Re: [Supertraining] Free weights versus machine weights

Wednesday, 16 January 2008      0 comments

Gordon Waddell wrote,

I have never heard of or seen an offset Smith machine to allow for proper
back positioning in squats etc ---------- Like all machines, any Smith will
decrease stabilizer activation, disrupt coordinated movement patterns and place an
unnatural load across joints.

The way I look at it: Poliquin, Boyle, Cosgrove, Cook, Simmons, Hartman -
none of these well known coaches/therapists ever recommend a Smith-for squats-----

"-------------much deleted------------------'

Steven Plisk wrote;


I don't believe there's evidence showing that machines (guided resistance)
are more dangerous than free weights (unguided resistance). The consensus
emerging from the literature is that 1) the perception that free weights are more
dangerous isn't necessarily true, and 2) unguided-resistance equipment is
superior in most regards, particularly when used with qualified instruction and
supervision. -------
---- much deleted including many references.

John Casler wrote;

If we look at both machines, and free weights all as "force loading
devices", then we can more clearly evaluate each individually, and apply it
to the goals and needs of the application.-----------------much

So in the end, strength, function, hypertrophy, endurance and any number of
goals and complexed goals can be accommodated via looking for the right tool
(load device) for the job.

Paul Rogers wrote;

This position seems widely held: that machine weights are either 1)
dangerous, or 2) useless.

"-------------- much deleted -------------------'

Okay, as Lee requested, put your cards on the table folks. Show us that
machine weights are injurious or useless. -------------------"

Jerry Telle writes;

Greetings iron scientists,

As the above authors express there is general agreement of many well known
iron practitioners that "free weights," with the experience of the lifter and
under proper supervision, is superior to any guided resistance.

I must question this belief that a constrained resistance is inherently
harmful to the involved joints -- especially in movements like the squat or maybe
even the deadlift. I base my inquiry on the lack of quantified measurement and
the observation that there are many joints involved in said lifts.

Because of the relative functions of so many joints it seems to me that any "
unnatural" movement -- if such a concept is applicable here -- is compensated
for through out the lift by continuous joint adjustment. In some exercises the
use of guided resistance is a must. For instance I have yet to see anyone
doing "free" resistance heel raises. Yet no one has submitted any negative
anecdotal, much less quantified, observations in protest.

As such the squat, as used in many applications such as the development of
power or horizontal acceleration/velocity, or absolute strength (depending on
ones definition of strength) maybe best addressed by constrained resistance.
With constrained resistance the athlete can more intently focus on the power or
pure strength elements of the exercise. Admittedly a good deal of
biomechanical efficiency must be present -- as a function of athlete experience and

On the other hand it has been my experience that the Olympic lifts require
such an elite performance, that many athletes have not the time, proper
supervision and or athletic ability to learn these movements to the point of
productivity. Many even have problems with productive nonnconstrained squat
performance! Yet given the use of a properly designed leaper or smith machine these
limitations were, anecdotally, more easily resolved.

One problem with the use of non traditional equipment is the lack of
quantified research or even anecdotal observation. The purported advantages of
productive equipment are not easy manifestations to demonstrate. ANY increase in
speed, horizontal elevation or functional sstrength, e.g., offensive or defensive
line performance, is desirable. Yet we are interested in small increases in
improvement. Increasing a corner backs speed from a 4.5 40 to a 4.47 is the
difference in wining and loosing. Three 100 ths of a second (30 mills). equates to
about 6-8 inches of travel at a 4.5 per 40 yds/mtrs. velocity. Yet this is
*only* a 4-6% increase in performance – a fairly hard task to anecdotally

It is my contention that various types of constrained inertial resistance are
better than "free weight" equivalents in the production of speed, power and
pure strength. The use of force plates, video and EMG measures may be an
investigative beginning.

It is also my contention that the "coordination and synergistic" aspects of
performance are more productively addressed via more action specific avenues.
You might ask yourself how much velocity and height issues can be addressed
squatting on a Swiss ball! However, the attempt at or performance of such
incredible feats, using a gymnastic safety harness, may be performance -- as in
balance -- useful?

So given the above treatise in speculation – and as J Casler expresses "
------------- strength, function, hypertrophy, endurance and any number of goals
and complexed goals can be accommodated via looking for the right tool." And
with lee and John admonishments to "put your cards on the table folks. Show us
that machine weights are injurious or useless", ---its time to measure when and
what happens when the rubber meets the road. Ultimate performance and safety
are the beneficiaries.


Jerry Telle
Lakewood CO USA

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