Why can i lift more w/bench press machine than free weight?

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by JEDI, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. JEDI

    JEDI Lifer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2001
    Messages:
    23,910
    Likes Received:
    83
    i can bench 90% of body weight using the Nautalis machine.

    but with free weights, i can barely lift 70% of my body weight.

    Why?
     
  2. Deeko

    Deeko Lifer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2000
    Messages:
    30,207
    Likes Received:
    9
    Machines isolate the targeted muscles - there's no stabilization and limited coordination going on. Free weight varieties require more of your muscles to work together.
     
  3. brikis98

    brikis98 Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2005
    Messages:
    7,254
    Likes Received:
    0
    Free weights require you to balance the object you are moving. So does every application of strength in the real world - think of moving a couch, making a tackle, and so on. Machines usually do all the balancing for you and you can already see the results: the strength you get from them doesn't transfer very well to real-world conditions. Stick with free weight training: it usually builds more strength because more muscles are usually required for free weight exercises (e.g. a smith machine "squat" is almost entirely quads whereas a free weight squat uses ~70% of the muscles in your body) and you develop the neuro-muscular coordination that makes your strength gains applicable in other sports & activities.
     
  4. JEDI

    JEDI Lifer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2001
    Messages:
    23,910
    Likes Received:
    83
    wow.. thx for the info about smith machine squats.

    i can squat my body weight using the smith machine, but will only do 80% body weight using free weights out of fear
     
  5. brikis98

    brikis98 Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2005
    Messages:
    7,254
    Likes Received:
    0
    I highly recommend you invest some time in learning to use free weights correctly. While you can just jump on any machine and use it correctly, doing most free weight exercises safely & efficiently requires a lot of practice. The best resource I've seen for teaching the major free weight exercises is Starting Strength (the complementary DVD is also good). It does a fantastic job of explaining how to do each exercise, includes great diagrams, and outlines the "gold standard" in beginner routines. Stronglifts is a good online resource with some of the same information for free (including a similar routine called Stronglifts 5x5).

    If you are going to be spending months & years lifting weights at the gym, it's worth spending a few hours up front to make sure you are doing it right.
     
  6. oogabooga

    oogabooga Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    Messages:
    7,806
    Likes Received:
    2
    Everything in the thread so far is true - Why free weights is harder than machine weight - and that it's good to learn free weights.

    Starting Strength is an amazing book. It's super detailed though - I would say it's worth reading their wiki up front - that's detailed too initially, but the book goes into a whole different level of depth.

    http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/Starting_Strength_Wiki
     
  7. The Sauce

    The Sauce Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 1999
    Messages:
    4,652
    Likes Received:
    5
    In a study I read there was about 40% less muscle activation when using a smith machine compared to free weights - certainly less than that for a Nautilus machine. You can't get strong using machines.
     
  8. SociallyChallenged

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2002
    Messages:
    10,487
    Likes Received:
    1
    Muscle activation doesn't necessarily equate to muscle force generation. EMG is correlated with force in many cases, but not all.

    Also, you CAN get strong using free weights, but you won't be functionally strong. Stabilizers, amplifiers, and neutralizers are very important in functional movements, but typically gain less neural coordination and hypertrophy to a lesser degree than the main movers. Sometimes, this is a good thing - like in rehab. In healthy individuals with no pathologies, it's not, unless you're going for aesthetics.
     
  9. Deeko

    Deeko Lifer

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2000
    Messages:
    30,207
    Likes Received:
    9
    Sure you can. Its just a different kind of strength.
     
  10. The Sauce

    The Sauce Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 1999
    Messages:
    4,652
    Likes Received:
    5
    I give up. You guys will argue anything.
     
  11. Alone

    Alone Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Messages:
    7,492
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you're pushing weight you'll get bigger/stronger.

    However, certain exercises will stress some muscles rather than others. An assisted squat rack will not hit the same muscles as a barbell squat, this is because the body doesn't require those muscles to keep itself balanced. So, you can target the bigger muscles directly with machines, but with free weights it requires use of the smaller, less developed muscles which would be the limiting factor in what you can push.
     
  12. SociallyChallenged

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2002
    Messages:
    10,487
    Likes Received:
    1
    Well, I understanding discouraging the use of machines, but they will improve strength, which you said they wouldn't. If you're more precise then we won't have to clarify things for the general public :)