Weight Machines vs. Free Weights – Do You Know Which Is Best For You?

by Tommi on December 29, 2010

This is one of those never ending debates in the gym.

One guy says, machines will completely mess up your joints, make you unstable and completely useless when it comes to using your power.

When someone else, like me, will tell you focus on the big compound movements with free weights.

Would you like to have a way to decide for yourself if you should use machines or free weights?

Should You Be Using Free Weights?

Imagine free weights being a red sports car and weight machines are the big safe family car. You have to learn how to use a sports car so you don’t fly off the road when you step on the accelerator. The big family car will get you there slowly and safely.  Not much special instructions needed.

Let’s find out if you need the red sports car.

Is it worth the effort for you to learn how to use free weights?

If you answer any on the following statements with YES, you will benefit by using free weights in your training.

  • Do you want to be able to deliver full force in your sport?
  • Do you want to lose fat and pack on muscle at the fastest possible speed?
  • Are you are a pro athlete?
  • Do you want to get really strong, maybe lift a car or pull an airplane with your teeth?

If YES to any of them, keep reading.  If you answered NO, move down to the weight machines section.

If you’re just starting out you might be a little intimidated by free weights. There is no reason to be, it just like with everything else, you must learn how to use them.  Hire a qualified lifting coach if you are unsure of how to get started.

Why You Want And Need To Use Free Weights

So why is it so important to use free weights?

  • You decrease the risk of injury in your sport or activity
  • You get strong faster
  • You build muscle faster
  • You lose fat at a magical pace
  • You gain magical focus while lifting

Any sport or activity in the real world is dynamic and unpredictable. Using free weights will activate all the little muscles needed to keep the weight balanced.  When you expose yourself to this 3D balancing challenge you are getting prepared for the real world.

If you only trained only with machines and suddenly used full force something would probably snap.

Free weights also have a unique ability to help you focus on what you are doing.

The threat of failing a big lift and dropping that weight on your head helps you focus.  You are very unlikely to chat away with your friend if you are about to be crushed by a large pile of iron.

Using free weights will also cut down the time you need to spend in the gym. A squat, deadlift or barbell row works a huge percentage of your muscles all at once.

Should You Be Using Weight Machines?

If you are just starting out, weight machines are great.  You only need a quick intro and of you go. They are great way for the beginner to get their muscles used to exercise.

Why would you want to use weight machines?

  • They are very safe
  • Don’t require a training partner
  • Easy to use
  • Quick to learn
  • Great for losing weight
  • Good way to tone up and stay healthy

Yes, they’re perfectly fine.

Especially if your goal is to get somewhat healthier and lose weight, no learning curve to speak of, you can just jump right in there and get going.

Think of it as training wheels, they’ll keep you on the path.

That’s the main function of weight machines; they guide you to do the exercise correctly.

Just make sure it feels right, some machines just aren’t designed for your height or build. If the machine makes you feel a weird pinch or just feels really uncomfortable, ask for advice or just don’t use them.

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