Practically every exercise you can do at the gym outside of cardio involves the use of weights. Whether it’s bicep curls, pull downs, or dead-lifts, you’re pretty much guaranteed to spend a lot of time with weights. But when it comes down to actually using weights, you might be wondering which is better, free-weights or machines? To help make this decision a little easier, we’ll be discussing the pros and cons of free weights and machines, so you can decide which would work best for you.
Compared to machines, free weights tend to work more muscles in your body at a time, because a lot of the popular exercises are compound movements (Ex. bench press, squats, deadlifts). For example, when you use a leg extension machine, you’ll just be working your quads. If you do squats using a barbell, you’ll be working a number of leg muscles (hamstrings, quads, glutes), among others such as your core! #6Pack
While this is definitely a pro for free weights, it also serves as a drawback. Sometimes you don’t want to work all of those muscles, and just focus on a specific muscle group. Using free weights also puts you at a higher risk of injuring yourself if you’re not careful. Using a machine will allow you to focus on those specific muscles, and give your other muscles a chance to relax. Machines also make it easier to maintain proper form, reducing your risk of injury.
The big draw of using machines over weights is that machines are easier to learn and use. Whereas using free weights requires you to first learn how to maintain proper form to get any real results, and avoid injury. Machines, on the other hand, only take a few minutes to learn how to use. Since machines only let you perform a specific range of motion, this also means that you’re automatically in good form, so you’ll be less likely to injure yourself during your workout.
Unfortunately, since these machines work you in a pre-determined range of motion, and are very concentrated, you cannot lift as much weight by recruiting other muscles to help in the lift. Machines = better muscle focus, less total weight moved!
Overall, neither one of these methods are better than the other. Weight machines don’t give you the compound movement benefit of free weights, but they’re easier to use. Free weights are more difficult, but you get a little more bang for your buck out of them. It all comes down to what you’re looking for in your workout!