Free-Weight Alternative Exercises 2017

Free-Weight Alternative Exercises 2017 : Alternative Workouts To Gym Machines

Free weight exercises or machines, which is better for building muscle? Most times you worry that free weights cannot put you through the same range of motions that a machine can, this is where you are wrong.

A proper free-weight workout regime can give you a lot more benefits for the same amount of time and calories burnt.

Don’t believe me? Ask any guy who is properly shredded at the gym what they prefer. They will most likely point you to the nearest power rack.(Make Sure You Read Our : Conventional or Sumo Deadlifts )

1. What are free weights exercises

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.Unlike weight machines, they do not constrain users to specific, fixed movements, and therefore require more effort from the individual's stabilizer muscles.

2. How To Use Free Weights For Beginners 2017

While some movements are hard to replicate, you can be sure that there are no excuses for you to work around with the rest of them. The best bodies, strongest physiques are built from free weights.

It angers me no end to keep preaching about the benefits of free weights to everyone because it should be immediately apparent if you are looking to get strong.

Plus, there are people who think that free-weights are alternatives to machines. Nope. This is the real deal. If at all I do use machine, it would be to round off certain parts which I feel I didn’t hit. Probably takes up 5% of my overall time when compared to free weights.

3. How Free Weight Exercises Works The Major Muscle Groups

Deltoids: Gives the classical ‘V’look. Dumbbell side laterals and front dumbbell raises help get the most out of this muscle.

Chest: The pectorals are a main part of the chest muscle group. This adds size to the upper body. Bench presses in addition to narrow grip bench presses get these muscles working.

Trapezius: In addition to developing your delts, traps are a pretty important part of your back musculature. The best option to work them is military press along with standing barbell press.

Latissimus: Another muscle group which contributes to back development and shape, the lats are the cornerstone of any person’s physique. Pull ups work great to get the most out of your lats.

Triceps: This muscle makes up most of the upper arm and occupies more area than biceps do. The easiest way to get bigger triceps is through narrow grip bench press and triceps extensions.

Biceps: Forms the front lower section of the arms, they look great when fully developed and add aesthetic appeal. Preacher curls and hammer curls can get more muscle mass on your arms.

Abdominals: The crowning glory of all muscles, a well-developed abdominal area looks great and is the sign that everything is well with your body. Most exercises involve your abs but if you want to focus on them completely, crunches can do a lot to help you get better formed abs.

#1. Seated Cable Rows Alternative Exercises

Free Weight Alternative Exercises - Seated Cable Rows

Seated cable row machines are pretty good for building back strength and I always find time to get them done. Machines that are plate loaded generally do a great job at mimicking the natural movement of exerting your back muscles. While these machines are probably one of the top most useful in the gym, there is no way you are going to get this for an average home or garage gym. So let’s see the free weight options.

  • Rows (inverted, dumbbell, barbell)
  • Bent-over rows (dumbbell, barbell, swiss bar)
  • T-bar rows (landmine, beater bar)
  • Resistance band, seated rows

#2.  Lat Pull-down Free-Weight Alternatives

Lat Pulldown Alternative Free Weight Exercises Review By Garage Gym

Another machine that can be pretty useful for building up your body and fitness, the lat pulldown machine is great for beginners to help build upper body strength, especially at the back. This is plate-loaded and hence going to be heavy and awkward in your home gym. So you are going to need alternatives.

There are more than a few options available here. One is to get done with real pull and chin ups. To help you with making it easier, you can gain some momentum by jumping at the bar.

You can also eliminate some of your body weight by attaching a few resistance bands to the bar.You can also do low bar pull-ups. What you need to do is place a barbell on your power rack and rest your feet on it when you do your pull-ups. It is effective and you can gain a lot of strength plus even beginners can do that.

So when you rest your feet on the bar, you’ll end up an L shaped position from which you can pull up. The closer the bench is to you, the easier your movements are going to be. The lower body is supported by the barbell and makes it easier for beginners to get into the swing of it, literally.

  • Rows – (bench, dumbbells)
  • Barbell Rows – (barbell)
  • Landmine T-bar Rows – (barbell, landmine with handles)
  • Dumbbell Pullovers – (bench, dumbbells)
  • Seated Band Rows (resistance bands, grip triangle, wide lat attachment)

#3. Back Extension Free-Weight Alternatives

Back Extension Machine Alternatives Guide by Garage Gym

This machine has never been recommended by me because there are a ton of other ways you can use to help you build lower back strength. Think more like hyper extension bench or a glute ham developer. People tell me that they see these machines at the gym all the time, so there are people using it definitely.

The lower back area is definitely an important area to get stronger with and is a major muscle group. The machine can be replaced by any one of these exercises. You will notice that I’d already mentioned two other pieces of gym equipment that can help you with your lower back. To be honest, a lot of home gyms carry both of them. Since they don’t need a lot of space and are pretty versatile.

Regardless I’m going to give you more than a few exercises that I think can help you a lot.

  • Back Extension (glute ham developer, yoga ball, optional weights)
  • Good Morning (barbell, advanced)
  • Super man (body weight)
  • Deadlifts (dumbbells, barbell)
  • Olympic Power Clean (barbell, advanced)
  • Snatch (barbell, advanced)

You can also use variations of rows to enhance your back training regime. Deadlifts can also give you back strength and overall body fitness.


#4. Leg Extension Free-Weight Alternatives

Leg Extension Free-Weight Alternatives

I’m very wary of this machine and for good reason. The leg extension machine isolates your quads overloading it. But this is not a natural movement because it brings into the equation stress on your knees. I confess though, that this is one of those movements that do not have a true free-weight alternative. Still, to work out quads there are several methods to exert it and get stronger.

These exercises mentioned below can replace leg extensions and give you better benefits as well. There are folks who use the leg extension machine as an accessory exercise. If you are comfortable with squats I recommend you try doing Bulgarian split squats and box jumps.

  • Squats (classic – barbell, front - barbell)
  • Olympic Power Clean barbell (barbell, advanced)
  • Hack Squat (barbell)
  • Bulgarian Split Squat (barbell, weight bench)
  • Lunges (dumbbells, barbell)
  • Box Jumps (body weight, plyometric box)
  • StepUps (body weight, plyometric box or bench)
  • Wall Balls (medicine ball)

#5. Leg Curl Free-Weight Alternatives

Leg Curl Free-Weight Alternatives by Garage Gym

When it comes to commercial gyms, they offer more machines to engage your hamstrings like leg curls, seated leg curls or kneeling curls. While isolation is of utmost importance, in this case it is pretty much not needed when it comes to hamstrings. Some people might already own this machine owing to the fact it doesn’t take a lot of space, but if you don’t feel free to use any of these exercises. In fact, you might even find it gives you better results.

  • Good Morning (barbell, advanced)
  • Glute Ham Machine (GHD Raises)
  • Deadlifts (stiff-leg, dumbbell, barbell)

Lunges and squats are two exercises that work the hamstrings really hard. Most people think that just because you get fatigued in your quads that you aren’t exerting your hamstrings. Truth is that hamstrings are working just as hard to keep up with your weighted squats.


#6. Glute Kickback Machine Alternative Exercises

Glute Kickback Machine Alternative Exercises

This type of machine exerts your gluteal area and basically gives you a tight, sexy butt. Rather than just telling you what this piece of equipment does and doesn’t do, let me list out a few alternative exercises that you can do.

  • Squats (classic – barbell, front - barbell)
  • Olympic Power Clean (barbell, advanced)
  • Hack Squat (barbell)
  • Bulgarian Split Squat (barbell, bench)
  • Lunges (dumbbells, barbell)
  • Good Morning (barbell, advanced)
  • Box Jumps (body weight, plyometric box)
  • Step-ups (body weight, plyometric box or bench)
  • Kickbacks (resistance bands)

These exercises by default work the glutes and you will find yourself having a great workout every time you finish a session with the above.


#7. Pec Deck Machine Alternatives

Pec Deck Machine Alternatives by Garage Gym

Another machine that you just can’t have at your home garage gym, the pec deck machine works to isolate your pectoral muscles. This gives you definition in the sternum (mid-chest) area. When you ask people who are used to this though, they will tell you that it is never going to be as useful as cable crossovers and dumbbell flyes.

  • Flyes (adjustable bench, dumbbells, incline)
  • Dips (dip station or dip attachment)
  • Crossovers (resistance bands)

#8. Alternatives to Cable Crossover Flyes

Alternatives to Cable Crossover Flyes

Pretty similar to the pec deck, the only difference is that this is about a 100 times better. The movement is like that of dumbbell flyes. Arnold has always maintained that you need dumbbell flyes to get a muscular chest. There is very little chance that you are going to have a cable crossover machine in an average sized home gym, so you can opt for dumbbell flyes or crossovers with resistance bands.

Bench presses in all positions and flyes can give you the barrel chest that you’ve always dreamt of.

  • Flyes (adjustable bench, dumbbells, incline)
  • Dips (dip station or dip attachment)
  • Crossovers (resistance bands)

#9. Tricep Pushdown Alternative Exercises

Tricep Pushdown Alternative Exercises by Garage Gym

This is something that I miss pretty badly in my routine, I won’t lie about it. Thankfully though, triceps are easily worked through their full motion by several exercises involving free-weights as they are with cables. I sub these with close grip bench presses and push downs with resistance bands attached to the power rack.

  • Pushdowns (resistance bands, press down rope, revolving press down bar)
  • Bench Press (close grip, barbell)
  • Dumbbell Tricep Extensions (lying down, bench, dumbbells)
  • Tricep Dips (bench, body-weight, optional weights)
  • Seated Tricep Press (dumbbells)

A few trainers I know swear by the lying triceps extension with a straight or an EZ bar. The movement involves lowering the bar behind your head and closer to the floor. This is quite similar to a skullcrusher but you lower it behind your head to get a great stretch on your triceps. You need to put in more work to bring it back up to the starting position in front of your chest.


#10. Abdominal Machine Alternative Exercises

Abdominal Machine Alternative Exercises

Of all the major muscle groups, you definitely do not need machines to work abs. There are accessories that can help you but they are definitely not required. These are the list of exercises that you can do instead of those ab machines.

All of them are equally effective and help you towards building a strong core. Best part is you can ‘accessorize’ your workouts with weights, ankle weights, resistance bands and the like. Here are a few typical exercises that can help you get that toned, washboard abs.

  • Crunches (body weight, kneeling, oblique)
  • Rollouts (ab-wheel)
  • Knee Raises (body weight, pull up or chin up bar)
  • Leg Raises (lying, body weight)
  • Leg Lifts (hanging, body weight, optional: ankle weights)

#11. Rear Delt Fly Alternative Exercises

Rear Delt Fly free weight alternative Exercises

When you breakdown shoulder exercises accomplished at the gym, you’ll find that they put emphasis on the anterior and medial deltoid heads. I’m talking about movements involved in exercises like military press, overhead press, lateral raises, dumbbell shoulder press and so on. They do not exert your shoulder’s posterior head which is the issue.

Well, the easiest advice I can give you is to smooth out the imbalance by getting on the pec deck machine or the cable crossover. Since there is nothing of that sort in a home gym, we have to turn to these better and more rounded exercises.

  • Dumbbell Flyes (adjustable bench, dumbbells, reverse, seated)
  • Delt Flyes (rear, stackable resistance bands, anchors)
  • Face Pulls (resistance bands, pressdown rope)

4. Additional Thoughts About Free Weight Workouts

If you went through this entire article, you might have come across repetitions when it comes to exercises. Also, recurring equipment usage. This didn’t happen because I was being lazy. The unique selling point of free weights is that most times they are compound exercises. For example, dumbbell flyes can work pectoral muscles and shoulders.

The best part of this program is that you don’t need a lot of equipment or machines to give yourself a good workout. Standard home gym equipment I would recommend includes power rack, barbells, bench and dumbbells as per physique and you’re all set!

There are even more comprehensive lists than this available online which are sorted by either muscle group or muscle name. make sure you head over to ExRx.net Exercise and Muscle Directory and pick apart their database to build yourself the ideal workout routine.

If you need further help choosing gear, well look around on this site and I’m sure you’ll find your queries answered. You can browse through equipment guides here and come out with the best possible option for you and your family.

You can navigate all through the website with helpful and informative links found on top of the website. If you find it informative and worth sharing, please do!

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(3) comments

Candace Dayaz January 13, 2017

Awesome post! I think that having alternatives to the norm is huge for making exercise routine part of your life. It has to work well for you to be able to stick with it. Thanks for sharing!

Reply
Dimitry Ekzarkhov May 12, 2017

Thank you for sharing this robust list of “alternatives” to machine and cable exercises. I think machine exercises should be known as alternatives to free weights. I look forward to continuing to build muscle in my basement gym.

Reply
    Edgar May 19, 2017

    Yeah, it’s all about how you take things.
    Hope you’ll build a perfect physique.
    Best!
    Edgar

    Reply
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