These factors change the nature of an exercise, moving from strength training to a more resistance-centric one: both are important components in everyday life and in sport.
Strength and resistance, what we really need
We all need both strength and resistance.
We have specified this because they are not the same thing, although in common terminology they are often confused or used interchangeably.
Muscle strength is the ability that allows to overcome a resistance or to oppose it through the tension developed by the musculature.
There are three types of force.
- Maximum strength: represents the highest strength your muscles can develop. This is essentially the maximum load for one repeat (1RM) in each operation.
- Resistant strength: resistance to loads greater than 30% of 1RM. Training this type of force means performing multiple repetitions, generally more than 25, exceeding by 30% your own 1RM.
- Rapid force: represents the ability to overcome resistance as fast as possible. Rapid force always "collaborates" with the maximum force, as in the case of sprinters.
Resistance is the physical capacity that allows you to sustain a given effort for as long as possible. This is the general resistance, which involves important muscle masses and the entire cardiovascular and respiratory system. Important in all our activities.
Then there is the special resistance that is the ability to sustain a specific effort, linked to a particular sporting gesture.
Three types of resistance are distinguished according to the duration of the effort.
- Resistance of short duration. This usually comes into play in physical efforts lasting between 45 seconds and two minutes. In this case, the body mainly uses the release of anaerobic energy to be able to function.
- Medium durability resistance. As far as the resistance of medium duration is concerned, the body receives energy through the supply of aerobic energy with a physical effort that lasts from two to eight minutes.
- Long lasting resistance. This concerns activities that last more than eight minutes and require the provision of aerobic energy.
The ideal number of repetitions
If you mainly need to work on muscle endurance, the number of repetitions is 25 to 45.
If the basic requirement is the best development of the cardiovascular-respiratory system, work over 100 repetitions.
Number of repetitions
- 1-3 Strength
- 4-8 Mainly strength + just a little bit of muscle endurance
- 9-15 Strength + muscle endurance
- 16-25 Strength + muscle endurance
- 26-35 Muscle endurance + a bit of strength
- 36-45 Strength endurance + just a little bit of strength
- 46-65 Strength endurance + some cardiovascular endurance
- 66-75 Strength endurance + cardiovascular endurance
- 76-100 Cardiovascular endurance + some muscle endurance
The benefits of strength resistance training
There are many types of strength training, many disciplines have joined the more traditional work with weights.
Weight training is used by millions of people to adapt their body muscles to a progressively increasing effort. This training method makes it possible to achieve a variety of goals, such as increasing maximum strength, increasing endurance and muscle mass. This is possible, as we have seen, simply by varying loads and repetitions.
Weight training is therefore much more flexible and varied than you might think, and this is certainly a plus. Let us now see its main benefits.
Over the years, a combination of factors and changes has meant that the deposition of minerals in bones is slowed down with an increased risk of diseases such as osteoporosis, especially in women.
On the other hand, training of strength promotes increased bone density.
The increase in lean mass and exercise is a strong stimulus for metabolic activities. The more muscles we have and more calories we consume throughout the day, regardless of age, thyroid function and level of physical activity. The muscle, in fact, is a living tissue, in continuous renewal and with metabolic demands clearly higher than the adipose tissue (almost ten times).
Improved muscle tone helps burn more calories even during exercise. As we do sport, our metabolism increases considerably and remains high even for several hours after the end of the workout (up to 72 hours after a particularly intense strength workout).
For the heart
We are aware that it is not very romantic to admit it but... the heart is a muscle, and as such the exercise keeps it in shape, training it to pump the blood efficiently throughout the body.
The effectiveness of aerobic activity for the heart is now a fact but it has been shown that even strength strength exercises have a positive impact on the cardiovascular system because they help to improve blood pressure and blood vessel functioning. By improving metabolism, they allow you to lose weight faster and gain more benefit from aerobic activity.
How to train: free weights or machines?
Both methods should be used, since although they have different characteristics, they can be considered complementary. Machines develop more muscle mass, while free weights develop explosive force, coordination and balance.
In principle, we suggest that you evaluate your athletic fitness level before opting for one or the other activity: if you are a gym beginner, then it is better to opt for a car. If we are more experienced, without being real bodybuilders, then we can use free weights.
Let's find out the reasons for this distinction.
Freedom of movement or assisted movement
The first and main distinction concerns the degrees of freedom of movement that can be made with free weights. A simple example is the difference between bench press and chest press. The first exercise to be carried out correctly over the entire range of movement requires consistent muscle control; on the contrary, in the second, the machine helps to perform all the movement correctly.
With the machine we can approach to the perfection of the technical gesture that is realized if during the execution of the movement the posture assumed by the body is correct and the trajectory on which the resistance is moved involves the chosen muscle synergy.
It can be seen that learning the correct technique is faster with machines than with free weights.
One, none, one hundred thousand.... muscles
Exercises performed with weights (e. g. balance bars, dumbbells, medical balls) activate many more muscles than machines and this is also due to the movements we make in order to maintain the correct position for the exercise. If we stand several muscles are also activated to maintain balance.
Conversely, the machines allow the isolation of a movement or a single muscle group.
Another important issue is that when free weights are used, you can move freely in space in all three planes: free weights allow you to replicate the activities of everyday life, even if you add a load. The machines, being fixed on an axis, allow movement in a double-deck structure: an aspect which, while being a limitation, contributes to the safety of trainers.
An open ending
In general, referring to evidence, many studies have shown a greater increase in force using machines than using free weights, but other studies have proven the exact opposite. Both methods are important because they help to develop different, valuable skills such as muscle strength, proprioception or coordination.
In addition, with regard to the increase in strength, it must also be said that it is related to the intensity, volume, method and recovery times used during training.
In view of all that has been written, the ideal solution is to adopt both methods; you have to decide which one to use according to the intended purpose, training level and needs. No mode has shown itself superior to the other: free weights and machines can be considered complementary methods, each having its own peculiarities.
The important thing is to train!