One of the biggest and everlasting debates in fitness and bodybuilding industry is between free weights and machines. In this article we going to point out pros and cons for each one of them to enable you to make an easy decision on what is better for you and would effectively assist you to your fitness goals.

First of all, we would like to distinguish what are free weights and what are machines. Free weights is any object that can be moved in 3 dimensions, such as:
• Dumbbell
• Barbell
• Adjustable Pulleys
• Cable Low Row
• Cable Lat Pull Down
• Ankle/Arm/Body attached weights
• Medicine Ball
• Kettle Bell
• Body weight

On the other hand machines are unable to move in 3 dimensions and move only in 2 dimensions. Several examples are listed below:
• Smith machine
• Leg Extension Machine
• Leg Curl Machine
• Hack Machine
• Glute Machine
• Chest Press Machine
• Shoulder Press Machine

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Before I head into discussion between the two, I would like to touch on your fitness goal question. What is the purpose of your training? Do you aim for a structural change (lose fat or gain mass)? Or do you aim for a specific functional change (to bench press 100kg or run 100m in 10s)?

For structural change we would suggest you concentrate on utilizing free weights, as they are ultimately more superior to machines and will give you a bigger and faster structural change. You will build much more functional strength as you will have to stabilize and control the weight throughout the exercise, which would engage more muscles involvement (including core). To give you an example: you can do free squat and hack squat. Whichever out of two exercises you going to do, you may be able to build some impressive quads/hamstring but you will be lacking in functional department if you were doing hack squats. The reason behind this is a lack of 3 dimensional stability required in this exercise, since the movement was only based on vertical displacement. Thus your structure would have improved but without a proportional increase in your function.

Nevertheless, machines are very useful to include at the end or after your free weights workout as they have ability to isolate specific muscles/muscle group much effectively than free weight. Some smaller muscles maybe so fatigued that your primary muscles are unable to get more work done during last reps/sets. Including machine exercises will help you to further exhaust and stimulate primary muscles fibers, since machines will take the load off the smaller muscles. This approach will add more volume and further develop muscle strength.
Before we jump into conclusion let’s look at the pros and cons for both of them:

Free weights
• More muscles activation
• Greater core muscle engagement
• Bigger range of motion
• Endless variation of movements and exercises
• Cheaper cost than purchasing machines
• Can be used pretty much anywhere
• Smaller size to keep or store

• Require proper form and technique for execution
• On heavy lifts assistance is required
• High risk of injury

• Easier to perform
• Better muscle isolation
• More stress can be placed on primary muscles
• No assistance required even on the heavy lifts
• Can be used pretty much anywhere

• Big in size
• Expensive and required higher cost for maintenance
• Sometime one machine can only be used for one function
• Very limited core muscles engagement
• Non-functional

Doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, or professional body-builder, elder person, or in rehabilitation you can and should use both free weights and machines. The question is to what extent you should be using each one of them. Well, to say subjectively I would suggest for all user group to give far more attention to free weights, compound exercises (refer to the previous topic on “Why compound exercises are important?”) as this will speed up your results whether you want to gain big muscle mass, heal the injury, or improve your overall fitness level. However, you will require a professional assistance in order to exercise using proper form and techniques and prevent unwanted injuries. On the other hand, you can target specific muscle to strengthen or achieve better roundness or simply train conveniently without professional supervision.

By beFitness TEAM

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