Can you explain the benefits on muscle groups that come from lifting free weights, working on weight resistance equipment and doing body weight resistance exercise? What's a good mix? Ted in Phoenixville


Dear Ted,

Let's start with the benefits of free weights. Free weights allow you to do an almost unlimited number of exercises. You can use dumbbells, barbells and weight plates to achieve your results. Free weights also give you a range of motion only limited by your body. Weight resistance machines are great for beginners who do not have the advantage of a personal trainer. These types of exercises allow the user to go through a full range of motion that is limited by the design of the machine; so it is difficult to hurt yourself. Resistance machines, such as Cybex or Nautilus, have the benefit of variable resistance which have a cam that allows for a predetermined resistance curve. This basically means that the exercise is easier at the beginning and end (where you are weaker) of your range of motion and harder (where you are stronger) in the middle of your range of motion. Finally, body weight exercise probably has the biggest benefit. You can do push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, and sit-ups just about anywhere. There is not a single best mix of these different types of exercises. However, make sure you change the order of your workouts every six to eight weeks.

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Dear Kirk,

Is it best to do more reps and 1 set or fewer reps and 3 sets? Danielle in Phoenixville.

Dear Danielle,

You should do what works best for you. We all have different goals and our bodies react differently to exercise. Also, the amount of time you can dedicate to exercise will factor into this decision. I would recommend that you try many different types of combinations of reps and sets to see what gives you the best results.

Fit-Quest is designed to answer all your fitness questions. Whether you're a workout pro, or haven't even started, our fitness expert, Kirk Lombard, Physical Director at the Phoenixville Branch YMCA, can help. An exercise and sports science graduate of Penn State University, Kirk brings more than seven years of experience to Fit-Quest readers. If you have an exercise question you'd like addressed in Fit-Quest, email it to And remember: NEVER START ANY NEW EXERCISE PROGRAM WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING YOUR PHYSICIAN.

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