Should You Be Using Free Weights or Machines?


The first thing you’re going to notice when walking into any gym or fitness center, is more than likely the abundance of workout equipment. There will be lines of cardio equipment, plenty of free weights, and probably plenty of machines and pulley systems. You will see some people jumping from machine to machine without ever paying any attention to the free weights, and you will see some people stick to the free weights without even giving the machines a second look. This raises a question that probably has came into all of our heads at some point…

Which One Is Best & Most Effective For You??

This is a question like many others in the fitness industry, in which the answer is going to depend on your ultimate goals and the individual person. The best way then is to give you some of the positives and negatives of each, and you decide from there.


Weightlifting Machines:


  • Good For Beginners – Weightlifting Machines don’t require the same amount of balancing and stabilization that free weights do. This makes machines perfect for someone who is either new to weightlifting, or has some type of injury they are trying to recover from.
  • Better Isolation – Machines do a little better job of isolating very particular muscles, because they were built from the ground up to hit a certain muscle. This obviously hits muscles better, and also allows for more weight to be used without needing a spotter or any assistance.
  • Ease of Use – Machines are easy to use. Most of them have a picture on them as to how to work with the machine, and even if they don’t, just watching someone get on and off the machine usually does the trick as far as learning how to use it.


  • Misses Important Muscles – The same lack of stabilization and balance that make machines easier, also allows the machine to skip working certain types of muscle. Muscle that contributes to everyday human movement and functionality. Lifting weights without having to balance and stabilize them actually hurts you in the long run.
  • Injury Prone – Machines make it easier to sustain an injury in the long run. Machines, by design, leave you in the same position every time you use it. Good, right? Well, if you’re using it right, then yes. However, if you are using the machine wrong, and continue to put yourself in that bad position, injury will be inevitable. Especially as weight increases.


Free Weights –


  • Works Important Muscles – Works the stabilization and balancing muscles that are essential to human movement and performance. This is essential to athletes specifically, and people who are very active
  • Full Range Of Motion – Free weights allow you to get the range of motion that you want, instead of being limited to a certain limit, like with machines that have stoppers and bumpers to prevent you from going to far.
  • Variation – Free weights offer almost an endless amount of variation as to what you can do with them. I can take the same bar that I just benched with and go squat, curl, deadlift, and much more with it if I wanted too. Dumbbells, same story. This variation also allows way more “bang for the buck” so to speak. Machines can cost up to thousands and perform a very limited amount of tasks, some of them only perform ONE task and costs hundreds of dollars.
  • Better Learning Experience – Free weights can be used almost anywhere and are very mobile. This allows you to take them anywhere in the gym to an area where you feel more comfortable learning to use them. Not to mention learning free weights from the very beginning is going to do nothing but progress you and help you be ahead of the game.


  • Higher Risk Of Injury – Free weights make it very easy to get or sustain an injury if not done with the right form. Moving around a bunch of weight with complete freedom, can easily lead to a joint that moved how it isn’t supposed to be, or a muscle to end up doing something that it isn’t meant to do.
  • Greater Learning Curve – Free weights have a lot more variation and the opportunities are endless. Therefore, it’s going to take a little bit longer to learn all of the exercises that can done, not to mention the correct form with them all.
  • Need A Spotter Or Assistance – With free weights you can go as heavy as you want, but if you plan on going until failure or are shady on the amount of reps you are going to be able to pull off, you’re going to need someone there to assist you, if you can’t get the weight up on the last couple of reps.

At the end of the day, what you need to do depends on which positives and negatives you are looking for in your routine. People can tell you what to do and when to do it all day, but remember…

No one knows your body better than you! You just have to listen to what it tells you.

Article by fitness expert Zack Simpson

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