Which is better, a bar or a simulator?

If you are striving for muscle growth, exercises on the simulators will definitely go into a plus – but only to a certain extent. Learn how and when to connect them.

Author: Bill Geiger

Let's define here and now, once and for all: you can develop the muscles both on the simulators, and with free weight. Dot!

Of course, the article can not tragically break off on this statement. All because there are situations in which a certain type of equipment becomes the preferred choice. We are here to help you better understand when the advantage is given by the simulators, and when – the free weights. In the end, both figurants will be included in your training program, but you will use them when it is most appropriate.

Before you delve into the pros and cons, a note on technology. Booms and dumbbells have not changed much in the last 50 years, but the simulators have changed, and significantly. In general, the technology has made simulators much safer and much more efficient than they used to be.

When should I include simulators in my training program? In comparison with free weight, the simulators are better suited to:

To work out the movements to automatism

With free weight, it is difficult to maintain balance and control the purity of movement, especially for beginners with poor coordination. Correct biomechanics is practiced in exercises on simulators – usually the movement is limited to a single plane. Repetition of the patterned movement indefinitely teaches the nervous and muscular system to "feel" this movement. This makes the subsequent transition to dumbbells and a bar much less painful.

"Simulators are an ideal place for beginners, because they learn the basics of biomechanics and learn to feel a neuromuscular connection," says Whitney Reid, a fitness model, and in the past, a participant in the competition.

Never allow yourself to lower the working weight to the load between repetitions. If in the fully stretched position of the muscles the working weight touches the load block, even for a moment, the load from the muscles is removed. Set up the simulator so that the load does not fall into place on the whole range of motion.

Set yourself serious tasks. Since you do not need to worry about balancing, do not be afraid to work with maximum efficiency. The fact that the simulator simplifies the technical aspects of the exercise does not mean that you have to train, after the sleeves. Do not be afraid to test yourself for strength really big scales.

Of course, much depends on the simulator, but, as a rule, you do not have to worry much about the correct posture. The machine has already put you in a safe and correct position. This is especially true when it comes to the back, from the neck to the lower back.

Everyone who, at least once in his life, independently performed bench press with a lot of weight, knows about the danger of being buried under a heavy barbell. And in some exercises, for example, press above your head, it is not easy to lift a heavy shell into the starting position. Simulators allow you to work without heavy weight without a threat to health in muscle failure, reducing the risk of injury or "burial under the projectile."

Adjust the exercise to yourself

Most simulators are equipped with mechanisms that allow you to adapt the device to your height, body type or length of limbs. Since the person who trained in front of you, hardly was your twin, you will have to make adjustments. Check the settings during a light set to make sure that the trajectory is in order, and only then go to the heavy weight.

If your joints are aching, or if you are recovering from an injury, exercises in the simulators will be very helpful. As a rule, they are less painful than exercises with free weight. This is explained by the fact that free weight causes the connective tissue structures to work at full power to stabilize the joint. Usually this is good for us, but this can also exacerbate the existing trauma. Fixing the trajectory of movement, it is easier to train the target muscle with less pain.

Despite the above, the simulator can fix you in the plane of movement, which is especially painful. Therefore, first experiment with light weight, and then increase tonnage.

No one can fully isolate a single muscle. With the help of simulators, however, you can reduce the contribution of stabilizers and dramatically reduce the load on the joints. The result will be an accentuated elaboration of the target muscle.

"This is one of the key advantages of simulators, especially for experienced lifters," Reid said. "After you've completed the hardest approaches with free weight, and your stabilizers are tired, the simulator will allow you to continue to load the muscle and achieve greater insulation, and this is the best option for completing the workout. You can force a larger flow of blood into the target area and squeeze out of the muscle all the way to the drop.

To increase the intensity of training

Simulators have the advantage over free weight when it comes to training after failure. For example, to use the rest-pause technique (only 15-20 seconds to rest between segments) is easier with the bench press than with dumbbells on the bench, since in the second case, it takes a long time to get to the initial position.

Another variant of high-intensity training, which is easier to perform in the simulator, is drop-sets, heavy negatives (very slow lowering of large weights) and forced repetitions.

Now you probably think "Simulators are cool! I'll be a fool if I ever again pick up dumbbells. " Well, do not drive the horses. Bodybuilders striving for maximum muscle volume rely mainly on free weights that surpass training devices in some areas. Free weights have the following advantages:

Limiting the movement of one plane can be an advantage for beginners who master the biomechanics of strength training, but for experienced lifters this often goes to the detriment. With free weight, you completely control the movement and not only resist the force of gravity, but also balance right-left and back-to-back. Take as an example a press of dumbbells above your head or a press of dumbbells on an incline bench. In these exercises you direct the dumbbells not only upwards, but also towards each other.

This requires additional coordination from muscle stabilizers, which means that more muscle groups participate in the exercise. Movement with free weight is always more difficult than their simulators, so that the key muscle groups work harder, and you burn more calories. In many cases, you also get a slightly larger amplitude of motion.

"Undoubtedly, this is the main advantage of free weight – you can perform multi-joint movements, which are most effective in terms of growth in muscle volume and strength," Reid explains. – "If you want to gain an impressive mass, bench press, squats and deadlift must be present in your training."

Strengthening connective tissue

Simulators help to isolate more effectively each muscle, as they minimize the contribution of stabilizers, while the barbell and dumbbells have a diametrically opposite effect. When the main and auxiliary muscles are exposed to greater stress, the load increases on the connective tissue structures (tendons, ligaments) to which the muscle fibers are attached. Strengthening connective tissue is one of the key advantages of training with free weight.

An increase in the secretion of anabolic hormones

Since with free weight you can increase the requirements for the body, it helps stimulate the secretion of anabolic hormones, in particular, growth hormone and testosterone. Both hormones are indispensable for muscle hypertrophy, and therefore adherence to the protocol that enhances their production opens up more opportunities for stimulating muscle growth.

"By incorporating heavyweight compound movements, such as deadlift and squats, into training with loose weights, you are getting stronger testosterone and growth hormone products," Reid said.

Of course, and most of the simulators you can adapt to your physique, but what if you are too tall or too low, or you have too short / long limbs? The lion's share of simulators is designed for the average physique, and some may not fit your constitution. Forcing the joint to work in the wrong position, you increase the load, which can lead to painful sensations or injuries. If, despite all your efforts, the simulator refuses to tune properly, find another simulator or alternative exercise with free weight.

Preparation for sports and other types of physical activity

The strength that you develop with the use of simulators is not always applicable in sports and everyday life, because outside the gym you will not be able to take advantage of the benefits that the simulator gave you. Meanwhile, during sports your body is usually in motion, you often lose balance, and all this chaos is almost impossible to simulate in the simulator. Wholly relying on exercises in the simulators, you do not improve coordination of movement and do not develop the ability to keep balance.

"I went in for sports in college, and I always recommend free weights for training athletes," Reid continues. "Athletes need an applied, functional force for battles on the field or on the court. Such movements as lifting the bar to the chest, deadlift and squats are the key to the development of speed, power and mobility, and all this leads to high sporting achievements. "

If you are training at home, a simple installation, including a regulated bench and typing dumbbells, will allow you to conduct training on the entire body. You will have to spend thousands of dollars on simulators needed for a comparable workout, and these simulators will take up a lot of space. For most people involved at home, it's just unreasonable.

Obviously, in your training arsenal there is time and place for simulators, although for most people who want to gain muscle mass, free weights give obvious advantages. One of the practical ways to use both types of equipment is to start training with free weights. Closer to the end of the session, when fatigue has already accumulated, you can go to the simulators. Thus, you will be able to exercise at the limit of possibilities, without thinking about keeping balance with a heavy shell. In a sense, you will get the best from both worlds – simulators and free weights.


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