(Wrote this for the Feb issue of the Organic Athlete Member Newsletter. Thought I'd share it here too, even though I'm preachin' to the choir...)
Free weights, in their beauty and simplicity, require an intellectual and neuromuscular investment. You must learn how to use them, and practice using them properly. The body, the free weight, and gravity all have to work together. That doesn’t make free weights inherently more dangerous; it just means you need a little more information to use them appropriately.
Learning how to move and then attending to what you've learned is the foundation of physical health, of performing well, and preventing many injuries. Over the long run, is it really safer and better for you to develop a little mindless hypertrophy using machines, or is it better to learn how to control your center of mass as you transfer power from your legs to your upper body?
From a function and performance standpoint, free weights are for those who want to invest the time and effort to take their training to the highest and most productive level. It is no different than learning to eat well; dedication to your goal will pay off. And the purchase of a few key free weights can mean the freedom to workout at home without the expense and inconvenience of a commercial gym. The barbell, the dumbbell, the medicine ball, and the physioball are your friends. Don’t let a bad experience in a commercial gym or the misguided fears of “bulking up” or getting injured keep you from mastering your health and performance with free weights.
I encourage and offer (http://www.ironmaven.net/services.html) coaches and athletes the opportunity to see me for a movement screening evaluation and then a session or two of exercise instruction and introductory program planning. This time allows me to find and address any mobility limitations, make sure body mechanics are sound, and answer questions. Check your local bike shops, running centers, and online resources for referrals to credentialed people (physical therapists, athletic trainers, or personal trainers) who are familiar with the demands of your sport and meet with her or him in person. It will be a great investment in your performance and health!