Hammer Strength Box - how much benefit is lost?

For bench and squat, I'm using the guided Hammer Strength box at my gym rather than using full free weights. For a bunch of reasons, I'm not at the gym at a consistent time where I could find a training partner (3 kids in activities, coaching hockey, etc., etc.) to act as a spotter. I've had minor back issues in the past, and major shoulder issues long ago. Both had me reducing activity for a while, don't want to do that again while I've got a little bit of momentum.

My question is: how do I size the amount of gain and strength I'm giving up by using the box rather than the free weights? I'm not looking to compete, just add strength and hopefully lean mass once I'm done losing weight (hopefully 8-10 weeks from now). My initial thought is that relative to my goals, it probably doesn't matter too much - doing something is better than nothing. That said, every program and piece of trusted advice I see says to use the free weights. Background info below in case it's helpful.

Lost 60 lbs over the past year and change, been eating protein at 1g / lb of lean body mass Did light weight / high rep training with what I had in my basement for much of my weight loss - joined a gym about 4 months ago. I'm 5'9", 175, best guess at bf% is 15'ish. Trying to lose another 8-10 of fat putting somewhere in that 11-12% range. Goal now is to maintain muscle mass while dropping fat, though I've had some noob gains that I'm guessing are CNS adaptions though I've started seeing small improvements in measurements. Doing Bigger / Leaner / Stronger as a starting point so I'm using a system, on that program 6 weeks or so now. I was relatively strong many moons ago from weights / football / hockey, would classify myself as a beginner, probably 6-12 months from intermediate level. TLDR - not sure what info is helpful for my question.

I appreciate any input / advice I can get. You guys rock, and seeing what many of you have accomplished has helped get me off my butt and back into a gym. Thanks!


  • jseams1234
    jseams1234 Posts: 1,202 Member
    I use Hammer Strength machines every other workout. I barbell bench too - but I find that the isolateral hammer press works my chest better and helps correct imbalances. I know guys that do nothing but hammer press and they have pretty impressive chests.

    The biggest loss you are going to see if you don't use free weights is that the stabilizers will start to lag behind the majors that are targeted by the machine. If you spend a lot of time on them you will have to spend some time building those up when you transfer your lifts to the barbell. You will also find that the weights/plates you use on a hammer do not translate to the barbell at all. I can bench 8 plates for reps on the chest press but I'm still working towards a 315# barbell bench, for example.

    Does your gym have a power rack? It's also not usually hard to find some random dude to spot for you. I usually have my wife spot me but when I'm trying the heavier weights she gets nervous and I've never had some random I've asked say no. Staff will often help spot when needed - at least at my gym.
  • gophermatt
    gophermatt Posts: 129 Member
    Thanks, jseams!
  • mikenmar
    mikenmar Posts: 31 Member
    I love the Hammer Strength plate loaded machines for chest workouts. You can lift a ton of weight and go to failure without needing a spotter or putting yourself in a dangerous situation.

    I don't use freeweights, and my chest is still looking good. However, I have access to several different HS machines that let me hit the chest from different angles. I also do flies, with both a Life Fitness machine and using cables.

    I haven't tried to do a freeweight bench press for many years, so I don't know how that would go, but yeah I'm pretty sure it'd be shaky and awkward. But strictly in terms of how my chest looks, the HS machines are more than adequate.

    I also use HS plate-loaded machines for a lot of other areas -- shoulders, back, abs, and biceps. These machines feel good to me. They're highly ergonomic, and they make it easy to use good form. I hate the way belt/pulley/chain machines feel; the lever action on the HS machines feels vastly more natural.