ERF 437: Body Recomp Vs Cuts & Bulks, Which Is Better?

In this episode I do a deep dive on the difference between body recomp vs cuts & bulks.

I hope you enjoy the information and can use it in your journey you’re currently on.

If you enjoy the podcast, feel free to leave a 5 star rating and review.

And if you are interested in getting some extra help in your journey, you can fill out the form here below to apply for our 1:1 coaching.

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Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift : Which Is Better?

sumo vs conventional deadlift
Man.. That’s A Sexy Face, Huh?

In this guide you are going to learn not only the differences between the sumo vs conventional deadlift.

But also which one is going to be “most optimal” for YOU. Your structure, your goals, and which to implement into your own personal training program.

Rest assured this guide will give you everything you need. I pinky promise.

Yet what you have to pinky promise back to me is that you won’t just skim the article looking for the sh*t you want to read or find out then exit out.

If you try to take things out of context with this particular article, it won’t work. You will miss something and see less results.

So, to avoid that, just read the whole thing.. Mkay?

You already pinky promised.

Sumo Vs Conventional Deadlift

Differences

There are a few distinct differences between the sumo vs conventional deadlift and I want to first start by laying that out first and foremost.

Let’s first cover the differences in muscles worked.

Stance Width

First, let’s go with the obvious (or, maybe not obvious, and that is okay too!).

A sumo deadlift is going to take a wider stance width, with your feet outside of hip width and toes slightly pointed out.

You can see here below.

With the sumo deadlift your hips start out a little bit closer to the bar because you can take that wider stance and “sink down” into the deadlift a bit more.

A conventional deadlift is going to take a more narrow stance, with your feet about shoulder / inside hip width.

You can also see that here below.

sumo vs conventional deadlift

With the conventional deadlift, your hips start a little bit higher up & away from the bar due to your feet being a bit more narrow.

Is this good or bad? Eh, keep reading to find out.

Sumo Vs Conventional Deadlift : Muscles Worked

Both deadlift variations are going to be a total body strength training exercise (More on this later to come in this article!).

These movements aren’t like you doing something like a bicep curl, or a leg extension, or a glute kickback.

In a bicep curl, you are ONLY working your biceps.

In a leg extension, you are ONLY working your quads.

In a glute kickback, you are ONLY working your glutes.

Those are what we call “isolation movements”. They are designed to isolate ONE joint and work only ONE body part.

Either the sumo or conventional deadlift is going to work your entire body. This is called a “compound movement”.

Yes, it is going to work your legs. Yes, it is going to work your back.

But it is also going your core, parts of your biceps, your upper back, etc.

Your lats have to do a tremendous amount of work to hold and stabilize the weight, as well as help you brace your core.

It involves multiple joints. Your hip joints, knee joints, shoulder joint to a degree for stability / bracing.

This is what makes it a phenomenal total body strength training exercise.

Which btw, people often ask me…

Eric should I do deadlifts on leg or back day?!

.

Well, first, I don’t necessarily promote you having a “back day” as much as I would promote you having an entire upper body day.

But nonetheless, you should perform deadlifts on leg days.

Yes, your back is working, but it is working in more of an isometric contraction rather than going through a full lengthening and shortening phase a muscle goes through.

It’s almost like if you did a bicep curl and just held the weight at the middle of the movement, not going up or down, and just squeezing your bicep as hard as you can.

That’s essentially what your back is doing while completing a deadlift.

Where as your leg muscles (which ones depend on which variation you choose, so stick with me a bit longer) go through more of a shortening and lengthening phase.

Meaning more muscle damage happens to your legs, for the sake of this conversation all that means is your legs get worked more than your back does.

Therefore, you should be doing deadlifts on lower body days.

Now, Back To Muscles Worked…

Sorry about that detour there.

Getting back to muscles worked here.

Now that we know the deadlift is a total body strength building exercise, the two variations offer distinct differences.

A sumo deadlift is going to primarily work your adductors (inner thigh muscles) due to the wider stance.


Some people make the mistake of assuming the wider stance works more of your glute muscles.

No, the wider stance actually works more of your quad muscles. This goes for any exercise too so the sumo squats you are doing to help grow your glutes..

Yea, growing more adductor than glutes.

A conventional deadlift is in fact going to work a bit more glutes and hamstrings.

Now, like we said earlier, both variations are going to work all of your body.

It’s not like the sumo deadlift works NO glute and the conventional deadlift works NO adductor.

No, it all has to work to a degree.

It’s just that with the sumo vs conventional deadlift you can lead to you BIAS one or the other more.

Now, Let Me Say This…

If your goal is to use the deadlift to build muscle, you might be initially in the wrong place.

But in the long run you won’t be, and let me explain.

( You pinky promised you stay around! ).

The deadlift FROM THE FLOOR is actually a pretty sh*tty muscle building exercise.

Why?

Because one of the major components of hypertrophy (muscle building) is being able to get into that fully stretched position under load.

Think like the bottom of a bicep curl. The bicep is fully stretching your muscle on the way down and stretching it with the weight (load) in your hand.

You aren’t letting anything support it on the way down or at the bottom or you aren’t bringing your hand all the way down to a bench or a box and stopping.

You are holding the weight by your side and your BICEP has to fully stretch & resist the force of gravity at the bottom. The tension is high going into the stretch position.

This is a huge part of hypertrophy.

When you deadlift from the floor, you completely stop that stretch position. You let it hit and stop on the ground each time which means you are essentially taking away all of the tension at the bottom, which, is the stretch position.

Therefore when you deadlift from the ground, this is why I said it is a great total body strength building exercise.

Building strength and building muscle can intertwined & overlap, but they can also be two different things.

Now, are going to build some muscle deadlift, especially as a beginner to intermediate?

Of – f*cking – course you will.

But because you lose tension in the stretch position it doesn’t make the deadlift from the floor a great “muscle building” exercise per say.

Plus

sumo vs conventional deadlift

Doing deadlifts are a big tax to the central nervous system.

Without getting too in depth, just think of your central nervous system as the captain of the ship.

Imagine the captain of the ship being up for 3 days straight with no sleep trying to manage and steer your ship.

Not the ideal scenario, right?

That is what happens to your body after a hard & heavy deadlift session.

You build a lot of stress and fatigue on your body that your body then has to recover from.

More so than when doing other different movements.

I often say your body only has so many “recovery points” to go around.

When you require so much recovery points from ONE exercise, that limits how much recovery points you can use to other exercises.

Which means you either

  1. Can’t do as much volume throughout the course of a week otherwise you will not be able to recover from it. Volume is one main driver of hypertrophy.
  2. You can do a lot of volume but then not be able to recover from the workouts you do, which, if you can’t recover from the workouts… it won’t make a difference because you won’t see changes to your body

Also…

Because the deadlift is such a total body exercise that works multiple muscles. It uses multiple joints to complete the movement.

It’s hard to get a lot of tension and focus on ONE particular muscle group.

Like the conventional deadlift for example. Yes it will work your glutes say the most, but it also works hamstring, quads, and adductors as well!

So if you are trying to really grow your glutes, you might pick an exercise like a hip thrust or even a bulgarian split squat to really nail your glutes a bit more.


Lastly..

Deadlifts are usually performed in a lower rep range with very high intensity / weight lifted.

I don’t usually program regular deadlifts from the floor over 5 or 6 reps max because in most scenarios I don’t believe there is a point to it.

Again the deadlift is focused on gaining strength, not necessarily building muscle.

If you were to focus on building muscle, you would probably pick something like an RDL (Romanian Deadlift) for example. You can get a full stretch and you can do a bit higher reps, maybe 6-10 reps.

Here is an example of an RDL below.

If you were to really focus on building muscle with a deadlift, you’d have to do ungodly amounts of sets to get the adequate volume ( weekly sets and reps ) needed, which in the long haul would put a ton of stress on your..

  • Joints
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Connective tissue
  • Spine

To name a few.

This is why often touted the “best rep range for building muscle” is often between that 6-12 rep range. I wrote an entire in depth guide on why that is too if you want to click here to read.

Therefore when talking about the deadlift in of itself, no matter sumo vs conventional deadlift, they might not be the best “muscle building exercise” on paper….

Yet, The Flip Side Is

Okay, so I just laid out why the deadlift WASN’T a great “muscle building exercise”.

I mainly did that so all the keyboard warriors and overnight coaches who have never actually coached anyone didn’t leave some dumb comment about it.

It may not be the best exercise on paper, but I do in fact believe (& know because I’ve seen this happen coaching thousands of people) that in the long run it can be a great muscle building exercise.

Why do I say the long run?

Because the deadlift helps you build overall total body strength.

If you are stronger as a whole, don’t you think you will be able to then lift more weight in your other movements that can help you with building muscle?

For example I mentioned an RDL.

An RDL is a great movement to hypertrophy your glutes and hamstrings.

If because you are doing say conventional deadlifts and are gaining a ton of strength, when you go do your RDL’s, you will be able to lift more weight!

If you are doing deadlifts in the 3 4 5 rep range to build more total body strength.. When you go to your “muscle building exercises” and the 6-12 rep range.

You will be able to lift more weight in the 6-12 rep range, leading to more muscle building.

Which if you lift more weight, you will be able to build more muscle in those muscle groups.

Or even take something like a bench press.

If you get stronger doing a sumo deadlift, it doesn’t “directly” correlate to getting a stronger bench press…

But it kind of does! You are able to recruit those high threshold motor units and neurologically speaking be able to be used to moving very heavy weight for lower reps..

So when you go to do a bench press which is a great strength and muscle building move, you will be able to lift more weight. Which, once again, is going to help hypertrophy that much more.

Therefore when people say the deadlift isn’t a great muscle building exercise, they are somewhat right.

Yet I believe they are also looking at it from a shortsided point of view.

They are missing the forest for the trees so to speak.

This is why I believe including deadlifts into your program will help you build both strength AND muscle building, no matter if you choose the sumo vs conventional deadlift.

What Do These Differences Mean?

Okay so you are learning some of the differences between the sumo vs conventional deadlift.

But how do we take these differences and apply them to you, your body, and your program?

Great question. Let’s talk about body type / structure.

Body Type / Structure

sumo vs conventional deadlift

Now that we are learning the differences between a sumo vs conventional deadlift we can start to maybe piece together which may be best for you.

Aside from the muscles worked which we learned above, yes they work different muscles, but the sumo deadlift is really a total body strength exercise.

Personally, I would not pick a deadlift variation based on muscles worked. I’d pick it based off what feels best for YOU to perform the movement safely and without injury.

Typically speaking…

  • People with longer femurs (legs) do better with a sumo deadlift
  • People with shorter femurs do better with a conventional deadlift

Again, this is a generality. It is not always the case.


But typically speaking this is the case because people with longer legs require more external rotation in their hips.

The sumo stance allows that to happen whereas a narrower stance doesn’t allow for as much hip external rotation which can end up jamming your femur into your hip joint.

This then causes all kinds of hip pain, lower back pain, etc.

Fun Fact this is also the case for squats. This is why people with longer legs typically do better with a wider stance squat to allow for more external rotation.

People with shorter legs doesn’t need as much external rotation and they may actually get better leverage on the bar doing a closer stance, so a lot of times people pick that one.

Typically with what I laid out above, the people who have those femur lengths have a much better “moment arm” for each

Yet here is the deal. These are generalities and you need to find which one works best for YOU and YOUR body.

I have met people who are 4’11 and LOVE to sumo deadlift.

I have met people who are 6’6 and they LOVE to conventional deadlift.

I would play around with both and see which one feels most “natural” , safest , and strongest to you.

Programing Note

Let’s just say you are someone who picks the sumo deadlift in the sumo vs conventional deadlift debate.

Does that mean you should NEVER do a conventional deadlift?

Eh, idk, it depends.

I think there is merit to doing different variations of deadlifts to avoid overuse injury from doing one repetitive movement over and over and over again.

But I don’t think it has to be a movement that just feels like dog sh*t for you.

For example, I never do conventional deadlifts because they feel awful for me.

But, I do in fact do Barbell RDL’s for my glutes and hamstrings.

So I can change the variation up without having to do a movement that feels like hot garbage to me.

But, let’s say you like doing both!

Yes, I think there is merit to doing both and you can / should work both into your training program.

At the very least, work in different deadlift variations throughout the course of the weeks / months.

I wrote an article HERE talking about how frequently to change up your workouts and how.

Sumo Vs Conventional : Is Sumo Deadlift “Cheating”?

Let me address this question briefly because it really isn’t worth my time or yours to discuss.

Sometimes you will hear people say “sumo deadlift is cheating!”.


Those people

  1. Live at home in their mommys basement
  2. Don’t have anything better to do with their lives
  3. Have no fucking clue what they are talking about


The reason people say sumo deadlift is cheating is because it seemingly requires less range of motion to move the bar.

Which depending on the person may or may not be true.

But even if it is true,

  1. Who cares
  2. If a sumo deadlift feels incredibly better on your back and hips.. AND you can lift more weight doing it that way.. Do the f*cking sumo deadlift my friend.

I also encourage you to ask that person this question.

“Okay, well what happens if someone moves their hands farther out on a bench press? Is that cheating?”.

Or.

“Well what is someone moves their feet out on a squat because it allows them to get deeper in a squat & it feels more comfortable?”.

They won’t respond because they do that so they can lift more weight.. But it’s only cheating when you do a sumo deadlift…

Get outttaaaaa here.

Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift : Which Is Better?!

Well, I hope you got from this article that neither one is inherently “better”!

The one that is “better” is the one that works best for YOU, YOUR body structure, and YOUR goals.

I would play around with both, see which one feels best, and use that one to progress with til the end of time.

Got it?

I am going to drop two videos here below on both the sumo and conventional deadlift.

These videos are pulled straight from my exercise database that is used with each and everyone of my clients.

Hope this article helped. If it did and you were interested in taking your training a step further, got a few options for you.

First is going to be my Clubhouse HERE. This is where each month we have new training programs laid out in depth for you to just plug and play. You get the program, follow it, see results.

Second is going to be our 1:1 coaching. If you are someone who knows you want a bit more in depth help and guidance, then feel free to fill out our form HERE to start the application process.

Look to hear from you soon.

-E

ERF 436: How Often To Change Fitness Program, Dealing With Gym Timidation, Too Much Protein, & More

In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast my assistant coach Linda and I hit up a Q&A.

We talk about a wide variety of topics to how often to switch workouts, dealing with Gym Timidation, Calorie surplus tips, and a whole lot more.

Hope you enjoy and if you do please feel free to leave a 5 star rating and review.

As well as if you are interested in either joining us inside the Clubhouse and or working with our team 1:1, I can link both here below.

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ERF 435: Losing 50lbs, Overcoming PCOS, & Not Taking No For An Answer, Bre’s Story

In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast we speak with one of our Clubhouse Members Bre.

As you will hear, Bre is an absolute BEAST and has accomplished SO MUCH in a very short period of time.

She tells her journey and is someone who I believe we can ALL learn a ton from.

Hope you enjoyed and if you are interested in joining the Clubhouse, I can link that here below.

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ERF 434: Meal Timing For Fat Loss & Muscle Gain, The Best Workout Split, Quad vs Glute In Squat

In this episode I do a Q&A pulled straight from instagram.

If you enjoy the Q&A’s, please feel free to let me know and I will continue to try to do more of them.

If you are interested in coaching with our team and or joining the Clubohuse, I can link both here below!

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ERF 433: Top 5 Life Lessons Working Out Has Taught Me

In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast I talk about the top 5 life lessons working out has taught me.

I believe I would not be where I am today without the power of strength training and I hopefully want to be able to share that with you here today.

Hope you enjoyed the podcast and if you do feel free to leave a 5 star rating wherever you may listen.

Chat soon

-E

Work with our coaches 1:1 https://ericrobertsfitness.com/contact/

Join the Clubhouse https://erfclubhouse.com/

ERF 432: How To Break A Weight Loss Plateau, Is 3x Per Week Too Much For Glutes, How To Know When To Lift Heavier, & More

In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast I do a Q&A pulled straight from my instagram story.

If you don’t follow me there, you can follow me @Ericrobertsfitness.

Hope you enjoy the episode and if you did, please feel free to leave a 5 star rating and review!

Join The Clubhouse HERE

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Work 1:1 with our team HERE

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ERF 431: Losing 160lbs, Starting Strength Training For The First Time Ever, & Improving Your Negative Self Talk, Cheryls Story

In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast my assistant coach Linda and I speak with our October Teammate of the month Cheryl.

We had a TON of fun doing this podcast because Cheryl is just an absolute beast.

She talks all about how she has been able to lose 160lbs, started strength training for the first time EVER, and massively improved her negative self talk.

It’s a great episode and I hope you enjoy. If you are interested in joining the Clubhouse, I can link that here below.

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Are Free Weights Better Than Machines: Find Out Now

are free weights better than machines

“ Are free weights better than machines “ – asked every person ever at one point in their lifting career.

It is a solid and fair question.

You see some people using machines, some using free weights, some using cable machines.

So, what is the best?!

Well, we are going to talk about what the “best” is in this article.

Before you enter the Narnia of weightlifting, just promise me your b*tch a** won’t skip through the article and read it word for word.

Yes, I just called you a b*tch a**, but it is out of love.

As well as out of getting your attention to make sure you read the whole way through because we are going to dive in depth.

I want to be sure you leave this article without any shadow of a doubt knowing which is the “best” for you.

Cool?

Cool. Let’s do it.

Are Free Weights Better Than Machines

Pros Vs Cons

When talking about are free weights better than machines, I think what is often missing is something called context.

You know, that thing we all are missing these days in a 24/7, quick, short social media world we live in.

There has to be context when answering this question because depending on what you are looking for, the answer is (my favorite answer) it depends.

I encourage you to not necessarily think about which is “better”.

I encourage you to think about the pros and cons of all of them, because the truth is, they all have their pros and cons.

Let’s look at some of them for each category here below. Once we go through this, I think you will have a better understanding of when one may be “better” than others.

I am going to talk about 3 main forms of equipment here.

Machines (Machines you would find in the gym)

Free weights (barbells, dumbbells)

Cable Machines (like these here below)

are free weights better than machines cable
** Don’t mind my face here… LOL

Let’s first start with machines.

Machine Pros Vs Cons

Pros

When talking about using machines in the gym, there can be many pros that appeal to a large amount of people.

For starters, a machine is very SIMPLE.

You get into the machine and simply perform it how it is intended. They usually have either instructions, pictures, videos, or all the above attached to them to show how to use it.

For someone who is a beginner in the gym and may not exactly know how to perform exercises correctly, this can be quite appealing for obvious reasons.

There is little error to “f*ck up” a machine for lack of better terms.

You just kind of get in and go along for the ride.

Whereas something like maybe say a squat, a deadlift, a lunge, that requires much more of a concentration on form. You will have to spend some time learning how to do that movement correctly.

Now, I don’t think you should worry about this, because we ALL were a beginner once inside the gym where we didn’t know how to do something.

Hell, I have been lifting weights for almost 11 years as I write this, and there are STILL things I do “wrong” in the gym to this day.

Yet for a lot of people who are beginners in the gym, the idea of doing a machine that is “fool proof” for lack of better terms can be a great way to get you started in the gym.

For this reason I think machines are AWESOME.

They can get you in the gym.. Get over your fear of maybe starting out.. Get you more comfortable going in…

Through coaching people the last 7+ years I have seen that a lot of people start out at the gym on machines and then feel like they can start to venture out into other areas of the gym with a better mindset.

Therefore if this is you, I think this can be great and can be a massive pro to machines.

Another Pro Is…

Stability.

Remember how we just talked about a squat, deadlift, lunge, shoulder press, etc, is inherently going to be a bit harder to learn.

One of the reasons for this is that you need to be able to control and stabilize the weight (which could just be your bodyweight for now!) through the range of motion.

Imagine if you are doing a shoulder press.

You need to take two dumbbells, in each hand, and be able to stabilize that through the whole way up and the whole way down.

That takes a LOT of work for your muscles to do, both your bigger shoulder muscles as well as your smaller stabilizer muscles.

( Hint: This may be a “pro” you see later on in the article…).

Whereas with a shoulder press machine, you don’t have to stabilize the weight through the range of motion.

That’s why the machine is there, it does that for you.

Therefore you can potentially be more confident in your movement and decrease risk of injury ( especially for complete beginners).

Even if you aren’t a beginner, you will usually be able to lift a bit heavier weight on a machine.

This is due to once again the machine takes out the stability factor, allowing you to overload the weight even more.

This is often touted great for hypertrophy (muscle building) training.

The more stability you have the more you will be able to contract the muscle & create something called mechanical tension.

More Stability = More Mechanical tension = More muscle building.

Single Joint Isolation Exercises

To piggyback off of the previous pro about stability, it makes a great pro for single joint isolation exercises.

For example a leg curl or a leg extension.

In both of these exercises you have ONE joint working, your knee joint.

You are intentionally trying to isolate one muscle
. As opposed to say a squat where you have multiple joints working at once, working multiple muscles at once.

Therefore since you have high stability with a machine you can focus on ONE specific joint and muscle maybe a bit more than you would be able to with free weights for example.

You can hammer home that one muscle and take it closer to failure because you don’t have to worry about stabilizing your body or the weight, you can solely focus on smashing your muscle as best as you can.

Which again, going close to failure is something that is necessary to get maximum hypertrophy.

So if you are doing exercises that you are trying to focus on one joint and one muscle at at time, machines may be a great option for that.


So, machines certainly have some pros to them.

Yet, they also have some cons. Let’s cover some right now.

Cons

One con to using machines is the fact that a machine is not individualized.

Meaning, I am writing this right now as a 6’4 250lb male with long femurs (thigh bone) and long arms.

You reading this may be a 5’3 160 lb female with short femurs and short arms.

How in the actual hell is ONE machine supposed to cater to both of us?

If I was to step into a squat machine versus if you were to step into a squat machine, we would inherently need completely different set ups / executions of the movement.

Not to mention what if you are someone who has different mobility / range of motion than someone else.


For example if I don’t have the best overhead shoulder and thoracic mobility (thoracic = middle / upper part of your spine) then an overhead machine press doesn’t take that into consideration.

It can’t change the range of motion, the angle, the bar path, the hand placement, etc. It can only go in ONE direction on ONE track.

Whereas for example if you had dumbbells and you were sitting on a bench, you can adjust the bench.. You can adjust the angle at which you press up, your hands, and where the dumbbells travel..

There are so many adjustments based on your specific needs as opposed to a machine, you are really limited to what the machine can do.

This can lead to some injury over time if you are trying to force this, kind of like trying to force a round peg into a square hole.

Another Con..

Is going to be actually taking the same “pro” we talked about earlier, stability.

Now yes, having the machine take the stability out of the movement for you can be a positive thing, yet, it can also be a negative thing.

Remember, context matters.

If your goal was actually to build some stability in your joints so that you can have a healthy aging process, improve balance, or simply be as strong as you can in a “well rounded” manner..

Then you would actually want to train and strengthen the stability aspect of your movements and not have a machine take that out for you.

You wouldn’t want to do a machine overhead press or a machine row, you would want to do a free weight press or row to help build stability strength.

Which, for the record, I do recommend you training your stability and getting stronger in that area because this is not just about looking good naked.

Yes, that is cool, and nothing wrong with chasing some aesthetic based goals.

Yet what also matters is maintaining a high level of health. One of the main reasons people check into a nursing home is because they can’t sit up and down off the toilet on their own.

Building strength and stability in your joints is incredibly important, therefore, I recommend training it so you can have that in your toolbox.

So as you can see, are free weights better than machines can really depend on what context you are asking from.

Machines have both pros and cons.

I mentioned I was going to briefly touch on cable machines as well, so let’s do that now.

Are Free Weights Better Than Machines : Cable Machine Pros Vs Cons

are free weights better than machines

Pros

One of the great pros I love about cable machines is that you can challenge the muscle from different ranges of motion.

I spoke about this in a recent article I wrote, I can link that HERE if you are interested to read after this.

Yet what cables can do is provide a different way to hit the muscle, let’s take your triceps for example.

When you are using ONLY free weights or even ONLY machines, you might be missing out on challenging the muscle in a certain range of motion.

There are 3 main portions of the range of motion throughout an exercise.

The shortened, lengthened, and middle position.

For example if you are doing dumbbell skullcrushers, those challenge the muscle in the lengthened to mid positon.

If you are doing this tricep extension machine, again, challenges the muscle in the lengthened to mid position.

Yet, when you can throw in something like a tricep pressdown, this challenges the tricep in the shortened position.

This way you can challenge the muscle in ALL areas, which can improve your strength as well as the aesthetic appearance of the muscle.

So not only does it allow you to challenge the muscle from a different range of motion, it is very adjustable as well.

You can adjust where the cable is coming from, where you position yourself at, you can add different attachments to go unilateral, bilateral, etc.

Also, you can adjust YOU with the cable machine. You could stand or kneel. You could face it or face away from it.

There are just so many options you can do with a cable machine that it makes it hard not to be able to include it in your training.


Cons

One con that cables potentially brings about is when doing multi joint compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, RDL’s, overhead presses, etc.

The reason for this is because with the cable, inherently the resistance is coming at an angle.

You can work to position yourself as close to the cable as you possibly can, but the resistance is usually NOT just a straight up and down force like it would be in a free weight squat.

If you have a barbell on your back and you are squatting, you are fighting a force that is up and down, that’s it.

You aren’t dealing with a resistance that is coming from angles because quite frankly you don’t want to deal with that while doing those styles of movements.

Reason being is it can lead to injury over time by having more or less an “unnatural” movement pattern or force resistance.

As well as with a cable machine you are usually limited on the load you can use / the set up you can perform.

A cable stack usually tops out at what maybe 200ish?

Once you get to a certain level, you are inherently going to be able to squat or deadlift more than 200lbs.

Therefore if you ONLY used a cable machine for those moves you would be limiting results.

Because of this, cable machines are usually left to accessory / isolation movements (rows, pulldowns, bicep curls, lateral raises, etc).

I would recommend leaving the compound movements up to free weights.

Now that we know cable machines are a great option to add to the debate of are free weights better than machines, let’s now cover free weights.

Free Weights Pros Vs Cons

Pros

We have already touched on a massive “pro” when it comes to free weights so I will keep this part brief, but being able to adjust it to YOU.


Remember, everyone has different..

  • Limb lengths
  • Joint structure
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility

& more.

When using a machine, it does not take any of this into consideration.

Yet when using something like a barbell back squat, even though the barbell can’t move, YOU can move throughout your range of motion.

For example if you are like me and you have long femurs, to keep your spine neutral, you are inherently going to have to lean forward more in your squat.

Yet if you are using a squat machine where the pad is completely upright, you don’t have that option.

That is going to lead to injury over the long haul, as well as simply not being able to work your muscles as much as intended.

Yet with a free weight barbell since it can move through space ( Trippy ) you can move however YOU need to to make it work for you.

Or for example with dumbbells and a chest press.

If you are someone who needs to close your shoulder joint a bit more to be able to get a proper range of motion with your chest press, you can adjust the dumbbells as needed to face each other a bit more.

You can also adjust the arch of the weight path to fit what would work for your shoulder.

With a chest press machine, you aren’t adjusting the handles or the arch of the machine. You are confined to whatever the machine is set up as.

Therefore using free weights is going to allow for more individualization to each movement.

As Well As…

Another pro to free weights is having a “functional” workout.

Now, that term is thrown around a lot, all I mean by this is you can learn how to move & control YOUR body through a range of motion.

If you are using say only a leg press, yes it can hit your muscle as intended…

But if you are going to go outside and have to take a massive step and lunge to avoid stepping into a puddle…

You can have control of your body because you are doing lunges.

Or if you are an athlete and need to make cuts on the field / on the court…

You can have control because you were doing squats.

Or if you are needing to pick up and move heavy boxes…

You can have control because you were doing deadlifts.

There is no denying that using free weights is going to translate into “functional” movements on a day to day basis.

As well as just being able to have control of your body moving through space, which I think is often underestimated by many people.

Even something as simple as falling. Again, how do most older people get injured? By falling and breaking their hip right?

Now, to be fair, ANY type of resistance training is going to help prevent this, but lifting with free weights can help teach body awareness, which may help even more.

Stability

Briefly, this also goes right in tune with what we talked about earlier with free weights being able to train the stability factor of your muscles and joints.

There isn’t to my knowledge a better way to train stability and strength better than lifting some free weights.

Core Work

To piggyback right along with that, lifting free weights is inherently going to work more of your core strength / stability.

Why?

Well, you guessed it, you have to control the weight AND Your body through a range of motion!

When you are doing a shoulder press you are NOT just working your shoulders, you are also working your shoulder stabilizers as well as your core.

Or if you are doing a deadlift you aren’t just working your legs, you are working your hip stabilizers as well as your core.

Your core HAS To work to stabilize the weight and your body / limbs moving through a range of motion.

Therefore, free weights can be a great option for ANY movement really. Bigger compound ones like squats or deadlifts for sure.

Or even smaller ones like bicep curls or tricep extensions.

Though I may give a slight advantage in some scenarios to machines or cable machines for some specific muscles in this scenario, still a really good option.

Cons

Now, there are some cons to free weights.

Again, as mentioned earlier, you are going to need to stabilize the weights. This can sometimes take away from the weight you lift in SOME exercises, or make them more difficult (though, more difficult isn’t always a bad thing!).

As well as you are going to need to learn how to control the weight / your body through a range of motion.

While this may be a “pro”, it can also be a “con” because it DOES take a little bit longer to learn.

Yet, I think the payoff is worth the work.

So… Are Free Weights Better Than Machines?!

Okay, I know you came here looking for the answer to are free weights better than machines and the truth is IT DEPENDS!

Hopefully as you can see they all have their pros and cons.. To summarize a tad bit..

  • I would generally pick free weights to be the STAPLE of your training program. This builds a solid foundation and generally speaking gives you the most bang for your buck (works core, stabilizers, teaches you to control your body, etc)
  • I would leave the bigger compound movements up to mainly free weights
  • Machines can be great for complete beginners starting off and or if you are really looking to isolate ONE specific muscle during a single joint exercise ( leg extension, leg curl, calf raise, bicep curl )
  • Cable Machines can be incredibly versatile and used for a lot of compound & isolation based exercises
  • A “con” might be a pro, and a “pro” might be a con, depending on your goal / how you choose to utilize the equipment you are using

Point being.. You don’t need to pick JUST ONE!

You can and SHOULD use all of them in your training program.

One isn’t “better” or “worse”. They all have their benefits and when used properly can all be great tools in your toolbox you can use for seeing the best results.

I hope this article helps you see that and if you are looking for getting your training programming done for you, I can link two great options here below that myself and my team offer.

First is going to be our Clubhouse. This is where I create a new training program each month for the group. You can check that out HERE below.


Or, if you are looking for more in depth 1:1 coaching with our team, you can fill out our application form HERE.

Either way, I hope this article helped, and look to chat soon!

-E

ERF 430: Top 6 Ways To Improve Your Discipline

In this episode of the Eric Roberts Fitness Podcast I cover my top 6 ways you can improve your discipline.

Now, there are more ways than this, and I am not saying I am the “perfect” person.

These are just things I have found to work for me and my clients to help you gain more discipline.

Hope this helps and if it does, feel free to leave a 5 star rating and review.

As well as if you are interested in our coaching options, I can link those here below!

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