Lifting barbells vs using machines

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I have injured my low back and as a result have stopped deadlifts and weighted squats or any bar work for now. I know the results that can be achieved with Olympic style weightlifting using barbells I am now using machines and free weights in place of the heavy bar how does everybody feel about using machines only in the gym versus using a barbell. Just curious to hear others experience and opinions

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  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,868 Member
    edited February 2017
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    I've had to use primarily machines in the past while nursing various injuries...IMO, it's sub optimal as the foundation of a program, however, it is better than doing nothing while you rehab. Rehab and focus on getting better and then resume lifting with free weights.

    When I've done this, I've primarily gone with cable workouts.

    ETA: you may want to see a Dr. about your back if it's been awhile. I hurt my back last July and had to rehab a slipped disk for about eight weeks. I was in physical therapy for that time which was very beneficial in rehabbing, but they were also a wealth of knowledge in regards to what I could and should do in the weight room given my injury. I'm only getting back to my regular training protocols as of about mid December/early January.

    ETA2: When I was doing all of my rehab work, I kept the weight pretty light with higher reps and I followed my physical therapists plan. It wasn't the most exciting workout in the world, but it was very beneficial in actually fixing me. I wasn't looking to "make gains"...just rehabbing and getting better. It was difficult at first because it was so foreign to my regular training protocols...but ultimately, I checked my ego at the door and did my rehab work...and yeah, it feels a bit awkward at first when you're watching someone pull heavy cleans while you're tugging on a big rubber-band for a gazillion reps...but you do what you gotta do.
  • questionfear
    questionfear Posts: 527 Member
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    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    I've had to use primarily machines in the past while nursing various injuries...IMO, it's sub optimal as the foundation of a program, however, it is better than doing nothing while you rehab. Rehab and focus on getting better and then resume lifting with free weights.

    When I've done this, I've primarily gone with cable workouts.

    Agreed. Machines are better than nothing, but in my personal experience free weights of all kinds have produced better results for me.

    @tarothelp you could also try bodyweight workouts and suspension straps, things that require your core to be engaged and might help strengthen your back. You would also benefit from using more of your whole body in the workouts instead of isolation work on the machines.
  • afbigg
    afbigg Posts: 33 Member
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    I'm currently trying out the StrongLifts 5x5 and the whole point is to use free weight Olympic bar and added weights. The gym I go to doesn't have an Olympic bar and the biggest free bar there is only 50lbs. So my only choice is to use the smith machine. This is actually frowned upon by the creator of the program but I'm not wanting to switch gyms or invest in home equipment so I do it anyways. You won't see as much progress with machines as you will with free weights but if you're not lifting at all due to injury you won't see any progress at all so I say do what you can with what you've got available.
  • BrianSharpe
    BrianSharpe Posts: 9,248 Member
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    Agree with cwolfman13.......machines may not be ideal but they're better than not exercising.

    The main objection to machines is that the machine limits your range of motion and can often result in unnatural movements (compare squatting in a smith machine to squatting with a barbell) and you're not using smaller stabilizer muscles.

    If you're rehabbing from an injury you do what you need to do to get better.
  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,650 Member
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    Machines are perfectly fine.
  • PeachyPlum
    PeachyPlum Posts: 1,243 Member
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    I think that cwolfman13 and BrianSharpe have pretty much covered it, but I just want to point out one more thing.

    Since machines are not the same as free weights, don't allow yourself to get overconfident in what you can actually lift in real life. The machines are not a real world application of lifting the weight.

    Like... when I was first able to squat 85 pounds in free weights, I was excited because I was also able to squat down and pick up my 85 pound niece for a piggy back ride.

    Squatting 85 pounds with a Smith machine and then trying to pick up an 85 pound kid could result in getting hurt, dropping a kid, falling on your face, falling on the kid, or some combination of all of these things.
  • rybo
    rybo Posts: 5,424 Member
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    Another "not a fan of machines" but I realize they have their place in certain situations. There's also a TON of exercises in the spectrum between machines <________>heavy barbell training that will get a person significantly strong.
  • kaizaku
    kaizaku Posts: 1,039 Member
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    Weights are tools, your body does not know what you lift. So having any resistance will be more than enough. I use machines and free weights. Free weights due to the free range of motion.