The Debate: Free Weights or Machines: Which is Better?

Free Weights or Machines: Which is Better?

Your gym friend swears by free weights and only free weights, but your coworker says that machines do the same exact thing as free weights.  Who do you believe?  Maybe you are new to the gym or maybe you have been working out for some time now, which do you feel is better?  Is there an advantage to working out using only free weights or is it beneficial to use machines?  Follow along below for some answers to this predicament.

Free Weights

Free weights are a great way to work the entire body.  Your muscles need to work in unison in order to lift your desired load.  When this happens, you are secondarily working more than just one single muscle or muscle group.  Free weights are typically a less expensive option when compared to machines and a set of weights can be used for many exercises, making free weights an effective tool when space and the budget is limited.  In addition, free weights mimic real life situations, or functional situations, which will challenge your muscles and body in a great way [1].  Many of the free weight workouts are considered more “advanced” and there is a level of skill needed prior to lifting heavier volumes in order to prevent injuries, but this comes with time.  If you are new to the gym or have not lifted weights often in the past, take your time and start with light weights until you learn good form.  If you desire to gain muscle mass, lift your heavier weights with good form and someone to spot you; avoid overuse injuries and/or dropping heavy weights down.

Machines

One great thing about machines is that they assist in the range of motion of an exercise.  For those who are new to weight lifting, using machines is generally preferred because the machines assist and teach your muscles proper form.  In addition to learning proper form, machines are great for isolating particular muscle groups and only those groups.  When you work on a biceps machine, you are working only your biceps and your body is not likely to have momentum during the lift (as you could have using free weights).  One downside to using a machine is that while you are getting stronger, your functional ability does not improve [2].  While for most people this is not an issue, there are a good handful of individuals who desire to be stronger for a specific purpose (i.e. sports or work).  When using machines for the first time, be aware that your weight settings may be different from what you can do from free weights.  Start light in the beginning until you are adjusted to the machine.  In addition, you will need to understand how to adjust the machine properly in order to get the most range of motion from the exercise.  Take your time and learn the adjustments.  Also, a personal trainer can help you adjust your machine to a proper setting so be sure to set up an appointment with your trainer.

The Debate: Free Weights or Machines

There is considerable debate here.  While there is no clear cut answer for everyone, the question you need to ask yourself in order to answer this is: “What am I looking to get out of my weight lifting?” If you desire strong muscles and only strong muscles, consider using more machines.  If you desire a functional capability to lift heavy weights for sports or for general purposes, it is highly recommended to use free weights.

Don’t Limit your Workouts

One avenue to explore with your workout is a combination of free weights and machines.  The next time you work out, consider changing it up to where you use free weights and machines.  By using a combination, you gain valuable muscle targeting while gaining functional strength.

 

References

[1] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/weight-training/faq-20058479

[2] http://www.builtlean.com/2013/06/11/free-weights-vs-machines/

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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