Lift Free or

As we mentioned earlier, freeweights consist of anything with a barbell and/or dumbbells. That includes the Olympic bar, a seven-foot long bar weighing 45 pounds; dumbbells that come in various shapes and range in weight from 3 to 150 pounds; and plates, circular metal weights that range from 2.5 to 45 pounds, which fit on the end of a barbell. You're also likely to come upon a variety of other funky-looking specialty bars and attachments that are used for a variety of exercises. We'll explain what these do later; for now let's stick to the basics.

There's a subtle difference that serious lifters typically make between machines and freeweights. Their thinking goes something like this: "Freeweights are for serious lifters; guys who train hard and often." According to the lore of the earnest lifter, machines are "too easy" or "easier" and therefore not as efficient at building strength as freeweights. While there is a small grain of truth to that logic, the funny thing is that when you watch these guys, or better yet, query them on their routines, you find out that they also partake of the machines. For example, just about every macho dude uses a lat pull-down machine, a leg-extension and curl machine as well as a legpress machine, and so on. So while they feel emotionally wed to the cold hard steel, in fact, just about everyone who works out regularly uses a combination of the two.

As we'll discuss later, we'll have you using a combination of machines and freeweights in your workout routine. (Remember, your muscles really can't tell the difference.) It is, however, important to note that freeweights require more vigilance on your part. Apropos of the "what goes up must come down" theory, hoisting even a five-pound dumbbell over your head means you can do bodily harm to yourself or your lifting brethren. When you watch someone bench press 315 pounds or squat twice his body weight as Deidre did, the concentration needed to control this weight is intense. (This might account for why serious lifters consider freeweights more "real." They're also counting the adrenaline rush they get.) In short, anytime you lift a free weight, or in fact stand next to someone doing the same, you must be mindful of the risks at hand.

Here are the major advantages of freeweights:

> Bilateral strength gains—no compensation for your weaker side by your stronger.

> A near-infinite variety of exercises and the ability to train nearly any muscle in the body.

> Can be used by anyone regardless of size, shape or strength.

> Easily duplicated from one gym to another. While machines vary, as long as there is gravity, weight will be weight.

>- Less expensive for home use.

Here are a few of the negatives:

>- Requires more concentration and focus, if you think of that as a negative

> Increased risk of injury. If you're lifting without a spotter or using shoddy form, the risk of injury increases dramatically.

> Harder and sometimes more intimidating to learn

Despite the differences between machines and freeweights, both are highly effective training tools. People who disdain one over the other are either arrogant, not accurately assessing their workout, or unaware of how similar they actually are. When used together, you double your fitness options and add welcome variety to your workout.

The Least You Need to Know

Entering a gym for the first time can be intimidating, but that's part of the challenge.

Hiring a personal trainer should be an option when you join, not something you feel obligated to do.

V There is an endless variety of fitness machines, but in many ways they are remarkably alike.

Freeweights require that you lift with a keener focus, but they're not just for hard-core types.

Chapter 11


In This Chapter

V Safety is no accident—it takes practice Learning your way around the gym Courtesy counts in the gym

After finishing several sets on the bench press years ago, Joe and a friend were removing 45-pound plates from either side of the barbell. Protocol dictates that each person removes the plates more or less at the same time. Joe, however, wasn't paying attention and removed all the weight from his end before his friend grabbed his side. The weighted side made like a seesaw and the plate fell smack on his friend's big toe. Later on they had a good laugh about "Crack-a-toe-a," but at the time Joe's momentary lapse left his friend hobbled for weeks.

Understanding safety issues in the gym is extremely important. People do get injured in health clubs, and more often than not it could have been avoided. Jonathan has lost count of the number of times he's had to sprint from one end of the gym to the other to pull a bar off the chest of a beefy dude who thought a spotter was reserved for the scrawny types. There aren't a lot of rules, and they're not terribly complicated, but they are specific to this unique environment where motivated individuals (many of whom are wearing headphones) are hoisting large metal objects overhead.


This chapter will teach you proper gym etiquette, describe correct form, and explain common safety concerns like making sure that the barbell collars are in place, being mindful where you drop your weights, and the right way to "spot" for someone. The key is consideration and awareness. If you were only in danger of hurting yourself, that's one thing, but you become a threat to others if you start turning toes into pancakes on a regular basis. This is one of the most important chapters. For your own sake, please read it.

Workout Plans You Can Do Today

Workout Plans You Can Do Today

Workout Plans that You Can Start Right Here, Right Now. If you want to get in shape, tone up, trim down, or even just boost your fitness and stamina levels, well, youre at exactly the right place to start. But getting into a workout plan isnt the easiest thing in the world. If youve tried to exercise before and found that you things didnt work out for you, then youll undoubtedly already know that there are many ways in which things could go wrong.

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