It’s easy to do the same workout repeatedly, just by going into autopilot. While being consistent is important, adding a little diversity to your fitness routine helps strengthen new and different muscles and keeps things interesting.
Here, we tackle three common questions around navigating your workout style:
“Machines are generally regarded as safer and easier to use, especially for beginners,” says Cary Raffle, certified personal trainer and certified orthopedic exercise specialist. Machines provide efficiency and ensure movement along a predetermined path, making them ideal for heavy days, long workouts and when you feel tired. In addition, “if you’re training alone, machines give you some built-in safety advantages and make it less likely that you need a spotter.”
A potential disadvantage of weight machines is they can cause repetitive stress issues, says Raffle. This makes free weights more suitable for people with poor posture and certain injuries. Also, free weights work for those of different-than-average stature or limb length. If you lift heavy weights, free weights frequently remain your only option. However, they “require more precise technique and form and might often require a spotter,” says Raffle, making them preferable for experienced lifters.
Not only do you feel more committed to your workout when you know someone else is waiting for you, but you can also potentially boost your happiness. A study published in the Royal Society journal’s Biology Letters found exercising in a group increases endorphin release, as communal workouts provide a sense of belonging.
In a study published in the Journal of Social Sciences, researchers found people gravitate toward the exercise behavior of those around them. Meaning, if the people you’re with work out hard or easy, everyone will follow that same activity level.
However, if you want a heavy workout day and your friends don’t, you could be better off exercising alone. This same principle can apply to your goals. If your workout objectives do not mirror those of your friends, you might want to consider solo workouts to keep you focused on your desired end result.
Heading to the gym removes you from home distractions and helps you stay motivated because you surround yourself with like-minded people. You might also find taking a class, such as spinning, beneficial because an instructor provides extra encouragement and teaches you proper form.
Amy Aina, a certified spin instructor, says spin classes provide the advantage of direct feedback on alignment and technique by an instructor, and give you the ability to ride with other cyclists and challenge each other.
Not everyone loves the gym, and that’s OK. You can save money on gym fees and work out at the most convenient place whenever you want. For example, Aina says you can squeeze a quick workout in before bed on a bike trainer at home — something you can’t do when you schlep to the gym.