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The SRWC is a fantastic facility that houses hundreds of different types of fitness equipment to help members meet their fitness goals—whether building muscle, cutting weight or increasing cardio endurance. However, one minor drawback to having a wide variety of state-of-the-art equipment in the facility is that members sometimes find themselves overwhelmed trying to figure out which equipment they should use to reach their goals. To help, here are some pointers!

I find that resistance training is the most common type of training members utilize when coming to the SRWC. In this type of training, members move their arms and legs against a force, or a resistance, to activate their muscles to increase their muscular strength or endurance.

One main question that is repeatedly asked during resistance training is whether members should use free weights (i.e. dumbbells, barbells and kettle bell) or instead use exercise machines (i.e. leg press machine, chest press machine and lateral pull-down machines). Both free weights and resistance machines have their pros and cons when it comes to being used for training; however, both will help with muscle activation.

Resistance machines can be more beneficial for members who are just beginning to work out and are new to the gym scene. Since machines have a fixed axis, they only allow the operator to move in two directions or planes and have a fixed range of motions. This is great for new members who are just learning the particular exercise, since it allows them to focus their breathing and moving against the resistance during the exercise. This takes away the stress of having to focus on the mechanics of the movement and having to worry about dropping the weight on themselves.

On the other hand, free weights allow members to be able to move in three dimensions, which occur in our daily life activities, such as moving forward, backward, horizontally and vertically—giving them a much greater range of motion to move through.

A recent study by Illinois State University found that when attaching an IEMG to participants and having them perform a bench press with free weights and a resistance machine, there was far greater muscle activation in the pectorals muscle when performed with free weights.

In conclusion, both free weights and resistance machines are beneficial in resistance training when trying to increase muscular strength and/or endurance. Resistance machines would be more beneficial for novice members since they have a fixed range of motion and are safer, while free weights are better for advanced individuals since it allows movement in more planes that are similar to movements we perform in daily life activities.

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