How to Transition from Machines to Free Weights

How to Transition from Machines to Free Weights

Machines vs Free Weights 

Machines

Machines and free weights each have their advantages. Machines are great for people who need a bit more guidance. They support your body, usually have a seat and backrest, and they guide your movement which helps you learn how a specific exercise is supposed to feel. They’re great for people who are just starting out and need the direction a machine can provide.  

Both a benefit and a drawback of machines is that, often, they will isolate a single muscle. This can be great if you’re looking for a more targeted workout, but you’ll have to do a lot more exercises on a bunch of different machines to work more than one muscle group. The strength you gain from machines is also not very functional, but this may not be a concern if your focus is on aesthetics. 

Free Weights

Free weights are great for people who are looking to exercise multiple muscle groups at once. Because different muscles come into play to stabilize the weight as you move it, you get a more complete workout from one exercise. A drawback is that you are sometimes limited by what you can lift off the rack or by your grip strength. Your legs may be ready to squat more weight, for example, but your arms may not be ready to carry those couple extra pounds.  

The strength you gain from free weights is highly functional because your muscles are allowed to move naturally. You have the benefit of engaging parts of a muscle you normally wouldn’t engage on a machine, even though you’re doing a similar exercise. 

If you’re looking to transition from machines to free weights, we’re about to tell you how. There are some important precautions and considerations that can help make the transition easier and safer. 

Free Weights Don’t Weigh the Same

This sounds a bit ridiculous. How is squatting 250-pounds on a Smith machine (assisted squat machine) not the same as squatting a 250-pound barbell? Well, the answer is in the mechanics of the machine. Machines guide your muscles through a very linear motion. Your body doesn’t have to work to stabilize the weight (to keep it from tipping more one way than the other, etc.). Because of that, you don’t need to put as much effort into moving the weight that’s connected to a machine. 

>> When you transition from machines to free weights, you need to start significantly lighter and build your way up to find your working weight.  

Master Your Form First

The thing about machines is they stick you into a certain form. It’s great if you’ve never done a particular exercise and you need to know what it should look and feel like. However, once you step away from the machine, it’s all different. Your body will want to move differently to compensate for the position of your hands and feet and where the dumbbells or barbell happen to be resting. You may also notice that you have one arm or leg that is stronger than the other and that it is doing more of the work. This can also set the weight into a different balance that your stabilizing muscles will have to make up for. 

>> When you decide to take an exercise off the machine and onto the floor, you may notice weaknesses you hadn’t noticed before. Master your form first and then gradually incorporate weights. 

Don’t Push Your Muscles to Failure

It was easier to do this with machines because the equipment was relieving you of the weight once you had done your last rep. With free weights, pushing until your muscles can do no more can be dangerous, especially if your form is compromised. It’s important to leave your body a little breathing room and to have a spotter when you plan to challenge yourself in the weight room.  

>> Pushing your muscles to failure when using free weights can be dangerous. Always give yourself enough energy to complete your last rep with perfect form. 

For more workout tips, read up on what happens when you exercise on an empty stomach. Or, find out what you should know before you work out in cold weather. To stay up to date with our content, click to subscribe to our newsletter and receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

How to Create the Hourglass Illusion

How to Create the Hourglass Illusion

Strong legs and glutes shape your entire figure. This is partly because your lower body is made up of the largest muscle groups, which means you’ll burn more calories and sweat more quickly when you exercise your lower body. In addition to that, you can build a more proportional figure when you build muscle in your butt and hips! 

The hourglass shape coveted by many women comes from the ratio of the bust, waist, and hips. With this body shape, the bust and hips will typically be the same size, or within a few inches of the same size, while the waist is about 25% smaller than the bust and hips.   

Now, obviously we can’t change the bone structure we’re born with, but we can trick the eye into seeing the hourglass shape. As we mentioned in our post on How to Build the Illusion of Broad Shoulders, we believe healthy bodies are the best bodies! However, many women strive to achieve the hourglass ratio. If this is your goal, we’re sharing how you can create the illusion of curvy hips even if you weren’t born with them. 

Workouts That Sculpt Some Serious Curves

If you read our Broad Shoulders article, you will have learned that building specific upper body muscles will help give the illusion of a larger frame. The opposite is true for a woman’s body; accentuating the hips is the primary target! Building strong glutes gives you a natural butt lift and the toned curves can make your waist look smaller. Not to mention, all the new muscle is certainly no illusion, which means you’ll also be training for strength with these exercises. 

Our Pro Results® Trainer, Kayla V., specifies these 5 exercises for stronger hips and glutes:

Hip Thrusters/Bridges

The hip bridge activates your glutes and is one of the easiest moves to start with. You start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Without letting your hips rock or sway with the movement, raise your hips up and lower them back down. Squeeze your glutes at the top of each move. When you’re ready, you can add weights by holding dumbbells or a barbell across your hips.

Abductor and Adductor Workout

Abductor muscles are the ones that help you push outwards while the adductors help you pull inwards. When using a machine that targets your inner thighs, you’re using an adductor machine. A machine that works the outside of the thighs and hips is an abductor machine. 

The equipment itself is pretty simple. You just sit down, position your legs on the inside or the outside of the pads (depending on which muscle group you want to work on) and slowly open and close your knees.

Kettle Bell Swings

Despite how it may look, this one is not an arm workout. The movement of the weight comes from the power in your hips. Always start with a light weight when trying out new exercises until you get the hang of it.  

Hold the kettle bell while standing tall and with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your knees will naturally bend as you prepare to swing the weight upwards, but you’ll also want to intentionally squat to aid your momentum. Keep your body weight over your heels and use your hips to send the weight swinging upwards to eye level. Allow the kettlebell to come back down to the starting position between your legs. 

Weighted Squats

Weighted squats can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or an assisted squat machine. You can also choose to carry a medicine ball or kettle bell. Before doing a weighted squat, make sure you can execute bodyweight squats with perfect form.  

Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight squat, you’ll be able to tell if you are compromising your form while carrying weights. Noticing poor form should tell you that you may need to decrease the amount of weight you’re holding.  

A good squat should look like you’re sitting in an imaginary chair. Your back should remain straight, and your knees should never come forward past your toes. 

Deadlifts

If you’re not ready to lift larger amounts of weight, dumbbell deadlifts are a great way to progress into heavier weightlifting.  

To do a deadlift with a barbell, stand behind a barbell you’ve placed on the ground. Keep a straight back as you bend to grip the barbell. Push your hips forward to come to a standing position and keep the barbell at arm’s length. Return the bar to the ground by squatting, but make sure you keep your back straight for the whole movement. 

Closing Thoughts

To create the hourglass physique, you must also build strength. Gone are the days when women feared strength training because they were afraid to get bulky. We’ve crushed those myths and now know that You Won’t Get Bulky Unless You Want To. For more information, listen to more strength training tips and QA’s on Episode 19 of our Podcast: Give Me Strength Training. 

As always, pay attention to pain or discomfort when working out, and use your best judgment when moving weights. 

To stay up to date with our content, click to subscribe to our newsletter and receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

How to Build the Illusion of Broad Shoulders

How to Build the Illusion of Broad Shoulders

After seeing it on every male model and superhero, you want that tapered V-shape, the one that draws attention to well-built shoulders, strong pectorals, pronounced lats, and a slim waist. Regardless of your natural body type, it is possible to achieve the look (or at least come close) if you work on certain muscles. Now, while healthy bodies are the best bodies, we know that a lot of people are working towards a specific aesthetic. If you’re aiming for that V-shape, we’re spilling the secrets to how it’s done.  

The Inverted Triangle

You might think that just because you naturally have narrow shoulders, you will never be able to achieve that inverted triangle body shape. We’re here to tell you, you’re wrong! 

 The V-shaped physique has more to do with the muscles you work than it has to do with your natural build. There are men out there with a bit of an advantage because of their bone structure. All that really means is that they don’t have to work as hard to attain the V-shape, but they still have to work for it.  

Workouts to Shred a V-Shaped Torso

As you may have gleaned from the first paragraph, training certain upper-body muscle groups will help you achieve this look. Specifically: your traps, shoulders, pectorals, and even your lats. The goal is to build those muscles up and trim your waist down. This is what gives the illusion of broad shoulders even if you’re born with a narrow build. 

Here are some workouts that are no illusion. They’ll train you hard and help you build a powerful body that isn’t just about the aesthetics.  

The Deltoid Muscle

The deltoid is a muscle that is commonly referred to in 3 parts: the front, the back, and the sides. To get a uniform look, you’ll need to do different exercises that target all three, or compound exercises that target multiple sections at once. 

Lateral Raises

Lateral Raises work the lateral deltoids, or the sides of the deltoid. These muscles really push your shoulder circumference out as they grow.  

To do a lateral raise, choose a slightly lighter set of dumbbells that is not difficult for you to hold. From a standing position, and with your elbows slightly bent, raise the weights up from your sides and up to shoulder height, then lower them back down. The important thing is to do this movement with control. Don’t let gravity assist you! Do the movement slowly to get the most out of the exercise.  

Arnold Press

The Arnold Press will target your anterior (front) deltoids. It looks something like a regular shoulder press but there is a rotation involved that asks for a little bit more from your shoulders.   

From a seated position, raise your dumbbells to your chest with your palms facing you. This is your starting position for the move. Next, raise the dumbbells up until your arms are straight. As you do this, rotate your palms so that they are facing away from you by the time they reach the top of the move. Complete the press by lowering and rotating the weights to their original position.  

Bent Over Reverse Fly

This one is for the posterior (back) deltoids. It’s very much like the lateral raises except you’ll be bending at the hip.  

Hold your weights and stand with your knees slightly bent. Bend at the hip while keeping your back flat. Your torso should be like a solid board on your body; there should be no slouching or slumping when you bend. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, lift both of your arms out to the side and act as if you’re trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then, lower the weights back to their starting position.  

The Trapezius Muscle

Now let’s work the traps. Big traps will give you a more rounded look and beef up your neck too. 

Shrugs

Shrugs are a great exercise to target this muscle, not to mention the technique is very simple. Hold a dumbbell in each hand or hold a single barbell. Simply shrug your shoulders to move the weight a few inches up and down. 

Chest Muscles

The Bench Press is perfect for targeting your chest muscles. Throw in an incline and now you’re asking the upper part of your chest to do more work. This is what gets your pecs to look more pronounced.  

Incline Bench Press

With your hands gripping the bar about shoulder width apart, and your palms facing away from you, lift the bar from the rack and hold it with your arms fully extended. In a smooth and controlled movement, bring the bar down to your chest and slowly push it back up to its starting position. You can also do this exercise with dumbbells.

Latissimus Dorsi Muscle

Get your lats into gear with the bent over row. As you can see by the diagram, the latissimus dorsi naturally taper in width. It makes sense that bulking up your lats can give you a broader appearance up top which easily adds to the V-shape you’re going for.  

Bent Over Row

There are a couple of different ways to perform this exercise, but we’ll focus on the single-arm row. Use a flat bench to support your knee and your hand on one side. The leg on the floor should be straight, as should the arm that’s resting on the bench. Grip a dumbbell with your free hand and fully extend it down towards the ground. This is your starting point. Focus on engaging your lats to pull the weight up to your chest and to lower it back down. 

Things to Consider

Though we specify certain muscle groups for each exercise, keep in mind that you’ll still get plenty of overlap in the muscles you engage with each workout. So, while that gives you a more well-rounded workout, you’ll want to be conscious of how you combine the exercises to avoid overusing certain muscles. Always pay attention to pain or discomfort and use good judgment any time you’re moving weights. 

For more workout tips and ideas, read our post on the Top 10 Most Popular Exercises and How to Perform Them Properly. Not a fan of free-weights? Crush your shoulder workout with these 5 Cable Exercises. To stay informed, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Newbie Gains and How to Maximize Them

Newbie Gains and How to Maximize Them

Newbie gains are said to be the rapid development of muscle strength and mass in people who are new to strength training. It can be observed in some but not in others. So, is it a real thing or is the muscle growth a result of something else? 

Thinking about it logically, it makes sense that the body would respond to a new workout regimen by packing on the gains to help you power through the new physical demands. For our readers however, we don’t rely purely on what seems to make sense, so we dug into the research to see what we could find. 

Let’s Look at the Facts

Genetics

 

Records from various studies show that there are many biological variables that influence the rate of muscle growth. There is enough of a difference that people are classified as low responders or high responders based on their individual ability to initiate muscle growth.1 This implies that newbie gains can be very dramatic for some and hardly noticeable for others, and that genetics are a major deciding factor. 

This doesn’t mean that, if you’re at a genetic disadvantage, you’ll never build muscle. It will just be a slower, more painstaking process. The idea behind successful Newbie Gains is that your body has the building blocks to increase muscle but has not needed to use them. When you start a consistent training program, you activate those building blocks which leads to fast muscle gain. Research indicates that people who experience rapid muscle growth likely have more of these building blocks or are even able to multiply them during exercise.1 

Nutrition

 

Another factor is your nutrition. Your calorie intake can either feed your muscles and help them grow or deprive your muscles from what they need and hold their growth at a plateau. Essentially, if your goal is to increase muscle size, your nutrition will look different than that of someone who is exercising to lose weight. You would need to consume more calories than you burn (as opposed to aiming for a calorie deficit) in order to promote muscle growth.2 

Men vs Women

Another note to consider is the difference between men and women. This study shows that after training, women had an advantage in strength gained, while men had a slight advantage in the gain of overall muscle size. Both adhered to 12 weeks of progressive resistance training, yet the results they saw were noticeably different. 

To summarize, some of the primary factors that impact rapid muscle growth include your genetics, your nutrition, and to an extent, your gender.  

How to Make the Most of Your Early Training Period

Now that we know some of the limitations, let’s peer into what you can do to make the most of your early strength training period. 

Keep it Consistent

Your body needs to have a reason to build muscle. If you train several days a week, your body is more likely to feel the need to build muscle because it’s consistently being asked to perform at a certain level. If you’re more sporadic about your workouts, you might still build muscle but much more slowly. 

Don’t Hit the Gym Too Hard

You don’t need to push your muscles to the breaking point (yet). When your body is new to exercise, pretty much everything is benefitting and strengthening your muscles. Once body weight exercises become easy, step it up to dumbbells. Once dumbbells get too easy, take on barbells. You don’t want your body spending all of its energy on repairing your muscles when it could be spending that energy on building them up. In other words, challenge yourself to give your muscles the incentive to grow but don’t overdo it. 

Eat Right

Our Registered Dietitian, Debbie James, has shared her wisdom on the right nutrition for bulking. Read her advice to learn what you can do to feed your body what it needs while you’re building muscle. 

How to Structure a Meal Plan for Bulking 

Increasing Body Weight for Bulking 

When Bulking Up Isn’t Working 

Bulking During High-Intensity Bike Training 

Now that you know what advantages you have as a beginner, it’s time to head to the gym! Let us know in the comments what progress you’re making in your strength training. For more interesting reads, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Sources

  1. Roberts, Michael D, et al. “Physiological Differences Between Low Versus High Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophic Responders to Resistance Exercise Training: Current Perspectives and Future Research Directions.” Frontiers in Physiology, Frontiers Media S.A., 4 July 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30022953.

     

  2. Stoppani, Jim, and Joe Wuebben. “10 Nutrition Rules to Follow If You Want to Build Muscle.” Muscle & Fitness, www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/gain-mass/10-nutrition-rules-follow-if-you-want-build-muscle. 

8 Common Workout Excuses and How to Crush Them

8 Common Workout Excuses and How to Crush Them

It’s the start of the new year and the start of many new resolutions. If health and fitness are on your list, you’ll need these excuse busters for the time when your dedication starts to wane. It happens. We start off strong, but as keeping our commitments gets more challenging, we start to make “exceptions.” Don’t let excuses derail you. Keep pushing for your goals with these reasons to ditch some common workout excuses. 

1. I Don’t Have Time

You may have encountered them by now; the workout plans promising results in 30, 20, 10 minutes a day, or less. These workout plans crop up because having time to work out is a real concern for many people. While we don’t know if those particular routines are effective, we do know that working out for some time is better than nothing at all. It has long been recommended that if you don’t have long breaks in your day, you can break up and disperse your workout into shorter sessions.  

Kick this excuse to the curb and start adding more movement to your day. Get some ideas for how you can do that by reading these Quick and Easy Workouts for a Busy Morning, or read some tips on How to Add Exercise to Your Busy Lifestyle. 

2. I’m Too Tired 

Okay, who’s still using this one? Science has proven that working out boosts our energy and releases all kinds of feel-good chemicals. You may start your workout feeling a bit out-of-sorts, but you’ll gain energy as you move and leave your workout more energized than when you started. So, it’s time to put this excuse to bed! For some nutrition tips to fuel your energy-stores, check out this article on Snacks to Help Boost Energy.

3. I’m Too Old

We have success stories that prove without a doubt that age is just a number. These LA Fitness members have overcome adversity, defied the odds, and achieved their goals, regardless of their age. You’ll toss this excuse once you’ve read these inspiring stories: 

Dave R. is 59 years old and still competing and placing in triathlons! For years, he has been running, swimming, and cycling his way to health.  

Ed B. is a 67-year-old with a history of knee issues and even a knee replacement. He works hard at LAF’s High Intensity Interval Training class and has never felt better.  

Peter B. is 82 years old and he cycles and does yoga 3 days a week. He also takes the opportunity to hike, swim, run, and lift weights! 

Jerry and Marilyn are 88 and 87, and they have been playing Raquetball together for the past 30 years!  

These are just a few of our successful older members! Browse our Member Spotlight page for more motivational stories. 

4. It Doesn’t Work for Me


Do you feel like you’ve tried to stick to an exercise routine before, and it doesn’t work or it’s hard to keep it going? You’re not alone. The key to reaping the benefits of exercise is consistency and commitment, and yes those are both easier said than done. 
 

Fortunately, studies show that you’re more likely to achieve your goal if you record it. Write it down or tell someone, and it’ll be easier for you to keep yourself accountable. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, you can share your goal on our Commit to Fitness page. 

5. It Feels Like a Chore

 

 Add the word “chore” to anything and it seems to zap your energy for it. If you are walking into your workout already expecting to have a terrible time, it’s more likely that you will. Though, if you’re dreading your workout you probably haven’t chosen your exercise type wisely. There are so many ways to exercise, from heavy weightlifting to smooth and steady Pilates. It’s important to find something you’ll actually look forward to.  

 

You have the power to choose, even if a specific type of workout has been prescribed to you. If you have to do cardio for your health, look up all the different types of cardiovascular workouts. You’ll see the dreaded treadmill, but you’ll also see boxing, cycling, dancing, swimming, hiking, rowing, step aerobics, and more. Choose what speaks to you and you’ll find it easy to sweep this excuse out the door.  

6. I’m Too Sore From My Previous Workout

 

This one is an acceptable excuse if working out will do more harm than good. If you’re just a little sore, however, working out can help ease those aches by increasing blood flow to your muscles. The extra blood helps flush out the chemicals responsible for your pain.1 So, “I’m too sore” should never be an excuse unless you’re in danger of injuring yourself or overusing your muscles, because a light workout out is a remedy! 

7. I’m On My Period

 

The cramps, the fatigue, the bloating, and all the discomfort of that time of the month can really make your workout day look more like crawl-into-bed-and-hibernate-for-a-week day. However, like the argument for #6, working out can actually be really good for you (and your workout) while you’re on your period.  

In fact, one study found that working out in the first 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle (the week of your period and up to a week after), helped women perform better during their workouts! The study recorded results like “significant increase in jump height, peak torque values in hamstrings, increased lean body mass of the legs,” and overall positive training experiences.2  

In addition to potentially benefitting your strength and power, exercising while on your period can help relieve pain! The endorphins released during your workout are natural pain killers!3 We know that each body is different, so if you’re able, it’s time to put this excuse to rest and take advantage of Aunt Flow’s monthly gift.

8. I’m Feeling Under the Weather

 

If you’re feeling under the weather for other reasons, you might be off-the-hook. It’s definitely okay to let your body rest and recover from illness and probably better that you do in many cases. However, if you’re past the worst of it and mostly recovered, you’re probably safe to exercise.  

WebMD cites their interview with Dr. Lewis G. Maharam who says that having a fever is essentially the deciding factor.4 It’s possible that you can dangerously increase your internal body temperature if you exercise while running a fever.4  

Let your body tell you what it feels capable of when you’re sick and, if you can, do a light workout to help keep your routine on track. 

Like what you’ve been reading? Stay in-the-loop and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Sources

  1. Sarnataro, Barbara Russi. “Coping With Sore Muscles After Physical Activity.” WebMD, WebMD, 2003, https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/sore-muscles-dont-stop-exercising#3. 
  2. Wikström-Frisén, Lisbeth. “Training and Hormones in Physically Active Women: with and without Oral Contraceptive Use.” DIVA, Umeå Universitet, 2 Sept. 2016, umu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A955835&dswid=6643. 
  3. Lindberg, Sara. “Can You Exercise on Your Period?” Healthline, 24 Aug. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/exercise-during-period#benefits. 
  4. Mann, Denise. “Exercising When Sick: A Good Move?” WebMD, WebMD, 23 Oct. 2007, https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick#1. 

SUBSCRIBE TO

LIVING HEALTHY

Be the first to know about exclusive

content, deals and promotions

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest