Hello! There seems to be a lot of debate over whether free weights or machine weights are better for you. The truth is both can have benefits depending on the situation and what you’re trying to accomplish. However, personally for most situations I prefer to use free weights and I’ll explain why as I go through the blog.
Before I break down more details of machine weights vs free weights I want to spell out the difference between the two. Free weights are anything that’s not affixed to the ground and can be moved in any direction. This could include things like dumbbells, balls, sandbags, etc. Machine weights are stationary, affixed on one axis, and can only move in one plane.
I want to stress the importance of strength training in general. It is one of the 9 key components of fitness and should be included in any workout regimen.
Strength training has great health benefits such as toning body composition, increasing lean muscle, reducing blood pressure, and strengthening bone density. First, I’d like to go over some information regarding free weights and how they can be beneficial.
Nervous System– When using free weights your nervous system is involved and your brain sends signals to recruit more muscle fibers. Your brain does this because your body is trying to stabilize and balance the weights as you move them. This in turn leads to more muscle mass over time compared to machines.
Synergistic Muscles – Lifting free weights activates more secondary and supplementary muscle groups. These are muscles that connect to the primary muscle doing the movement. Also, more activity with joints is required so your ligaments and tendons get stronger. With machine weights your joints get less engagement with the movement.
Independent Movement of Extremities – With free weights it’s easier to move one arm or leg at a time. This allows you to identify if you have one extremity that’s stronger than the other. If that’s the case, you can focus on the weaker extremity more to balance out your overall strength.
3 Dimensional Movement – When using free weights you can move in 3 dimensions of vertically, horizontally, and backwards. It’s also easier to move your body or extremities through a full range of motion which engages your kinetic chain more. With machines you’re limited to moving in one plane of motion at a time.
Form – Having correct form is crucial to avoid injuries when lifting free weights because of the reduced stabilization. You really don’t have to worry about form as much with machine weights, because usually there’s only one way you can move the weight.
Psychological Factor – When you start progressing to higher weight with free weights you have to use a larger size weight to provide a heavier load. For example, you may have to use a larger dumbbell than you did before.
Sometimes by seeing yourself lift a larger size weight it can make you feel good about yourself and spark a little more motivation. When using machines it doesn’t quite have the same effect moving a pin or turning a dial to go up in weight.
Inexpensive – Free weights normally cost less than machine weights and they’re easier to use at home. Let’s face it, most people don’t have the budget or space to put a big weight machine in their home. Also, many times with free weights they’re small enough to travel with. This way you can still workout if you go on a trip.
Bodybuilding – With machine weights it’s easier to isolate major muscle groups. Therefore, it can be a good option for bodybuilders trying to focus on one muscle area at a time.
Injury Rehab – Resistance machines are good for injury rehabilitation because of the solid stabilization they provide. It makes it easier to concentrate on one particular muscle that you’re trying to rehab. Many times machines can be good for elderly people as well because of the increased stabilization.
Spotter – With machine weights you don’t need a spotter to exercise. However, with free weights you really only need a spotter if you’re lifting weight that’s heavier than you can control. If you’re lifting fairly small dumbbells you usually won’t need a spotter.
Availability – Many times if you go to a gym, especially during peak hours, the majority of machines are being used. People tend to flock to the machines more than free weights, so a lot of times there’ll be many free weights available for you to use without waiting.
Summary – Overall, I believe free weights have more advantages and can give you better results than machines. I definitely suggest using them, unless you fall into one of the categories I mentioned above where machines have a specific purpose.
If you have any comments or questions please let me know and I will get back to you. Or, if you’d like to share any of your own experiences regarding weights feel free to let us know. Thank you for your time and have a great day!