It’s time to settle a huge debate.
Which is better for me, weight machines or free weights?
Will one give me better results?
I’ve heard a lot of folks mention that they believe using weight machines is for elderly folks or those that aren’t real lifters. If you ever hear someone say this, turn the other way and run. They clearly have no idea what they are talking about.
This topic is more often than not misconstrued and based on people’s opinions.
Using weight machines vs free weights, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each.
A free weight can be describe as anything that not is physically attached to a machine. For example, a free weight can be described as dumbbells, barbells, flat bench press, incline bench press, the squat rack and more.
When in debate, it always important to try to view both your view, and the opposing view. For those purposes, it will be important to first consider the pros and cons of free weights.
- Work More of your Body’s Muscles- When using free weights, such as dumbbells for a bicep curl, you will work more muscles in your body than just your dumbbells. More often than not, you will work many parts of your body when you think you’re only hitting one. This can be seen as advantage because you obviously will gain strength in other areas while still focusing on, for example, your biceps.
- Easier to Access- When the gym is busy, you will most likely be able to find open free weights compared to an open machine. For example, my gym has one bicep machine, whereas it has a ton of free weights. You most likely will waste less time at the gym if you use free weights
- Self Accomplishment- Sometime’s lifting free weights can give you a high sense of satisfaction. For example, it is a common conversational piece to talk to a friend about how much you can bench press. This is something you can surely brag about. However, you normally don’t hear someone brag about using a flies machine.
- More Likely to Use Poor Form- Using free weights sounds exactly as it is worded. The weights are free, in the air, and you must lift them and put them down without hurting yourself. When using free weights it is a lot more likely an individual will use poor form on a lift. This can then lead to injury and time out of the gym. Always make sure you know the proper lift form for your exercise.
- Can’t Push Your Limits- When using free weights such as a bench press, you can’t really push your limits and try for another rep unless you have a spotter watching over you. If you push your limits too far and drop the barbell, you could potentially have a serious injury. This is especially the case when lifting a lot of weight.
- Intimidating for Beginners- Free weights can also be quite intimidating for first timers. It can be intimidating because your form will most likely be off and it’s possible for some jerk to stare and judge. This can be scary and it’s always important to ask for help when you need it .
A weight machine is simply how it sounds. More times than not, a machine will have a seat of some sort. Also, you won’t be physically picking up any weights. You will place a pin in the machine for the amount of weight you would like to exercise with.
Weight machines can sometimes have a bad reputation, but they are just as useful as free weights in the following ways.
- Instructions Are On the Machine- For beginners, machines are a great starting point especially because there are normally instructions written on the side. These instructions can tell you how to set it up correctly, and what form you should be using. They also can have visuals which prove to be extremely helpful even for experienced lifters.
- Pinpoint Exactly What Amount You Want to Lift- Machines come with the option of selecting the exact amount of weight you would like to lift. When lifting dumbbells you must choose either 20 lbs or 25 lbs. However, when using a weight machine you can choose something in between. There will be an option to add 2.5 pounds as to pinpoint your lifts! Not only is this important, but you will also be able to push yourself to your limits because you won’t be afraid of dropping anything and causing injury!
- Easier On Your Body, Focus On One Muscle- Using weight machines is easier on your body. Many people struggle with back issues when using free weights, however, due to the set up of many machines you can better avoid injury. This is true because instead of using your full body, you are able to focus more on just one muscle group. This could even lead to better results.
- Poor Reputation- Machines seem to find a poor reputation in the gym. For some odd reason, machines have the reputation of being for older folks or for someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. While this can be true, weight machines are extremely beneficial for all members of the gym, not just the frail or beginners!
- Expensive and In Limited Quantity- Another con, is that weight machines can be very expensive compared to a few dumbbells. Your gym will most likely have fewer machines than free weights available for use. Weight machines simply take up a lot more space and be very costly!
What Should You Use?!
When you make the decision between using weight machines vs free weights, do what is best for you. I cannot stress this enough. The only thing that matters concerning your health and what you do in the gym, is to be comfortable and safe.
If you enjoy using free weights, then use free weights!
If you enjoy using weight machines, then use weight machines!
Or, use both!
Personally, I like to switch my lifts up by sometimes using machines, and sometimes using free weights. Switching it up can actually help your body because it will be doing something new. Your body can get used to the same old, same old!
What do you prefer using, free weights or weight machines? Comment Below!
Founder of myshakercup.com
Interesting, I've mostly always just worked out without weights(yoga, sports, hikes, runs) was thinking about maybe building some muscle back up and considering joining a gym for machines and such.
Great post Russell! I used to be of the "free-weights-only" mentality, as someone told me early on that the smith machine and other machines were for wussies. After a recent injury and surgery, I have used primarily machines for any exercise that you would normally be on your feet (I had a stress fracture in my foot), and I have been able to make incredible total body gains while using the mix of free weights and machines that you suggest. So I wholeheartedly agree and believe you have great advice for anyone coming to your site! Keep the info coming and I look forward to your next post!