Featured Trainer Jeremy Aguirre

Image of The Perfect Workout's June 2022 Featured Trainer - Jeremy Aguirre

Jeremy has known his entire life he’d have a career in helping people. After almost joining the military he eventually became a certified EMT and joined the Firefighter Academy. But after hours spent in ambulances, emergency rooms, and in high-stress situations, he realized he wanted to help people before they ended up in the hospital. Here is his story…

“The EMT life caught up to me, and it wasn’t for me anymore, but I still wanted to help people.

I found physical therapy and I eventually began a job at an orthopedic rehab clinic. I worked there for many years where I was able to help so many people by treating basic health, injuries, anything you can imagine. Then COVID hit and I was forced to leave.”

Jeremy wanted to stay in the preventative care field and with his background in healthcare and physical therapy, he decided to get his Personal Trainer Certification. He ultimately found a home at The Perfect Workout where he now trains members in the San Mateo studio.

The Perfect Workout has been a perfect fit for Jeremy because he still gets to work 1-on-1 with people and focus on each member at a time.

“I get to know so much about so many of my members and many of their stories are just amazing. So while I am still helping people, and I've seen amazing progress with their exercises and their goals, it's the interpersonal connection that makes it worth it.”

Image of Jeremy training a TPW member

Jeremy has been able to help dozens of members at the San Mateo studio. Here are a few of their wins…

“One of my members, Brooke, came to me with all of these knee and shoulder injuries. In eight months of working together she's gained so much more external rotation for her shoulder, much more strength and overall movement. She recently told me something fell out of the cabinet at home and she caught it, not even thinking about her shoulder. So, her being able to transition to more alertness and confidence in her shoulder, just from the workouts we do, it's been amazing.

Another member of mine, Stephanie, has been training at The Perfect Workout for a long time. But after giving birth to her child, she put on 30 pounds of weight, and was feeling very self conscious about it. In almost a year, she's lost all that weight and improved her strength immensely. And she was almost in tears when we had a weigh-in for her the other day. She was jumping around and hugging everybody, it was so cool.”

“Vesna, another San Mateo member who has rheumatoid arthritis in her hands (which makes some machines difficult for her to use) was very hesitant when she first started to do anything besides lower body exercises. But as I guided her through the workouts, she gained more confidence in variations with certain machines. Now she's skyrocketed on all her weights, she's gotten so much stronger. She's leg pressing about 2.5 times her own weight, and she's not a big person. I can see a little bit more of a sparkle in her eye every time she comes in here.”

Jeremy laughing with a member as they look at a tablet

Jeremy believes it's important for people to try something like The Perfect Workout because it teaches you how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is not a bad thing.

“At the end of the day, [that discomfort] will strengthen you. It'll humble you. This worked even intimidated me a little bit in the beginning. But now I'm so much better because of it- stronger, healthier, and even more aware of myself.”

Jeremy Aguirre
The Perfect Workout Trainer
San Mateo, CA


If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

How to Stay in Shape After Menopause

How to Stay in Shape After Menopause. Post Menopause Health & Fitness

How to Stay in Shape After Menopause. Post Menopause Health & Fitness

image of a woman stretching before a workout

Staying in shape is challenging enough but tack on sleep struggles, memory loss, anxiety, muscle loss, and weight gain…

Sounds like an uphill battle, right?

This condition is actually something more than half of the population goes through!

It’s menopause.

In this article, we dive into a few simple, proven methods for staying in shape through and after menopause. If you’re a woman who wants to avoid experiencing the many negative impacts that menopause can have, keep scrolling.

Jump to Topic:
Strength Training and Menopause
Hot Flashes
Calorie Deficit
High Protein Diet

Menopause is defined as a “biological process,” but it might also be appropriate to describe it as a “challenge” or “health issue.” Menopause produces a number of stressful outcomes, including sleep disturbances, hot flashes, increased urination, poor memory, and anxiety (Leite et al., 2010).

Following menopause, women are susceptible to a number of fitness- and health-related issues. Postmenopause, women are also likely to gain weight, lose muscle, lose bone, and are more likely to develop heart disease (Leite et al., 2010).

Other health concerns at this time are the worsening of a few heart disease risk factors, including the rise in insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes), blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

Unfortunately, menopause isn’t avoidable. However, the issues following menopause are avoidable.

Strength training is an especially important part of maintaining health after menopause. There are several reasons why strength training helps.

Image of a happy woman about to lead a workout class

How Strength Training Can Help Post-Menopause

Health and fitness

As mentioned, menopause is often followed by a loss of muscle, bone, weight gain, and a number of health issues. Strength training reverses all of these trends. Specifically, postmenopausal women can gain muscle, strengthen bones, lose fat, and increase metabolism (fighting against weight gain) with strength training (Leite et al., 2010; Watson et al., 2017).

Weight lifting is also shown to combat all of the health concerns, leading to healthier levels of blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and insulin resistance. As a whole, strength training can help women reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

Hot flashes

Hot flashes are known for causing lost sleep, nausea, headaches, anxiety, headaches and weakness (Berin et al., 2019). Frequency varies, but some women can have them as often as every hour!

While this is not a commonly known benefit, strength training can actually reduce hot flash episodes (Berin et al., 2019). One study showed that twice-weekly strength training led to a 44% decrease in hot flashes! Strength training raises endorphin levels, which might fight against some of the internal changes that occur before a hot flash.

We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help  learning how to implement these new habits, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected]com to get started.

Other Ways to Maintain Post-Menopausal Health

Exercise is most effective for post-menopausal fitness when combined with dietary changes. Specifically, exercise and diet changes combined can maximize fat loss, maintaining or building muscle, and enhancing measures of health (Deibert et al., 2007; Foster-Schubert et al., 2012; Smith et al., 2016). Specifically, two approaches are especially helpful.

Calorie Deficit

Reducing calories is an effective way to lose fat and maintain a healthy level of body fat and inflammation (Foster-Schubert et al., 2012; Van Gemert et al., 2016). When combined with exercise, calorie control is an effective way to specifically reduce midsection body fat, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure (Deibert et al., 2007).

In research, a few strategies were effective for reducing calorie intake. Among the effective strategies were working with nutrition coaches, tracking their own behaviors (food journaling, etc.), learning strategies for changing behavior, using meal replacement supplements in place of two meals per day, receiving social support and accountability from others, and documenting weekly weigh-ins (Deibert et al., 2007; Foster-Schubert et al., 2012; Van Gemert et al., 2016).

High Protein Diet

Calorie restriction that includes a low daily intake of protein led to a large amount of muscle loss (Smith et al., 2016). Eating a “high-protein diet” while restricting calories can greatly reduce the amount of muscle lost during weight loss (Smith et al., 2016). A desirable protein intake for maintaining muscle during weight loss or weight maintenance is around 0.7-1.0 grams/lb of body weight per day.

For example, if you weigh 200 lbs and your goal is to maintain that weight, you should consume 140-200 grams of protein per day.

Other Ways to Maintain Post-Menopausal Health

If no intentional actions are taken, women might gain weight, lose muscle, and experience a big decline in health during menopause. Thankfully, a few actions can help women stay in shape during and after menopause.

Strength training helps women maintain muscle, avoid weight gain, and reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Eating in a calorie deficit, using strategies such as working with a coach and using a food journal, can lead to fat loss or maintain your desired weight. Combining exercise and calorie restriction can ensure great health, including maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose.

Menopause can wreak havoc on a woman’s body, but that havoc is not inevitable. Strength training and calorie-reducing habits can lead to great health and fitness well beyond menopause.

  • Berin, E., Hammar, M., Lindblom, H., Lindh-Astrand, L, Ruber, M., & Spetz Holm, A.C. (2019). Resistance training for hot flushes in postmenopausal women: a randomised controlled trial. Maturitas, 126, 55-60.
  • Deibert, P., König, D., Vitolins, M. Z., Landmann, U., Frey, I., Zahradnik, H. P., & Berg, A. (2007). Effect of a weight loss intervention on anthropometric measures and metabolic risk factors in pre-versus postmenopausal women. Nutrition Journal, 6(1), 1-7.
  • Foster Schubert, K. E., Alfano, C. M., Duggan, C. R., Xiao, L., Campbell, K. L., Kong, A., … & McTiernan, A. (2012). Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight to obese postmenopausal women. Obesity, 20(8), 1628-1638.
  • Leite, R.D., Prestes, J., Pereira, G.B., Shiguemoto, G.E., & Perez, S.E. (2010). Menopause: highlighting the effects of resistance training. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 31, 761-767.
  • Smith, G. I., Yoshino, J., Kelly, S. C., Reeds, D. N., Okunade, A., Patterson, B. W., … & Mittendorfer, B. (2016). High-protein intake during weight loss therapy eliminates the weight-loss-induced improvement in insulin action in obese postmenopausal women. Cell Reports, 17(3), 849-861.
  • Van Gemert, W. A., May, A. M., Schuit, A. J., Oosterhof, B. Y., Peeters, P. H., & Monninkhof, E. M. (2016). Effect of weight loss with or without exercise on inflammatory markers and adipokines in postmenopausal women: the SHAPE-2 trial, a randomized controlled trial. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers, 25(5), 799-806.
  • Watson, S.L., Weeks, B.K., Weis, L.J., Harding, A.T., Horan, S.A., & Beck, B.R. (2017). High-intensity resistance training and impact training improves bone mineral density and physical function in postmenopausal women wiht osteopenia and osteoporosis: the LIFTMOR Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.3284

Member Feature Georgette Silver

Member Feature Georgette Silver

Member Feature Georgette Silver

Georgette enjoying a hike

Georgette, 68, found herself 20 pounds heavier as a result of the pandemic. She wanted to get in shape for her daughter's wedding, but with a slough of orthopedic problems, Georgette knew she couldn't do traditional high impact exercises like running or jumping. She found an exercise method that would be ideal for her joints. The only thing she needed was someone to help her do them safely. Here is her story…

“Because of the pandemic, I'd become very sedentary. I’d put on about 20 pounds and my body stiffened up. I have osteoporosis, arthritis, my left knee is bone-on-bone, I've had a rotator cuff repair on the left shoulder, acromioplasty, and a hip replacement.

I've always been into fitness, but I needed to go easy, and exercises that are very high impact are not appropriate at this point in my life.

My goal was to exercise without hurting myself, and to build muscular infrastructure so that I could put off surgery as long as possible.

When I came to The Perfect Workout, I knew this was the workout for me.

I like that it is very medically oriented. I feel like the trainers really care about me as a person and don’t want me to get hurt, but still see how far they can push me.

It's very encouraging. If I were doing this alone, I don't think I could do it.”

image of Georgette preparing a healthy meal

Increasing her ability to move was a big goal for Georgette, and since joining The Perfect Workout, she’s been able to see and feel significant improvements.

“The Perfect Workout has given me more range of motion. I have a lot more range of motion on my legs, (especially that left knee) I can now extend all the way out which I couldn’t when I started. I have noticed that my arms and core have become a lot stronger too.

I love to go hiking, dancing and taking my dog for walks, and this workout has given me more endurance, muscular strength, and balance to do those things.

Since joining The Perfect Workout, I feel much stronger and better mentally and physically… It's my place to go.”

Image of a trainer showing Georgette her progress chart

Muscle Growth & Strength

With her daughter’s wedding coming up, Georgette had ordered a designer dress to wear. But when she put it on, it was too tight. Instead of letting the dress out to make it bigger, Georgette took this as an opportunity to lose the 20 pounds she gained.

“Not only did I lose those 20 pounds, [which took her 6 months] but I gained so much muscle [and reshaped her body] I had to have the dress taken in! It was a one-shoulder style and one arm was totally bare. People said, ‘Where did you get those muscles? You are ripped!’

To have that compliment was amazing.

I feel like The Perfect Workout is a gift. If you have an orthopedic issue, arthritis, are diabetic, or have some other issues, that doesn't mean you can't workout. This is a safe environment where you feel that people really care about you. And that's the gift I want to pass on.”

image of a female posing for a photo in the woods

“Since coming to The Perfect Workout, I feel like my whole life has changed.

I’m 68 years old and I look in the mirror and think, ‘Wow. I can't believe my body looks like this.”

I'm so hopeful for the future. I'm engaged and I'm looking forward to getting married. There are so many wonderful things to look forward to in my life. And I really credit The Perfect Workout for propelling me forward to be able to do all these amazing things.

Georgette Silver, 68
Southwest San Jose
Member at The Perfect Workout

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Member Feature Carelle Karimimanesh

Member Feature Carelle Karimimanesh

Member Feature Carelle Karimimanesh

Image of a female trainer coaching Carelle on the compound row machine

Carelle had been caring for her severely disabled husband 24/7 when he passed away almost a decade ago. She was left feeling concerned about her own health and longevity at this unknown juncture in life. Even though her mother lived to see 94, Carelle wants to live the best life she can, for as long as possible. Here is her story…

“While my mom made it to 94, my dad died at 59 of congestive heart failure. So, I wanted to be as strong as I could, as long as I could.

But, I didn't want to go to a gym.

I belonged to another gym that I hadn’t been to in years because I didn't feel like I was getting results.

I saw an ad for The Perfect Workout that mentioned slow motion, high intensity, twice a week, and 20 minutes. I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds efficient.’”

Image of member Carelle working out on the leg press machine

It’s been 8 ½ years since Carelle joined The Perfect Workout’s San Mateo Studio and she says,

“It’s the best money I spend every year.”

Carelle has experienced a number of benefits over the years at The Perfect Workout. Here are a few of her favorites…

“I feel a lot of benefits in my everyday life.

My house is about a mile away, so I walk here and back every time I come.

In total I do 20 to 30 miles of walking a week. And little by little, I’ve worked up to being able to leg press the entire stack of weights! (Both a result of having stronger legs!)

I have definitely seen an increase in upper body strength, which is remarkable to me because I don't see a lot of old women who can move their arms as much as I do.

Three years ago, I developed vertigo, and it makes me very off balance. With vertigo comes the fear of falling. And when I work out, especially leg training, it helps me to feel confident that I don't have to be fearful of falling and having a bad injury.”

Image of member Carelle K using the triceps machine

When Carelle was a member at her previous gym, she didn't have a personal trainer… because she didn't think they were useful.

“When I came here, I thought oh my goodness! It's essential. I need someone who remembers all my seat settings and what my tendencies are – to hunch or whatever it is that I do wrong. I need somebody to help me catch all those details.

I feel like we are a team working together for my health and my strength. That's a big deal for me!

There’s no one else in my life that is working for my health and my strength as much as my trainer is.

Image of a quote by TPW Member, Carelle

Carelle believes that keeping your body as strong and healthy as it can be, is the most important thing for your physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

“If you are not strong, you are more susceptible to being depressed and caught up in the negative things in life.

The Perfect Workout is the key to my health and success in my later years. Without it, I don't think I would have the confidence to do as much travel as I do, to be as active as I am in my community, and to be able to support a lot of causes.

It's a big joy in my life, every week, to come to The Perfect Workout.

I look forward to doing this for decades. And it'll still be the best money I spend every year.”

 

Carelle K., 69
The Perfect Workout Member
San Mateo, CA

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

How much protein do I need to build muscle

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

How much protein do you need to build muscle with different types of food

Hitting that point of temporary muscle failure on each exercise is the most important factor in getting benefits from strength training, in our opinion.

But, it's not the only factor that can affect results.

Have you ever asked, “How much protein do I need to build muscle?” In this article, we deep dive into the importance of protein, how much you need to gain muscle, how to get enough protein, and more. Let’s get into it…

Jump to Topic:
The Effects of Protein
How Much Protein is Enough?
High Protein Intake
Too Much Protein
How to Get Enough Protein
Protein Pays Off

The Effects of Protein

Protein intake affects how much lean muscle you gain from exercise. If eating more protein enables more muscle growth, then any additional protein to your usual diet should help, right?

It’s not quite that simple.

Researchers have discovered a phenomenon called the “protein change theory.” If you want to gain more strength and muscle by adding protein to a typical diet, there’s evidence you can’t just add a little more to make a difference.

Research has shown the increase in your diet must be significant.

The protein change theory was created after researchers noticed conflicting results of studies.

In studies when strength trainees increased their habitual protein intake, some gained strength and muscle, and others saw no change.

When looking closer at how much the intake was increased between those who got stronger and those who didn’t, a clear answer stood out:

  • Studies showing noticeable strength and muscle gains averaged a protein consumption increase of 60%.
  • Studies with small increases, such as those under 20%, led to no changes.

In terms of actual amounts, a 60% increase for a person who eats 50 grams of protein per day is jumping to a daily amount of 80 grams (which translates to about five more ounces of meat per day, considering an ounce contains 6-7 grams of protein).

To maximize muscle and strength growth, protein intake can have an effect. According to the protein change theory, a large increase, perhaps as much as two-thirds of your current intake, may be needed to notice extra results (depending on how much protein you’re already eating).

Otherwise, any change in protein consumption may not make as much of an impact on your strength or appearance.

A scoop of protein powder is how much you need

How Much Protein Is Enough?

Although many people normally eat a diet that provides sufficient protein that can provide for good strength training results, some people do not.

One recent study looking at protein intake with people who strength trained found that if enough protein isn't consumed, muscle development will be limited.

So how much is enough? In this study, the trainees ate one of three amounts of protein relative to their body weight:

  • 0.86 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
  • 1.4 g per kg/day
  • 2.4 g per kg/day.

The group eating 0.86 grams per kg/day developed less muscle than the 1.4 and 2.4 gram groups. Eating 0.86 grams per kg was not enough to help post-workout muscles rebuild to an optimal extent.

On the other hand, the 2.4 g group actually had an abnormally high rate of amino acid oxidation (breakdown), meaning that there was a large excess of protein. While 0.86 g was not enough, 2.4 g was too much.

The researchers concluded that a person who strength trains should consume a minimum of 1.3 g per kg of body weight per day.

To translate this formula into pounds, you can figure out your daily minimum by multiplying your weight by 0.7.

For example a:

  • 100 lb person x 0.7 = 70 grams of protein per day
  • 150 lb person, this is 105 grams per day
  • 200 lb person, this is 140 grams per day
  • 250 lb person, this is 175 grams per day

High-Protein Intake

According to the Journal of Nutrition, a high-protein intake is helpful for several reasons. A higher protein intake:

A high-protein diet is helpful for maximizing your physique, health, and physical function. But is there such a thing as too much?

Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Protein?

Earlier we mentioned there was such a thing as “too much” protein when overconsumption led to amino acid oxidation, but eating that much protein is not easy to do without massive changes to your diet. So, unless you’ve been consistently getting something like 350+g of protein in a day, (which is what a 175lb person eating 2.4g a kg would be) you won’t need to worry about this.

One concern some people have is the fear that eating more protein may lead to kidney damage. Some research supports the idea that this shouldn't be a concern for most people.

The University of Connecticut researchers in this study conclude, “We find no significant evidence for a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons.”

Also, the Institute of Medicine states that protein is safe to consume for 10- 35% of calorie intake. To put that in context, a person who consumes 100 grams of protein and 2,000 total calories per day only consumes 20% of calories from protein.

If you’re not sure you can eat enough protein simply because of how much food it would require you to consume in a day, read on.

How to get enough protein, a large spread of different types of food

How To Get Enough Protein

How can you reach the amount that’s recommended for a person of your weight? Consume a major source of protein at every meal.

Some “whole food” sources of highly digestible protein are poultry, fish, red meat, eggs, and dairy.

Other examples of high-protein foods include:

  • low-fat Greek yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • Tofu

For more non-meat, dairy-free protein alternatives, read Healthline’s 18 Best Protein Sources for Vegans here.

If looking for a protein supplement, consider whey, casein, egg, or pea protein. These supplements have high levels of most or all amino acids and are largely digestible. If you know you have allergens or sensitivities, especially to whey or milk protein, check out Precision Nutrition’s whey sensitivity & intolerance article here where they talk about alternative kinds of protein supplements.

Maximize your results by complementing your strength training program with a sufficient amount of protein intake each day.

Eating enough protein will ensure that you are gaining muscle, strength, managing your weight, and maintaining your physical function.

Protein Pays Off- A Real Life Story

We were emailed a real-life story of a high-intensity strength training member and her experience with protein needs:

“I was working with a woman who had lower than average muscle tone. This woman was approaching her senior years with a very small frame, below average muscle mass, and osteopenia (the precursor for osteoporosis).

Her goals: gain muscle, strength, and improve her bone density.
She quickly and fully absorbed the value of intensity, working to ‘muscle success' on every exercise a few sessions after starting. I can honestly say that I never left our sessions thinking that she could have worked harder.

However, despite a large capacity for physical improvement and her great effort, her body barely changed over the first two months. I was at a loss for words when witnessing the lack of change. Needless to say, she was unhappy with the training and with herself.

Fortunately, I had come across some research on protein intake at the time. After informing her of the researchers' recommendations, the woman admitted that she didn't consume much protein.

She made some diet adjustments and, sure enough, her body started to slowly develop into what she wanted. About three months later, she routinely showed up to sessions talking about compliments from friends and family about the muscle tone in her arms, shoulders, and thighs.

The funny thing is, even though her muscles made noticeable changes over the latter three months, it was her diet that changed. Specifically, it was her protein intake.”

It's extremely unlikely that you will “bulk up” like a bodybuilder, regardless of how much protein you eat. Instead, all of us over the age of 25 are fighting against age-related muscle loss (“sarcopenia”), which slows the metabolism, promotes fat gain, and is definitely not what you want.

We recommend striving to develop every bit of body shaping, calorie-burning muscle tissue that you can!

The relationship between strength training and nutrition is an interrelated one. While putting in a great effort at the end of each strength training exercise is key, protein provides the amino acids that your body uses to develop new muscle tissue.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Anderson, G.H. & Moore, S.E. (2004). Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(4), 974S-979S.
  • Bosse, J. D., & Dixon, B. M. (2012). Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 42.
  • Graham, J. (2019). Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes). KHN. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/why-older-adults-should-eat-more-protein-and-not-overdo-protein-shakes/
  • Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & metabolism, 2(1), 25.
  • Phillips SM. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to metabolic advantage. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006;31:647.
  • Phillips, S.M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, S158-S167.

Free Weights vs Machines

Free Weights vs Machines,
What’s Better?

Free Weights vs. Machines - members strength training

Free weights or machines?

This debate has existed in the fitness industry since the first strength training machines were invented in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “____ is better.”

Machines and free weights both have benefits and drawbacks. Read below to learn which option is best for you.

Strength Training Basics

Strength training was created over 2,000 years ago with the Ancient Greeks (Feld, 2020). They would build strength and muscle by lifting rocks, bags of sand, and the original version of a medicine ball.

Thankfully, strength training equipment has evolved. In the 1860s, barbells and dumbbells were created (Soleyn, n.d.). They were followed by the creation of the kettlebells and resistance bands in the late 1800s, cable machines in the 1950s, and the first line of strength training machines in the 1970s (Feld, 2020).

While there’s consensus in the fitness and medical fields that strength training is good for overall health, there is much debate about what type of strength training equipment is most effective for strength gains or increasing muscle size.

The debate is usually simplified into two categories: free weights and machines.

Free weights are objects that are “free” of any attachment. You can move them anywhere. The most common free weights used are dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, and kettlebells.

Machines have a fixed path of motion and are often specialized for a specific movement. Most have weight stacks where the weight is selected by inserting a pin or flipping a switch.

Strength training with either type of equipment is effective for building strength, muscle, bone density, and for enhancing health. With that said, free weights and machines contrast in their strengths (no pun intended) and weaknesses.

Female strength training on a machine and male strength training with free weights

Free Weights vs Machines

Versatility

If you are looking to use one piece of equipment for as many exercises as possible, free weights are the best option.

A barbell (with a collection of weight plates), for example, can be used for a bench press, back squat, deadlift, curls, a shoulder press, and bent-over row. This one piece of equipment can be used to target all major muscle groups.

Dumbbells are also versatile, although a range of dumbbells are needed to account for the differing strength levels necessary for different exercises and to provide options for progressing resistance.

Machines are generally limited in their versatility. An example of this is the leg press. A leg press is generally only useful for two exercises: a leg press or calf raise.

Safety

Machines hold the advantage of providing a safer strength training workout. Machines offer more stability with most being seated and isolating movement in the targeted muscle groups.

There’s also no risk of dropping the weight on oneself. With a barbell bench press or a dumbbell shoulder press, a person could easily drop the weight onto their chest, head, or feet if losing control.

On a machine, dropping the weight translates to the weight plates simply dropping onto the weight stack… aka slamming the weights. While this causes a loud noise and should still be avoided for proper maintenance and courtesy, no weight actually lands on the lifter.

Free weights, in some cases, also place more force and compression on joints (Escamilla et al., 2001).

A research team in Australia tracked gym injuries over a 14-year period (Gray & Finch, 2015). Free-weight training was responsible for most of the cases, with 55% of the 3,000-plus injuries taking place during free-weight exercises. (Essentially all of the other injuries took place during non-strength training activities: group aerobics classes, boxing, treadmill running, and jumping exercises).

Muscle Growth & Strength

Traditionally, free weights are the go-to tool to maximize strength and muscle growth. But are they proven to be the most effective equipment for reaching these goals? The research isn’t clear.

One study found that the barbell bench press and its machine equivalent, the chest press, were equally effective in activating the muscle fibers in the chest, shoulders, and triceps (McCaw & Friday, 1994).

However, a study comparing a barbell squat with a leg press (on a leg press machine) showed that the squat was more effective for activating muscle fibers in the quadriceps and hamstrings (Escamilla et al., 2001), indicating that the squats might be more effective for producing muscle growth over time.

A recent study dove further into the question of which is best for muscle growth and strength (Schwanbeck et al., 2020). Men and women trained 2-3 times per week with either the free weight or machine version of the same basic movements.

At the end, the researchers measured both groups’ progress. Which type of equipment led to better “gains?” Neither. The free weight and machine groups had similar increases in both strength and muscle size.

Leg extension machine

So What’s Better, Free Weights or Machines?

Strength training with machines or free weights will enhance your health, bone density, strength, and muscle size. Your life will benefit from either approach.

If you seek versatility in being able to do the most with the least amount of equipment, if your space is limited, or if you want equipment that’s easier to transport, free weights are the best option.

On the other hand, machines are significantly safer. Free-weight exercises are responsible for the majority of injuries in gyms. Machines eliminate the possibility of injuries as a result of you or others dropping the weight.

Finally, when the workload is the same, machines and free weights produce similar levels of strength and muscle development.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

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