Step into any commercial fitness gym and you will find a combination of both machines and free weights for different strength training workouts. Some people go from machine to machine in order to get their pump, some use just free weights, and some combine them both to enhance their physique. This brings about the question: which is better among the two?
Free Weights: Pros and Cons
- More intensity for your buck exercises – When you have limited time to work out and want to accomplish more with few exercises, then free weights are the way to go. For example, Turkish get-ups and deadlifts: there isn’t any single body muscle that doesn’t get worked with the pair.
- Enable you to train basic functional movements – On its own, this could be a topic but basically bodyweight exercises and free-weights have a huge carryover to what we do in real life such as athletics and daily activities.
- Train anywhere – Knowing how to train using free weights allows you to literally do your workouts anywhere since machines are not always available.
- Less expensive
- Allow for endless variation
- Higher risk of injury – When not used appropriately, it is easy to move a joint or body part out of its right alignment, thus causing injury.
- Requires some skills to learn right technique – Free weights call for a higher learning curve compared to machines, and you may require some help from an expert to learn proper technique.
Machines: Pros and Cons
- Easy to use and learn – Most machines come with a manual demonstrating its use, which is pretty self-explanatory for most machines. This makes them quite easy to use them with other machines or on their own to create your own circuit. You don’t even need to hire a personal trainer.
- Isolate muscle groups well – Machines enable most of your body to be more stable, and this allows larger muscle groups to be targeted more efficiently.
- May be ideal for rehab and/or elderly populations
- Neglect small stabilizing muscles – The important stabilizing muscle groups found around joints tend to take a back seat, since you only isolating the target muscle groups.
- Non-functional – Even though machines will make you stronger and bigger, they don’t train the complete human movement patterns that are necessary to move.
- May cause injury indirectly and directly
Free weights are viewed by many people as the most effective and are hence more preferred than machines. However, it’s important to throw in some bicep-curls, or use row machines once in a while to supplement your strength training programs