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Blog Fitness Trainings Free Weights Vs Machines: Which Is Better For You?

Free Weights Vs Machines: Which Is Better For You?

Free weights are weights that are not attached to a machine and can be moved freely. This includes dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. Machines are a kind of weight-training equipment that uses pulleys and levers to enable you to lift the weight. Which is better for you? It really depends on your goals. Whether you’re using free weights or machines, you’re still using weight to create resistance and overload your muscles, which is how you build strength. The key is to find the method of weightlifting that works best for you and helps you achieve your goals. Read on to learn more about free weights vs machines and see which one is better for you.

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What Are The Advantages Of Free Weights?

There are several reasons why you may want to choose free weights as your workout equipment:

  • Free Weights Work More Muscles

When you use free weights, you recruit more stabilizer muscles (4). These are the muscles that help keep your joints in place and prevent injuries

For example, when you do a biceps curl with a dumbbell, not only are your biceps working, but your forearm muscles and stabilizer muscles are working too. 

In contrast, machines usually isolate one muscle group. So, if you’re only working your biceps on a machine, your stabilizer muscles don’t get much of a workout.

  • Free Weights Are More Versatile

There are endless possibilities when it comes to exercises you can do with free weights. You can do everything from traditional exercises like biceps curls and shoulder presses to more unique exercises like Farmer’s walks and Turkish get-ups. 

With machines, you’re limited to the exercises that the machine was designed for. That means if you want to do something outside of the scope of what the machine allows, you’re out of luck.

  • Free Weights Improve Your Range Of Motion

When you use free weights, your range of motion is not as restricted as it is with machines (9). This is important because it allows you to work the muscles through a greater range of motion, which can lead to better results.

free weights vs machines

  • Free Weights Are More Convenient

Free weights are often more convenient than machines because they’re typically smaller and don’t require electricity. This makes them easy to store and transport. They’re also usually less expensive than machines.

Read More: High Knees Benefits, Muscles Worked, And How To

What Are The Advantages Of Machines?

Now that you know some of the advantages of free weights, let’s take a look at the advantages of machines (7):

  • Machines Are Easier To Use

If you’re new to weightlifting or if you’re not confident in your ability to use free weights, machines can be a good option. This is because they’re easy to use and don’t require as much coordination as free weights (6). 

  • Machines Are Ideal For Certain Exercises

Some exercises are better suited for machines. For example, the lat pulldown is an exercise that’s designed to target your back muscles. But it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to do this exercise with free weights. 

  • Machines Provide Consistent Resistance

When you’re using a machine, the weight is evenly distributed, which provides consistent resistance throughout the range of motion (1). This is different from free weights, which can be uneven and provide more resistance at the bottom of the movement. 

  • Machines Are Safe

If you’re worried about injuring yourself while weightlifting, machines can be a good option because they offer a set range of motion. This means there’s less chance of you going too far and injuring yourself (6).

free weights vs machines

Disadvantages Of Free Weights

Now that you know some of the advantages of free weights, let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages:

  • Free Weights Require More Coordination

Because free weights are not attached to a machine, they require more coordination to use. This can be difficult for beginners or those who lack confidence in their ability to lift weights (9).

  • Free Weights Are Not Ideal For Certain Exercises

Some exercises are better suited for machines. For example, the lat pulldown is an exercise that’s designed to target your back muscles. But it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to do this exercise with free weights. 

  • Free Weights Require A Spotter

If you’re lifting heavy weights, it’s important to have a spotter. This is someone who can help you if you get stuck or if you’re in danger of injuring yourself. 

  • Free Weights Can Be Dangerous

If you don’t use proper form, free weights can be dangerous. This is because there’s a risk of the weight falling on you or of you losing control of the weight and injuring yourself (2).

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free weights vs machines

Disadvantages Of Machines

Now that you know some of the advantages of machines, let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages:

  • Machines Can Be Expensive

Machines can be quite expensive, especially if you’re looking for a high-quality option. 

  • Machines Can Be Bulky

Machines can be quite large and bulky, which can make them difficult to store or transport. 

  • Machines Can Be Loud

Some machines can be quite loud, which can be disruptive if you’re trying to work out in a quiet environment. 

  • Machines Can Be Boring

Some people find that working out with machines can be quite boring because you’re not using your body to move the weight, you’re just moving the weight from one point to another.

So, Which Is Better For You?

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both free weights and machines. Ultimately, the decision of which is better for you comes down to your goals and preferences

If you’re new to weightlifting or if you’re looking for a safe and easy way to lift weights, machines may be the better option for you. 

But if you’re looking for a more challenging workout that will work more muscles and improve your range of motion, free weights are the way to go.

Read More: Agility Exercises At Home For Beginners

free weights vs machines

How To Create A Routine With Both Free Weights And Machines?

If you want to get the most out of your workout, it’s important to create a routine that includes both free weights and machines. 

A balanced weight training program should include exercises that target all of the major muscle groups, including the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and core. 

While you can certainly target all of these muscle groups with either free weights or machines, using a combination of both will give you the best results.

Here’s a sample weight training routine that includes both free weights and machines: 

Day 1

  • Chest press (machine)
  • Seated row (machine)
  • Shoulder press (free weight)
  • Bicep curl (free weight)
  • Tricep extension (machine)
  • Leg press (machine)
  • Calf raise (machine)

Day 2

  • Lat pulldown (machine)
  • Chest fly (machine)
  • Upright row (free weight)
  • Front raise (free weight)
  • Lateral raise (free weight)
  • Squat (free weight)
  • Leg extension (machine)
  • Leg curl (machine)

As you can see, this routine includes a mix of free weights and machines. 

You’ll notice that some exercises are better suited for one or the other. For example, the chest press is a great exercise for targeting your chest muscles, but it can be quite difficult to do with free weights.

On the other hand, exercises like the shoulder press and bicep curl are better suited for free weights because they allow you to move the weight through a greater range of motion. 

The important thing is to make sure that you’re including a variety of exercises in your routine so that you’re targeting all of the major muscle groups. 

If you’re not sure how to use a particular machine, don’t be afraid to ask a certified personal trainer for help.

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Safety Tips For Lifting Weights

Both free weights and machines work great for strength training, but it’s important to use proper form and technique to avoid injuries. 

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

Use A Spotter

If you’re lifting heavy weights, make sure to have a spotter. This is someone who can help you if you get stuck or if you’re in danger of injuring yourself. 

Start Light

When starting a new weightlifting routine, it’s important to start light and gradually increase the amount of weight you’re lifting as you get stronger. 

Warm Up Before Lifting Weights

Before starting your weightlifting routine, make sure to warm up with some light cardio and dynamic stretches (8).

Use Proper Form

Using proper form is essential for avoiding injuries. Make sure to keep your back straight, your knees behind your toes, and your abs engaged when lifting weights.

free weights vs machines

Don’t Sacrifice Form For Weight

It’s better to lift lighter weights with proper form than it is to lift heavier weights with poor form. 

Breathe

Don’t hold your breath when lifting weights. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower it. 

Cool Down After Lifting Weights

After your workout, cool down with some light cardio and static stretches (3). 

Listen To Your Body

If something feels wrong, stop doing the exercise and ask a certified personal trainer for help. 

Drink Plenty Of Water

Staying hydrated is important for both your overall health and your workout results. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your weightlifting session (5).

The Bottom Line

When it comes to working out, free weights vs machines, which is better for you? It honestly depends on your goals and preferences. If you’re looking for a safe and easy way to lift weights, machines may be the better option for you. 

However, if you’re looking for a more challenging workout that will work more muscles and improve your range of motion, free weights are the way to go. Whichever you choose, make sure to consult with a professional beforehand!

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A Comparison of Muscle Activity Between a Free Weight and Machine Bench Press (1994, journals.lww.com)
  2. An Overview of Strength Training Injuries: Acute and Chronic (2010, journals.lww.com)
  3. Do We Need a Cool-Down After Exercise? A Narrative Review of the Psychophysiological Effects and the Effects on Performance, Injuries and the Long-Term Adaptive Response (2018, link.springer.com)
  4. Effects of free weights and machine training on muscular strength in high-functioning older adults (2019, sciencedirect.com)
  5. Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports (2019, mdpi.com)
  6. Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults (2009, journals.lww.com)
  7. Roundtable Discussion: Machines Versus Free Weights (2000, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu)
  8. The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Using Machines or Free Weights for Resistance Training in Novice Males? A Randomized Parallel Trial (2020, mdpi.com)

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