Which is Better, Free Weights or Fitness Machines?

Which is Better, Free Weights or Fitness Machines?

Choosing a fitness training program always includes the use of either free weights and workout equipment or machines that help you get stronger, more flexible, lose weight, and achieve whatever fitness goal you have set.

Which is better for you? No single piece of equipment is best for every fitness buff. Experts agree that the choice of using free weights or machine weights is based on your personal preference, your physical fitness level, your fitness goals, and your access to equipment.

Free Weights Vs. Machines for Weight Training

Weight training is a common type of strength training for developing the strength and size of skeletal muscles.

It is an organized exercise in which muscles of the body are forced to contract under tension using weights, body weight, or other fitness equipment.

Using Free Weights

Free weights include any weight you can pick up and move around. They are not attached to another structural device and are raised and lowered by the use of the hands and arms in weightlifting.

The most popularly used free weights are dumbbells, barbells, and kettle bells. They are used with these distinguishing features:

  • Versatile and inexpensive
  • Simulate real-life situations
  • Promote whole-body stabilization
  • Generally safe when used with the proper technique
  • May take some practice to get used to lifting
  • Essential that it is used with proper technique

Free weights vs Machines

Using Machine Weights

Machine weights can be effective training tools as long as they are used depending on your body’s dimensions so that you allow your joints to move through the natural motion paths.

They are used for weight training by using gravity as the primary source of resistance while mimicking the feel of free weights.

The two types of resistance machines

  • Plate Loaded

    • They work by the user adding weighted plates to a stack in order to increase the resistance. This can be tricky if you use this machine in a gym because you may struggle to find the plates that you want and the weight cannot be changed easily. Examples are the Smith machine and the sled-type leg press.
  • Pin Loaded

    • These machines have a stack of weights already part of the machine and the user changes the resistance by simply moving a pin up or down. This will work best for you if you are working on pyramid sets or drop sets.
    • It will provide you the convenience to be able to change the weight quickly without having to leave the machine in order to change weight resistance.
    • Examples include the chest press, Lat pulldown, seated row or cable row, Pec Fly, Leg Curl, and the Leg Press.

Free Weights Vs. Machines for Muscle Building

Gym EquipmentFree weights activate more muscles than machines because they will give you a well-rounded workout and work multiple muscles at a time, including stabilizer muscles.

Hence, they are better for building muscles in the long run. However, when your muscles are tired and your form is starting to suffer towards the end of your training session, machines can help you to continue training safely.

Machines can also help target weaker muscles and train them to get as strong as your dominant muscles.

An example of this approach is incorporating a hamstring curl machine after doing your squat sets on free weights so that your hamstrings will not lag behind in developing strength since squats are focused on strengthening the dominant quads.

In fact, bodybuilders will sometimes use machines at the end of a gym session to target specific muscles.

Free Weights Vs. Machines in Safety

Free weights require a lot more control than machines. It can be pretty dangerous to lift a free weight that’s too heavy because dropping heavy free weights can cause serious injuries.

You should also have a spotter or a member of the gym staff to show you how to do the exercise properly with good form if you choose to lift a weight that you haven’t lifted before.

A spotter stands over you as you lift the weight, follows your movement, and will assist you when needed.

Machines are generally safer than free weights if you use them as prescribed. As long as you know how the fitness equipment works, you are far from injury.

The Verdict

Free weight exercises can help you work more muscles in less time than with machines, allowing you to get a full-body workout with just a few dumbbells.

Machines are relatively a safer way to isolate specific muscles or if you’re rehabbing an injury.

Fitness Expo can give you the ideal training program that may incorporate both free weights and machines to get the most from both muscle strength gains and stability.

The bottom line is, both free weights and machines have their benefits and their issues and you should use training equipment that suits your training needs, is safe, and convenient.

The best training system is one that you enjoy and one that you will really do. Prioritize proper form and technique over the specific type of equipment.

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