Free Weights vs. Machines: Which is Better?

· 1st January 2019
If you're wondering what kind of strength training is best for you, in this article, we'll show you everything you need to know. Take note and choose if you prefer free weights or machines!

One of the debates that always arises about training routines, is whether it is better to choose machines or free weights. Therefore, in this article, we’ll try to decipher which option is the most appropriate for you.

Broadly speaking, if you want to develop muscle as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, then you should use free weights for most of your workout. However, this doesn’t mean that the machines are useless, and you’ll usually progress faster if you combine both free weights and machines.

In fact, the debate regarding machines or free weights has existed for decades. Keep in mind that when it comes to deciding which of the two forms of training is better, this depends mainly on the person and their final objectives. In fact, some exercises may be good for some and may not be good for others.

Machines: pros and cons

Gym machines are ideal for beginners and for people who are undergoing rehabilitation. Basically, exercises with machines consist of lifting a stack of weights in a specific range of motion.

Pros of training with machines

Easy to use

All gym machines are accompanied by an image that demonstrates their use. This makes them very easy to use, either individually or with a personal trainer.

Man training his chest with a machine.

Work muscle groups efficiently

Since most of your body is fairly stable on most machines, you can focus on the larger muscle groups more efficiently.

Useful for beginners

For those people who have a low training level or are recovering from an injury, machines can be a tool to increase resistance quickly and safely. Keep in mind that you can also avoid certain injuries and, therefore, they are ideal for older people.

They allow for training with more weight

If you don’t have much experience with weightlifting, it may be difficult for you to add resistance. However, unlike free weights, some machines will allow you to carry extra weight without risk of injury.

Cons of training with machines

You don’t train the smaller stabilizing muscles

The first thing you should know is that machines are focused on the target muscle groups and, consequently, the stabilizing muscles around the joints are relegated. Don’t forget that if you neglect these smaller muscles for too long, you run the risk of suffering from a chronic injury or bad posture.

Woman using free weights for her chest.

They aren’t functional

Secondly, you should know that although the machines will make you bigger and stronger, machines don’t help you to train the full movement patterns necessary for everyday activities.

They can cause injuries

Finally, although machines for people with lower levels of skill are much safer. It’s possible that when lifting too much weight they may suffer some serious injury.

“Don’t measure yourself for what you have achieved, but for what you should have achieved with your ability.”

-John Wooden-

Free weight: pros and cons

Free weights make your body work against gravity to perform the different repetitions. For certain exercises, you may need other equipment, in order to work conveniently and safely with the weight.

Pros of training with free weights

Full range of movement

First of all, you should know that free weights allow you to train with the full range of motion. This makes it possible to move through a range of motion that is completely natural to your body. In this case, nothing is restricted or placed in any kind of fixed position that may not be ideal for your body.

Use additional muscles

Next, you should keep in mind that since you have total control of the weight, stabilize all the movement in itself. Consequently, you are making use of several stabilizing muscles that tend not to be used with machines.

Infinite variation of exercises

With free weights, you can make infinite variations of exercise. In fact, free weights offer freedom of rotation to make the exercise much more natural and comfortable, compared to machine training.

Cons of  training with free weights

Greater risk of movement

First of all, you should know that when used incorrectly, it’s easy for free weights to cause some type of injury. Therefore, you must make sure you know what you’re doing and use the correct weight.

They require learning

Certainly, training with free weights requires learning some skills to master the proper technique. Therefore, you may need the help of a coach to understand which way to go. It’s important to take your time and avoid creating bad habits from the beginning.

In short, the choice is in your hands, since both machines and free weights are ideal to maintain your healthy physical condition. However, don’t forget that certain types of exercises are more ideal for certain people depending on factors such as the level of experience, training preferences, and the specific physical objective.