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Should I Use Free Weights or Machines?

Many people who frequently lift weights have developed a preference for using either free weights or machines. Gyms typically offer both options for people to experiment with, but beginners often wish to know which option provides better benefits, especially when planning to buy home exercise equipment. Most experts agree that it does not matter too greatly whether you choose to primarily use free weights or machines, because both options have benefits and drawbacks, such as storage capability, optimum muscle stimulation, and ease of use.

An often repeated piece of advice from some weightlifters states that free weights are more beneficial to muscles than machines because they require the muscles that stabilize the joint to work, while a machine performs this task automatically. This also means that, provided the machine is adjusted and sized properly for the individual, a machine will help guide and stabilize the range of motion and teach proper form. For this reason, beginners having trouble deciding between free weights or machines may benefit from using machines at first to help avoid injury and learn how to do each motion correctly.

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Free weights tend to be more versatile than machines, because one set of weights can be used to perform many different kinds of exercises. For example, in order to perform bicep curls, weighted squats, and chest flys, you may only need one set of two weights, as long as you are comfortable using the same amount of weight for each exercise. However, it may be easier on some machines to switch the amount of weight rapidly during a workout, reducing the time it takes to switch weight between sets or correct the amount of weight without completely interrupting a set. This leads to a more fluid and continuous workout that may have additional aerobic benefits.

One of the most important factors for some individuals who plan to buy either free weights or machines is the storage capability. While free weights can fairly easily be stored loose in a closet or on a free weight rack, they can also create clutter if there are several sets of weights. Machines, on the other hand, generally take up more space and are much more difficult to store in small living spaces. Some even require additional weight plates that must be stored off of the machine itself when not in use. Many people find that keeping a few sets of free weights at home and using the machines while at the gym is a feasible compromise.

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Discuss this Article

ZsaZsa56
Post 3

I work as a trainer and I hear the debate over free weights vs machines all the time. I am usually pretty amazed at how worked up people get over it because it is really a silly debate. Both methods of lifting will be effective for anyone and each has their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

I design routines for my clients that incorporate both and then I encourage them to listen to their bodies to find the method they prefer. There is not right answer, it all comes down to personal preference.

whiteplane
Post 2

If you are going to set up a home gym it is probably better to invest in free weights. You will save a lot of money and have access to a greater number of lifts than you would with even a really quality home gym machine.

Ivan83
Post 1

The answer to this question will depend a lot of the the person doing the workout. Depending on your goals and abilities one or the other might be the right choice. Consulting a doctor and a personal trainer before you start any new workout program is the best way to ensure your success.

But for me free weights are much better than machines. Your movement is not restricted and the free weights engage all kinds of balance and stability muscles that machines cannot. On the flip side, machines are safer and they force you to have proper form. So while I usually use free weights I occasionally switch to machines.

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