Deciding what to use in the gym is never an easy feat. Whether you're training at home or you have a gym membership, you're spoilt for choice as to what you can use. Multi gyms, weight benches, dumbbells - you can really make your training your own. And that's great. What isn't so great is not really knowing the difference, and more importantly, which is the better way to train between free weights vs. machines.

They both have their pros and cons, without a doubt. They are entirely different concepts with the only similarity being how you're moving and using the weights. To decide what's best for you, you need to weigh up the advantages of each. Luckily, we've done it for you.

Machines

woman on a weight machine

Machines are often the first thing to look at when it comes to weight training. They are self-explanatory, and you can't really go wrong. They are simple, effective, and they give you incredible results as you increase the weights you are working with!

Ease of Use

First, gym machines are undoubtedly more accessible. Whether you're just starting and you aren't sure what to do, or you just need some extremely effective muscle overload, weight machines have you covered. That's a big variable in free weights vs machines. They demonstrate the basic movement you need to do, let you choose the weight that is right for you, and support you all the way through it. Safe, sturdy and heavy. Awesome right?

Heavier Weights

Leading on from the previous point, they're also more comfortable to lift. Weight machinery only really offers one or two of the biggest muscle groups the chance to do the work. This means that you can use your strongest muscles to do the work, and then really push them to their limits without weaker muscles holding you back since the machine is supporting you. This gives you a huge opportunity for massive muscle growth and strength building. It can also help you push through the wall many weightlifters have to deal with.

Isolation

Finally, not only does the machine's structure mean that you can lift heavier weights than you could with free weights, but you can also hit specific muscles harder. Because of your muscles not having to support each other in exercises like they do with free weights, you can really isolate and push each individual muscle to the very edge of its capabilities if you get your workout right.

Using your arms for example, if they are a weak point, may let you down in your chest when you just can't hold that barbell anymore or you can't balance the dumbbells in your pec flyes. Gym machines give you the support you need to make sure you're getting the most out of every single muscle group!

Free Weights

It might seem like free weights vs. machines is pretty clear cut, but hear us out. Free weights are the more popular pieces of equipment, and they have a range of advantages on their side too, just like machines. For what they do, they can't be beaten, but they do have their limitations.

Stability

woman lifting weights

So, unlike machine weights, free weights require you to be a lot more stable. You must balance yourself instead of the machine doing it for you, and therefore you are limited in some ways by the weakest area of your muscle group. This sounds like a negative trait, but it means you must be functionally strong rather than just using your largest muscles, and you'll train to be more powerful and well-rounded, strengthening every individual muscle group as needed.

Complex

Most of the exercises that need this stability will be complex exercises. This means that you can generally train using a wider range of movements than machines can offer you and hit more muscle groups at the same time. Not only can this save you time, but it can also open a lot more doors for you in terms of what you can do. This will help you build up real functional strength again, instead of single exercise performance.

Variation

man holding dumbbell behind his head

Finally, one of the most significant advantages that free weights have to offer you is the sheer variation they give to your training. You can do pretty much any exercise using free weights, rather than being restricted to single motion ranges like so many machines suggest. There are so many different pieces of equipment available out there! You only need some dumbbells and a barbell, and nothing will be off limits to you.

The only downside is, you may reach the end of the weight rack and be stuck there since machines tend to be much heavier. But there is another advantage here: when you are training with free weights, you are training your muscles within their natural range of motion, unlike machines. This will make the process of building strength much healthier in the long term.

 

 

Overall, they both bring something to the table. They are incredible ways to train your whole body and if you use them together, you can reach new heights. Find what it is that you need and what works best for you. Just train your whole body equally, don't skip muscle groups, and make sure you're exercising properly and safely. Almost all exercise is good exercise if you do it right.

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Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.