Futurists have long predicted that machines are going to take over the world and if you have been to a gym lately you might think they were right on target. Most gyms are crammed full of machines, with new types of these muscle torture instruments being invented every year.
Machines have taken over the space in most gyms and in turn taken over the place in bodybuilding as well. This has split the bodybuilding community into two camps - the purists who believe that free weights are best, and those who rely on machines to pump up their muscles.
The free weight crowd believes that nothing beats barbells and dumbbells for stimulating muscle growth. They avoid the machines and exclusively feature free weights for development. And in some aspects they are right. For instance, ground based training is best for sports and athletic capability and free weights adapt most readily to ground based training.
Rise of the Machines
The machine camp are practical in nature - they use the machines in the gym and they grow quite well off of them, thank you. They view the free weight group as old school and out of style. And many in this group have built bigger, better bodies by using the machines.
Mid-ground is Best
Bottom line - which camp is right? The best approach is not either one but a combination of the two. The bodybuilders who make the most of their training are those who use both free weights and machine weights to build up their body. You can too. You can make the best gains by mixing your training up, with some free weight work and some machine work.
Free weights will probably never go totally out of style and after all these years they are still able to deliver a tremendous workout. On the other hand, ever more functional and stimulating machines are being built and capable of working the muscles in ever more creative manners. For instance, the new leg curl - single leg, isolation movement, gives the legs a far superior workout than any machine yet. And the reverse hyperextension unit that people in the Westside Barbell club employ is a super way to work the body, one that has the powerlifters engaged with a machine, of all things.
A smart trainee will take advantage of the benefits of both styles and mix it up workout after workout. If you approach it right, the "rise of the machines" is indeed a good thing.