T Nation

Universal Bench or Free Weights


I have a couple questions, the first is about bench pressing.

I can press 170ibs about 5-8 reps depending on how many previous sets i have done and what weights (pyramiding).
I find that my benchpress on an actual bench is much weaker than on a bench press machine.

Could you please tell me why this may be the case and perhaps and exercise or two to incorporate with my freeweight bench that may increase my performance? I assume it is because my stabilizer and assisting muscles are not as developed.
Suggestions please.


I am currently overweight. I have a history of playing rugby as a prop and doing tae kwon do as well as other sports and activities. Weight lifting in spurts since i was 13(i know, consistency, consistency, consistency)

My question. I would like some advice besides diet and cardio on maximising my calorie burn. I have been hitting the cardio as often as I can and fairly intensly for 30min or 45min spurts (machine tells me i am burning between 550-700 calories per session). What are some particular exercises that are good for burning calories and weight loss.

My workouts usually consist of benchpress, rows, lat pulldowns, tricept pulldowns, military press, barbell curls, I have started doing 21's again as well and as much cardio as i can take. I usually split my workouts between chest and back days, and arm days. My legs are still very strong from my past activities and can press 3 sets of 400ibs x20, x15, x15 without trouble (i would go more but my gym back home only goes up to 400ibs; in university now)

I am not that interested in working my legs as i have to run around campus alot and don't want too much leg discomfort. Will get back into them at a later date. Focus
now is Back, Arms, Cardio and weight loss.

Thanks, Jeff


well you nailed it its the stabilizers how to fix it drop the loads and keep on working hard at the bench etc. DB pressing will help a ton as well.

as for maximum "burn" non machine based exercises ones that use a ton of stabilizers as well as the primary mover. The ones that will give the biggest bang for the buck are the ones you are sadly "not interested in" squats deadlifts etc etc. these use the whole body. I strongly suggest you lose the lack of interest and start working them or get the old light bulb frat boy look going on :slight_smile:

400 on a leg press im sorry isnt much that might translate to a 2 plate squat for a few IF your lucky and after some practice.

Im not trying to be an ass but being honest.

Go hit the big compounds with a bar and plates not machines and you will see progress

Hope that helps


DUMBBELL chest press is amazing. I felt my triceps burn afterwards (I am getting back into using them).

I actually have a question. Is a smith machine good enough to do squats in. My gym does not have a power rack (olympic barbell), as its a uni gym, but is it ok for doing squats. I can't afford another gym.


Don't do all your cardio on a machine. If you have to do it indoors, skip rope. Otherwise go outside and run, don't jog.

This will get you fit for rugby much better than steady state machine based cardio. There is nothing scarrier than a truly fit prop.

Don't waste a day on arms.

And listen to Phill.


Northrugby, it's normal for beginners to be stronger with machines than with with free weights but it's not really strength. There is no functional equivelant. It just means that you are strong on that machine and there is no crossover to real life.

When you have to pick up your buddy and carry him out of the line of fire because both your lives depend on it, it doesn't matter what your leg press is, that strength is built with squats and deadlifts. When your car is stuck or you're in a scrimage line or your wife needs a rock moved, it's freeweights that will build the strength you need, not machines.

2lb, you've asked that question before. Don't use smith machines for squats or deadlifts, you're increasing the chance of injuring your back or knees. Use dumbbells and work unilaterally doing exercises like split squats, lunges, 1 legged deadlifts, etc.

Once you can get a proper barbell, do back squats and deadlifts. One exercise you can do on the smith machine that shouldn't be too bad is hack squats. Stand with the bar behind your knees and pick up the bar, or straddle the bar and pick it up. Those movements would allow your body to move more naturally. You can stand on a platform to increase your range of motion.



To build on this, another reason you are a lot stronger on machines is that the stabilizers don't come into play. Go from that machine to dumbell bench press and see how much harder it is. Free weights will make you stronger and be better for you than machines will.


Thanks for the advice, ill put it into action today and over the weekend.


Yeah, sorry. I'll look into hack squats and shut up. lol.