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Are dumbbells or machines better for strength training?

Which kind of strength-training equipment makes the most of your time -- fixed machines or free-form gear?

Go for the free-form gear, like dumbbells or cable-and-pulley machines that allow freedom of motion. They can give you double the strength gains that fixed equipment offers.

Fixed machines -- like a leg-press machine, where you load up a plate with weights and have a fixed plane of motion to push through -- don't tap as many balance and control muscles as free-form equipment does. So you don't get as buff, a recent study showed. People in the study who used free-form equipment boosted their strength by a whopping 115 percent -- versus just 57 percent for the fixed-machine users. Free-form gear boosts balance better, too.

Whether you use free-form or fixed machines, regular strength-training is a key element in your age-reduction plan.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.