It is common to hear that weight training machines are safer to train on than free weights. It is true that they are inherently safer to use because the weight stacks are located away from the person lifting and the bars are suspended or stationary. Thus, it is less likely that dropped weight plates and bars will cause the kinds of injuries we sometimes see with free weights. The stationary nature of machines also permits safer travel to and from exercise stations (verses carrying a barbell or dumbbell).
Another advantage is that if you intend to train on your own, you will not need a spotter or a personal fitness coach.
Even with these advantages of machines over free weights, injuries are more common on machines. This is probably because those who have limited experience in the weight room are less fearful of machines and will attempt to perform exercises on them without proper instruction. Doing so on machines can result in injury to muscles, tendons, and joint structures if momentum is not controlled by performing exercises in a slow, controlled manner.
Given that the use of machines can result in injury to muscles, tendons, and joint structures, there are several essential guidelines to follow that will make training on them more safe and productive: (1) position yourself into machines properly; (2) perform exercises using the techniques described: and (3) perform exercises in a slow, controlled manner. Additional precautions to take when preparing to train follow.
Before Using Machines
Before using machines, check for frayed cables and belts, worn pulleys and chains, broken welds, loose pads, and uneven or rough movement. If any of these exist, do not use machines until they have been repaired. Adjust levers and seats to accommodate your body size. Never place your fingers or hands between weight stacks to dislodge a selector key or to adjust loads, and keep them away from the chains, belts, pulleys, and cams.
When Using Machines
When you are training on machines, assume a stable position on the seats, pads, and rollers. Fasten seat belts securely. Choose an appropriate load. Insert selector
keys all the way. Perform exercises through the full range of motion in a slow and controlled manner.
Do not allow the weight stacks to bounce during the lower phases of exercises or to hit the pulleys during the upward phases.