Free Weights vs. Machines: Is One Better Than the Other?
by Julie J. Martin, MS
Strength training causes muscles or muscle groups to work against a force that provides a resistance that is strong enough to increase strength. The resistance may be from gravity or exercise equipment such as free weights, machines, and cable systems.
There has been a lot of debate over which type of strength training is best. The best plan may be to try them out and decide which one meets your needs. A mix of all types of strength training may offer the most effective workout.
Health Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training can lead to:
Build a Program
There are many things to think about before you start a program. People who are new to training should start with a simple program. As you gain confidence and strength, you can vary your exercises, the number of repetitions and sets, and the length of time you rest between sets.
Choose the equipment that is right for you:
Free weights and machines both offer benefits. The one that is best for you is often based on the outcome you want to achieve. A mix of both may be the best solution. Some muscle groups are hard to isolate with free weights. In this case, machines are a better option. Machines also let you lift heavier weights. Free weights let your body move more naturally and allow you to make small changes in form. They are also standard items that can be found in every gym.
Using Your Body
Free weights and machines are not the only options. Push-ups and dips are just two ways you can use your body's weight as a resistance. Bands can also be used to enhance the effect. One bonus is that they can be taken anywhere, such as when you are away on a trip. Talk to a trainer to get exercises and tips.
Learn How to Use Equipment
You should always get training on how to use exercise equipment. A trainer can teach you how to use the equipment, watch you use it, and provide you with feedback. This will lead to better results and lower your risk of injury.
Not Just for Jocks
Weight training is often linked to youth, flat abs, and big biceps. In fact, it is very helpful to people who will never find themselves on the front cover of fitness magazines. The right training is needed for safety and effectiveness. The results will be better strength, endurance, and quality of life.
American College of Sports Medicine
American Medical Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Selecting and effectively using free weights. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/selecting-and-effectively-using-free-weights.pdf?sfvrsn=822f5a06_2. Accessed June 25, 2021.
When strength training, is it better to use machines or free weights. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/68/when-strength-training-is-it-better-to-use-machines-or-free-weights. Accessed June 25, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/25/2021
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