Walk into your nearest gym or fitness center and you’ll probably be overwhelmed with the various machines, free weights, and other contraptions.
While it seems like there’s a new machine every time you walk in the door, there are several tried and true basic exercises that have stood the test of time and will work wonders when using a proper exercise program.
These exercises can be classified into two groups.
Compound Exercises and Isolation Exercises
Compound, or multiple-joint exercises, and isolation, or single-joint exercises.
Compound exercises involve more than i muscle and work around more than i joint.
An example of this would be the Bench Press, which stimulates the pectorals (chest), the triceps (back upper arm), and the deltoids (shoulders).
Isolation exercises target i muscle only and work around i joint (though truly isolating just one muscle with an exercise is a bit of a stretch).
An example of this would be the barbell curl, which stimulates the bicep (front upper arm).
Both types of movements are beneficial to those seeking to increase strength and muscle mass.
Compound exercises are more efficient, working more of the body’s musculature in one exercise than an isolation movement.
Isolation exercises are less efficient from that standpoint, but compound exercises can’t target a specific muscle as efficiently as isolations.
This is typically due to the wink leak factor in compound exercises. Back to our bench press, most would use this exercise to work the pectorals.
However, because the weaker triceps and front deltoids are involved, they would fall before the pectorals would.
Thus, the targeted muscle, in this case the pecs, would receive less stimulation than if you were to perform an isolation exercise for the pecs like dumbbell flys.
Because both types of exercises have their merits, I recommend using both in your routines, with an emphasis on the bigger compound exercises as they have more potential for fast fat loss.
Free Weights Versus Machines
I once had a terrible dream that the powerful forces of free weights and machines battled it out for world domination and in the process laid waste to millions of exercisers worldwide.
OK, not really, but talk to any advocate of one or the other and you might believe this dream is really happening.
People are very passionate about their choice of equipment. That being said, you can gain benefit from both free weights and machines.
Free weights give you a more natural feel than most machines, as they don’t lock you into a specific groove that may or may not be suitable for your structure.
They are also less expensive when equipping a home gym, as even one machine can cost thousands of dollars by itself.
On the other hand, good machines have advantages too. They are generally easier to use for a beginner and can prevent any sort of “lifting” injury that could occur from getting a free weight into the starting position of an exercise.
Machines also keep the resistance applied throughout the entire range of motion of an exercise, whereas most free weight counterparts do not.
For example, in the barbell curl, there is little or no resistance on the biceps at the top of the movement, but with a good bicep curl machine, you’ll have resistance at every point in the movement, creating a more effective and efficient exercise.
So if you have access to good machines go ahead and use them. If you’d like to use free weights, go ahead and use them. Experiment with both and you’ll find some favorites, and always have some substitutions to keep boredom away.
Also, you can perform many of the exercises I’ll show you with simply your own botweight as resistance. For best and fastest results, I would recommend having at least a pair of adjustable dumbbells (Powerblock Dumbbells) and a bench, but you can still get great fat burning workouts with no equipment at all.