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Free Weights Vs. Machines

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 2

The Question:

Which Type of Equipment Will Provide the Best Results

The question that many beginning weight lifters will ask themselves is whether free weights are better than machines or vice versa. Most people are able to quickly think of the potential benefits off the top of their head, but are unable to decide which works best for them. 

The goal of this article is to quickly summarize the key benefits of both types of equipment, as well as shining a light on the drawbacks of the two. Hopefully after reading the article you will be able to make an informed decision on which exercises, and what equipment you will use the next time you hit the gym. 

Machines

Benefits of Using Machines

1) Machines are very simple to use and ideal for beginners.

2) Machines are very effective at isolating a single muscle or group of muscles you wish to train.

3) Machines are safe to use and do not normally require a partner or a spotter to do, because there is no risk of dropping the weight on yourself.

4) Machines are perfect for injured people and are focusing on strengthening a specific muscle group. 

5) It is extremely easy to adjust the resistance on a machine as compared to free weights. Often it simply requires removing the pin and re-inserting it at the desired resistance.

 

Example of a Machine Used for Working Out
Credit: http://homegym.org.uk/resistance-equipment.html

The Cons of Machines

1) Machines are extremely costly.

2) Machines are less versatile than dumbbells and only allow one specific movement.

3) The movements done on a machine are not functional movements, that is they are not natural movements used in life. 

4) Machines do not allow for the strengthening of stabilizer muscles that would be used with free weights. 

Free Weights

Benefits

1) Free weights are versatile, and you can use the same set of dumbbells for a limitless amount exercises.

2) Using dumbbells and barbells will train the small stabilizer muscles and increase overall muscle control.

3) Free weights are far more practical, functional movements.

4) In comparison to machines, free weights are relatively cheap.

 

 

Dumbbell
Credit: http://www.re-define.org/blog/wed-04182012-1649/eurozone-dumbbell-trap

Cons

1) Dumbbells are not great for beginners. Dumbbells need much more coördination an experience with weight training. 

2) Dumbbells have an increased risk of injury. Although the injury risk factor is small for experienced weightlifters, for beginners there is significant risk of injury. 

3) It is not as easy to adjust the weight being used with free weights when compared to machines.

Conclusion

In summary, machines are safe, effective at isolating specific muscle groups, and are perfect for beginners. Dumbbells and barbells are more advanced, and are ideal for developing the stabilizer muscles, and for developing functional strength that will help you in everyday life.

There are benefits to training with machines as well as training with free weights. My recommendations as an aspiring Kinesiologist is that beginners focus their training on machines to decrease the risk of injury, while more experienced weight lifters focus on using mostly dumbbells and barbells. 

If you liked the article and have an interest in buying some free weights, check out this link to buy a cheap set of dumbbells

As well, here is a link to a book that I continue to recommend. It is an extremely useful resource for beginners and experienced weightlifters alike who are looking to build some muscle. 

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Comments

May 6, 2013 8:08am
dieselfit
I agree! Machines and free weights are best when they are both combined. The results are amazing!
May 7, 2013 12:29pm
IMHustle
You made some excellent points, but ultimately it boils down to what your goals are. For general fitness, machines are okay. But if you're serious about strength training, you're going go the dumbbell + barbell route. When I started training the only machines I was interested in was Nautilus (I was a big fan of Arthur Jones, who developed them).
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