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 and 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.
In Our Dreams!
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.
Muscular development is determined by many factors which include but are not limited to:
- Level Of Resistance
- Repetition Scheme
- Training Intervals & Duration
- Workout Intensity Level
- Training Frequency
- Caloric Intake
- Genetic Disposition
- Hormone Levels
- Overall Health
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.
That doesn't mean, never use machines, any good workout routine should include both free weights, machines and any combination of exercises.
What Proved It To Me
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 Bally's.
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.
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 one-rep max. on the bench press was only 185 lbs. It took over a year before I was back to my previous one-rep max.
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?
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.