When creating a home gym, we always recommend that you start with a cardio machine and some free weights. This partly because you should always do a mixture of cardio and strength training, as there are health benefits to both, and because the combination of fat loss and muscle growth is essential to sculpting a desirable aesthetic.
If your body goals are muscle-oriented, then you may be considering expanding your home gym by buying a multi-gym. In this post, we are going to examine the benefits of training with free weights and with a multi-gym to explain what this piece of equipment could add to your training sessions.
Advantages of free weights
Free weights can be used to target any part of the body, which makes them an ideal for beginners and body builders alike. It also makes them an excellent value piece of equipment because you can get so much use out of them. Strength training using free weights builds bulk muscle, which defines the contours of the muscle group and creates the strong aesthetic that so many of us desire. Lifting lighter loads trains endurance muscle and is important for retaining flexibility and ease of movement.
Free weights target muscle groups, often multiple groups at once, because the weight is constantly shifting throughout the move. For example, loaded squats target the bum, quads, hamstrings, adductor, hip flexors and calf muscles. This makes your workout more efficient and builds general strength.
Advantages of multi-gyms
Multi-gyms are a next step option for those who already train with free weights. They allow you to target specific muscles without training ancillary muscles. This can be beneficial if you are attempting to grow the target muscle without having to take extra rest time. It is also a good option if you are struggling to perform a free weight move because one of your muscles groups is too weak to support you through the move, or if you have an injury (or just muscle fatigue) that means you want to avoid loading a certain part of your body.
An example of this is a lateral pulldown. If you struggle with chin-ups (pretty much everyone does) then using a multi gym to perform lateral pulldowns will train the muscles of the back – particularly the latissimus dorsi. Another example is a leg press. This move, when done with a large range of motion, builds leg strength and is ideal for those who find squats difficult.
Who is a multi-gym suitable for?
Multi-gyms are suitable for different people for different reasons. If you already train with free weights and consider yourself to be in good shape, a multi-gym will enable you to finetune your training and target specific muscle groups. It enhances your overall workout because you are no longer restricted by the least strong muscle group involved in a move. This allows you to train using heavier loads than you would do using free weights, which will lead to more muscle progress.
If you are an older person or have an injury, a multi-gym will remove the stress on ancillary muscles and allow you to train in a way that is more manageable. For some, this can make the difference between training and not training. In addition to this, multi-gyms stabilize you throughout a move, making them a safer option. If you have a pre-existing condition that means you must restrict your range of motion, a multi-gym will provide supportive protection against injury.
Which will get you the best results?
If your aim is to become generally strong then your best option is to use free weights. This is because they force you to train more than one muscle group at a time. Whatever your main focus area is, whether you want a Superman chest or arms like The Rock, you need to train all of your muscle groups to avoid looking out of proportion. A training regime that includes squats, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, bent over rows, pull ups etc. will always reap better results than solely focusing on one area.
However, if you are unable to perform some of these moves because of an injury or problems with stabilization, then a multi-gym can be a helping hand to allow you to train what you can. Similarly, against a backdrop of a free weights regime, a multi-gym can be used to target specific muscles and refine your training.
Finally, we must mention the cost difference between free weights and a multi-gym. One of the reasons that we always recommend free weights is that they are a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment. You do not need to own all the weight sizes, only those that are relevant to your training needs. When you are ready to progress to the next weight class, you can do so by buying the next set up. You can also maximize the use of your current weights by incorporating resistance bands to moves. Multi-gyms, by contrast, are much more expensive. However, if you want to isolate your muscles or need one to protect injured muscles, they can be necessary.
At the end of the day, if you can only pick one, then free weights are likely the better option unless you have a pre-existing condition. But, if you can stretch to both, a multi-gym is a good piece of kit to own.