Free Weights Vs. Machines!

Should you use free weights or machines? Many people probably ask this very same question. I would like to offer my two cents worth and 25+ years of experience to answer this question.

The following is based solely on my opinion and 25+ years of weight training experience with free weights and machines.

Free Weights Or Machines?

Exercise machines were invented to make exercising easier, more convenient. What started out as good intentions with Nautilus & Universal machines has evolved into a billion dollar industry of fads, gimmicks, quick fixes, bun & thigh rollers, ab lounges and infomercials.

Now you can lay flat on your back in front of the TV for 10 minutes a day, 3 times a week and lose 30 inches in as little as 3 weeks.

dot In Our Dreams! dot

    Machines are for toning and free weights are for bulking up. - Right? Wrong! Any resistance exercise, including machines, free weights, push ups, pull ups, etc, can be used to tone and/or build muscle.

Do You Prefer Free Weights Or Machines?

Free Weights
No Preference

Free Weights Are Better

Free weights involve more muscle fibers and more contractions, because you use stabilizing muscles not used when exercising on a machine; therefore free weights are more effective.

Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Free Weights Are More Effective.

That doesn't mean, never use machines, any good workout routine should include both free weights, machines and any combination of exercises.

dot What Proved It To Me dot

    Years ago I had a falling out with the owner of the gym where I'd been training and I was forced to find a new gym, but that's not what I found. I found Ballys.

    What a totally different world. This was no gym... it was too bright, too clean, too foo-foo. I tried to keep on training as usual, but their free weight room wasn't the same, so I drifted into the machine area.

Free Weights Or Machines?
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Free Weights Or Machines?
I`ve been told to stay off machines for now and just use free weights to increase my strength and mass. Is this the correct way to go about it?
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    It was huge compared to the free weight room. Since when did free weights have to get there own room, I thought they went in the gym.

    Well to make a long story short, I started doing more and more machines, lifting the stack on almost everything, 250, 300 lbs, easy.

    After a couple of years training hard (so I thought) I had the opportunity to open my own gym and the minute I had enough equipment and weights, I began training in my not yet complete gym. Then what I found out blew me away.

    My 1 rep. max. on the bench press was only 185 lbs. It took over a year before I was back to my previous 1 rep. max.

Weight Lifted Reps
1 RM


Use both free weights and machines and everything else; don't just focus on one or the other. Exercise should only be "easy" when you are a beginner.

Think of a person whose physique you admire. Do you think they developed their physique using something they bought off of an infomercial?

How Important Is Warming Up? Are Free Weights Or Machines Better For Results?
This is an old question, but one that keeps coming up with new trainers. Should you only use free weights in your quest for muscle growth?
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Stop looking for ways to make exercise easier, it defeats the purpose, find ways to make it harder, more challenging. Don't fall for that next gimmick or fad, just exercise. Any exercise is better than no exercises.

Doug Walker

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 Comments

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  • rep this user

Nice article. I mostly use free weights but now I'm going to wander around the machine room and see what's up in there. Thanks!

Aug 24, 2012 11:28am | report
  • rep this user

Note: At my age and with a lower back issue that springs up now and then (usually after paying golf) I *must* stay away from a classic squat even with a Smith Machine. The lying machine squat does the trick and works my quads and lower back just fine.

Also, as with anything, what is the goal? I suspect classic lifting (free weights) is preferred for true bodybuilding. If the goal is to get bulk then use more or use only free weights. If the goal is to get back into shape or maintain strength as we age, then use more machines which are, without a doubt, less likely to cause a terrible injury. I am definitely fit and just a hair outside of athletic at the age of 48. I have been (a) walking for cardio and (b) lifting with mostly machines and am doing just fine and am likely above average for fitness for folks my age or age group. Machines? Useful with the correct goal in my opinion.

Oct 1, 2012 1:21pm | report

that answer is perfect I think when these debates come up the debate is really with people trying to add mass not those just trying to work out and stay in shape.

Feb 8, 2015 12:44am | report
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 Comments

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