What Are Free Weights?

What Are Free Weights?

A free weight is any type of weight training equipment that does not limit the range of motion with which you can use it. These types of weights are useful for building strength, speed, flexibility, balance and muscle mass. Weight lifters of all skill levels can benefit from the use of free weights, provided that they train with proper form at all times and understand the function and limitations of this type of equipment.

Types of Free Weights

A common type of free weight is the barbell, which allows you to load weight plates onto the ends and clamp them in place. Barbells come in various lengths and can be used for a wide range of exercises, such as the bench press, squats and curls. Other types of free weights include dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls. Some dumbbells and similar free weights are adjustable like barbells, but many are made of solid steel so they are highly durable.

Benefits of Free Weights

According to the American Council on Exercise, training with free weights provide better overall strengthening than using machines because they mimic natural movements. Because you are not limited in how you move the weight, many trainers use free weights to help athletes and clients build the muscles they require in their sporting and daily lives. Additionally, free weights engage stabilizing muscles throughout your body as you balance the weight, so you become stronger overall and improve your balance at the same time.

Free Weight Drawbacks

The same freedom of motion that makes free weights beneficial for strength training also makes them significantly more dangerous than weight machines especially when doing overhead motions. The American Council on Exercise points out that learning to isolate a muscle when using free weights to train properly can be difficult without guidance. Unless you use slow, controlled movements, you end up swinging the free weights leading to momentum doing most of the work and increasing your risk of injury.

Cost and Maintenance

Free weights are relatively inexpensive when compared to a weight training machine. With just a barbell, some weight plates and perhaps a pair of dumbbells you can accomplish a comprehensive full body workout. Additionally, free weights require very little maintenance, unlike machines that have moving parts and can break down after a few years of use.

Explore In Depth

Muscle activity during leg strengthening exercise using free weights and elastic resistance: effects of ballistic vs controlled contractions. February 01, 2013
  • Markus Due Jakobsen
  • Emil Sundstrup
  • Christoffer H Andersen
  • Per Aagaard
  • Lars L Andersen
Abstract
Comparison of muscle force production using the Smith machine and free weights for bench press and squat exercises. February 01, 2005
  • Michael L. Cotterman
  • Lynn A. Darby
  • William A. Skelly
Abstract
Effect of resistive exercise on muscle damage in water and on land. May 01, 2009
  • Patrícia D. Pantoja
  • Cristine Lima Alberton
  • Carmen Pilla
  • Alecsandra P. Vendrusculo
  • Luiz Fernando Martins Kruel
Abstract
Effects of elastic bands on force and power characteristics during the back squat exercise. May 01, 2006
  • Brian J. Wallace
  • Jason B. Winchester
  • Michael R. McGuigan
Abstract
Knee Muscle Forces during Walking and Running in Patellofemoral Pain Patients and Pain-Free Controls May 11, 2009
  • Thor F. Besier
  • Michael Fredericson
  • Garry E. Gold
  • Gary S. Beaupré
  • Scott L. Delp
Abstract
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