant to make sure your form is right. Be sure to say, "I don't want to hurt myself in your gym so could you check out my form to make sure I'm doing it right" and they should be jumping over the counters to make sure you don't hurt yourself. And hey, the program is 12 weeks.. that's 72 excerise sessions, you've got plenty of time to improve.

    Lastly, I have to admit that I do use the machines for a few lifts. I use it for more dangerous lifts like the bench press. For the first 4 sets I will use free weights then when I aim to hit my 10s I'll go to a machine and try to hit my 10 instead of trying to hit my 10 alone without somebody to spot me in case I can't put the bar back on the rack. Just a safety precaution.

    I hope this changes your attitude towards free weights... it's something you gotta learn to love ;)

  • I have been using dumbbells and have become very comfortable with them.  I can't get used to the bench/bar.  Since I am alone, I am afraid I will drop it.  So I am using the machines for that or doing dumbbell presses.

    Thanks everyone!