FREE-WEIGHT TRAINING IS PREFERABLE TO MACHINE-ACTION TRAINING

Turner, M., Powell, G., Mayhew, J. L., Smith, A. E., & Kock, A. J. (June 02, 2010). Strength gains from free weight and machine weight training in men of different strength levels. Presentation 1496 at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; June 2-5.

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This study evaluated the changes in general and specific upper-body strength as a result of training with free weights and machine weights. College men (N = 756) were assessed for 1 RM free weight bench press from which matched groups were selected for high strength and low strength. Ss trained with either free weights, seated horizontal chest press, or supine vertical bench press. The 1 RM free-weight bench press was an eccentric-concentric movement while both the seated horizontal chest press and the supine vertical bench press were concentric-only movements. Ss trained three times per week for 12 weeks using a general resistance program involving all major muscle groups following a periodized program of 3 x 10-12 RM during the first five weeks, 3 x 6-8 RM during the next four weeks, and 3 x 3-5 RM during the final three weeks.

General strength effects were significantly greater for the free-weight group than for either of the other two specialized groups. There were no differences between seated horizontal chest press and supine vertical bench press for either the high or low strength groups. Specific strength was not significantly different between the seated horizontal chest press and supine vertical bench press but both were significantly greater than the free weight performances. There was no significant difference between the high and low strength groups for either general or specific strength gains and also no significant interactions. The low-strength group made significantly greater percent strength gains for general and specific strength compared to the high-strength group.

Implication. Young men equated for initial strength level make similar absolute gains when measured with free weights but may make greater gains when measured with their specific training mode. [This verifies the most basic of training principles the activity trained improves the most.] When percent strength gains were considered, however, there was no difference among the training modes, despite greater gains made by low-strength individuals.

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