A lot of people ask me about my gym routine, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been questioned about which I use: free weights or machines?
My super secret answer is… BOTH. Totally helpful, I know. While I don’t necessarily prefer one method against the other, each of these lifting styles has their own benefits. This post will help to inform you on the pro’s and con’s for both free weights and machines, and will hopefully help you to decide where to head next time you visit the gym (or elsewhere)
Advantages to Free Weights:
You get stronger; faster – research has shown that using free weights actually helps build muscle faster than using machines.
You can use full range of motion – You have complete freedom to move around as compared to being locked into a specific range of motion.
Place a greater demand on stabilizing muscles– You want those six pack abs? Lift with free weights. Using dumbbells will actually activate more stabilizing muscles while you are training- engaging your core helps to tighten that tummy!
Allow for several variations– Unlike using a machine, lifting with free weights doesn’t lock you into a position, and you can do endless exercise variations.
Train anywhere– On a tight budget or can’t make it to the gym? Using free weights or body weight can be both versatile and cheap, and also allows you to train in places where machines aren’t available. Try getting outside and going to the park for your next workout!
Takes time to learn proper skills and techniques – Just like everything else, learning how to maneuver through a workout with free weights takes time and patience. Have a trainer or a friend who is familiar with these movements teach you the skill required to get that beach booty!
Greater risk of injury when not done properly– Performing a wide range of motion with heavy weights opens up a greater area for risk if an individual is not doing the lift correctly.
Advantages to Machines:
Isolates muscle groups more efficiently– Since your body is locked into a certain position on most machines, it is a lot easier to target the larger muscle groups.
Little to no requirements when it comes to coordination or balance
Easy to learn and use– Most machines have pictures slapped on them demonstrating how they can be used; otherwise, it’s very easy to simply watch someone doing a specific machine exercise and then perform it yourself.
Useful for elderly or rehabilitation – For someone who has a lower level of fitness or who may be recovering from an injury, machines are a great choice.
Fill up quickly during peak hours – Whenever I get off work, I go straight to the gym during PEAK HOUR. These are the days I will train specifically with free weights because it is hard as heck to get on those machines.
Non Functional– While machines can help you to become stronger, they do not train normal human movement patterns. Weight machines do not transfer over into such things as weight training or athletics like lifting free weight would.
Neglect stabilizing muscles– Since most machines target a large muscle group, you are not required to use smaller stabilizing muscles to maintain your balance. If you neglect these smaller muscles for too long, you run the risk of acquiring an injury.
I hope that this list of pros and cons helps you to decide which strength training method is best for you. After all, strength training is about what makes you feel great- so don’t be afraid to cater to your own needs and fitness goals!