Free weights v's machine v's

bodyweight only. what is the best for sprinting? :confused:

This question could be endlessly debated with quotes like “there is a time and place for everything” etc. so I will simply let the words of Vladimir Zatsiorsky be restated as they seem appropriate: “The important limitation of many strength training machines is that they are designed to train muscles, not movement. Because of this, they are not the most important training tool for athletes.”

Machines play a pretty limted role in the training of athletes. As mentioned in the previous reply, movements are much more important to train than muscles. For the price of 1 or 2 gym machines, an entire free-weight set-up could be purchased (squat rack, barbell and plates, DB’s, adjustable bench, etc…).

It seems obvous that this would be the case with sprinting but can someone explain why this is when it comes to weight training?

If you already train the movement with sprint training why do you want to do it again with weights?

Machines have a place in sprint training. I have found that intra-muscular co-ordination of muscles can be improved through machines while inter-muscular co-ordination can be better improved in free weights.

This question revolves around “specificity” of training. As many on this board own a copy of “Supertraining”, I would refer you to the first chapter as Siff details much of the reasoning behind this concept.

Yeah, I have Supertraining. Its just this is one of the many ideas in strength and conditioning that somehow the logic doesn’t quite make sense to me. I was hoping someone could convince me.



Does this mean that it would be wrong to use some isolated exercises early on in your training (e.g., first 3-4 weeks) and perform them in a slow pace as a supportive system of what follows later on?

Were would you rather place these exercises in a workout during this phase?


its because youre not training the sporting movement through lifting weights. free weights help with your coordination as well, which would be the primary reason for using free weights over machine. also there are other problems with machines, such as incorrect range of motion and improper load.

i dont think so. as long as your workout isnt total isolation i think its fine. youd place them after your compound movements, westside style.

Another reason to focus on free weights has to do with stabilizer and neutralizer muscle function. When machine exercises are performed prime mover muscle are getting stronger without the simultaneous strengthening of the “assisting” muscles. Seldom in real life (sprinting included) are you using your prime movers without concurrent activation of the stabilizers and neutralizers.

I guess the real moral of the story is that motor control (inter-muscular coordination, etc…) is altered in ways that may prove detrimental to athletes and those needing 3-dimensional strength and stability. Of course there will always be some athlete who is great and uses machines. In these cases I think the athlete is great “in-spite” of their training not because of it.

I believe that your question is a valid one and if you look back at the history of training, the specific sport itself (in this case sprinting) was in fact also the method of training for many athletes and coaches. As we know now and have for some time, this wasn’t the most effective means for improvement. Per your original question, “If you already train the movement with sprint training why do you want to do it again with weights?” I would say that they are synergistic qualities. They both contribute to the whole athlete/sprinter. The term training economy comes to mind. It would seem to me that training with weights would be more economical in order to increase relative strength and therefore the ability to put more force into the ground with each foot contact then to simply try and improve this quality with sprint training alone. Yet at the same time we also know how important sprint development is. This of course is covered exquisitely in Charlie’s GPP video/dvd. Not sure if this convinces, enlightens, or explains what you may already know. Just my 2 cents!

Yes, i could understand this point of view. But if you have ever used a MedX Pullover, LE, RT or Chest Press, you would realise that you use do indeed use stabaliser muscles just to keep yourself in the seat!

Plus with a 2 bar linkage system at any point there are always 2 possible solutions and with 3+ (which is the case with upper body because the scapula could be counted as at least 1 more) there are many (if not infinite) solutions to the position of the limb during a movement even if the end point is fixed. So the pattern of movement won’t necessarily be the same every time.


Yes, this is more convincing. But why free weights, why not machines? Why are they so much better? If all you want to do is stimulate CNS and develop general qualities (which I agree is why you use weights) why can’t you use machines?

Couldn’t the same arguement be said about all other training methods as well including med ball accel, plyometrics, weight training etc?

I don’t think it is a case of not using machines. They certainly can have a place, and certain machines may be more useful than others (ie. a good pulley unit rather than any seated machine with one axis of rotation). Page 204 of “Facts And Fallacies Of Fitness” covers the pros and cons of “Functional Resistance Machines” and “Nonfunctional Resistance Machines”.

“In the vast majority of cases, NFR machines provide an inferior and less efficient way of training the musculoskeletal system. This is particularly true regarding the conditioning of the neuromuscular system in rapid or explosive movements, as well as the elastic qualities of the tendons and other connective tissue which are essential in all sports involving running, jumping, throwing, catching or any other ballistic actions. Isokinetic machines cna be especially deficient in this regard, so that their appropriateness of use must be clearly understood if they are to prove beneficial in sport specific training.”

I think many of the previous posts more than justify the use of free weights over machines, especially with athletes. However, if you’re so inlcined to do so, THEN JUST USE MACHINES!
Another factor not talked about is the cost benefits of free weights compared to machines. For one Med-X machine you could buy the sweetest free weight set up one could ever need!

Is Facts and Fallacies a good book, does it have material not covered in Supertraining? It is about the only major S&C book I don’t have in my collection.

It is a good compliment to Supertraining. Dr. Siff started a series of online seminars called Puzzles and Paradoxes in Sports Science back in 1995 which led to the book. I got mine directly from Dr. Siff at one of his original strength camps many years ago. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:
“This book serves as a more popularized practitioner’s version of some of the information distributed on my Internet forum on Puzzles and Paradoxes. It contains a series of essays and practical guides on many of the topics which I have presented at conferences or used in teaching students over the years.”

Why or how do the Stabelizer muscles during say, a bench press, help during sprinting. Sprinting itself develops plenty of stabalizing muscles. Doing your bench in say a Smith machine to focus on pecs shoulders and triceps and CNS should be plenty?? Why would the lack of stabilizing muscles of this exercise for eg be bad for sprinting. Eg. During a sprint you dont even do a bench press movement… Also, machines seem a hell of a lot safer when you have no training partner, allowing you to push harder with a lot less risk of injury.
Also, Why do you need to be THAT strong? A good circuit of push ups, chin ups, dips, sit ups, one legged squats, one legged calf raise ect would or should be better that either free weights or machines??? For sprinting that is. Just because you can lift the whole gym, dont make you fast.