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Are Using Free Weights Better Than Machines For Building Muscle Mass ?

free weights vs machines
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A question that is asked over and over again, especially one that keeps coming up with beginner lifters. This is a common question, but a very important one because some people like to use just free weights for their workouts, others like to go from machine to machine and some use a combination of both.

Both are effective because on the one hand machines were made to make exercising easier and more convenient, but free weights give you a more complete kind of training since your stabilizer muscles are involved. The thing with free weights versus machines is that it depends on the person and their fitness goals because exercises that may be good for some people may not work as well for others purely because of their genetics/body type. So with all that in mind let’s find out the advantages/disadvantages of both free weights and machines then find out which one is right for you.

Free Weights

heavy dumbbells

Advantages

  • Allows Full Range Of Motion – When it comes free weights you almost always have complete freedom to move around rather than being locked in a specific range or pattern.
  • Uses Your Stabilizing Muscles – Free weights involve more muscle fibres and contractions because your stabilizing muscles are used. It will also keep your joints healthy and fully operational when the exercises are done with proper form, which you should always be doing.
  • Train Anywhere – When you learn how to train with your bodyweight and free weights you can literally train anywhere since machines are only available in the gym.
  • More Variation – With free weights, all you need is one dumbbell or barbell and you can do a wide variety of different exercises.

Disadvantages

  • Higher Risk Of Injury – Free weights only increase your risk of injury if you don’t know the proper technique to perform a exercise, if bad form is used during an exercise it is very easy to damage a joint or tweak something in your body.
  • Harder To Learn Proper Form – When it comes to doing an exercise with proper form you need to have a trainer show you or do your own research on how it should be properly done. It may take a while to perfect your form, but before you do make sure you only use light weight to practice.

Machines

gym machines

Advantages

  • Safer Than Free Weights – When using a machine you won’t have to worry about any weights falling on you. For example if you’re reaching the last few reps on the bench press and you just don’t have enough strength to push through the weight could just fall on you, of course this can be prevented by a spotter. Now if you was doing the hammer strength press you would have no problem of just letting the weight go.
  • Allows Effective Isolation Of Muscle Groups – Machines allow you to target and isolate a muscle group more effectively because it helps control and stabilize the weight.
  • Easy To Learn And Use – Most machines should have a clear explanation on how it is supposed to be used and what muscle groups it targets, which for most machines this is pretty self explanatory.

Disadvantages

  • Always Need To Be At A Gym – Unless you can afford all the machines needed for your workout then the only place you can train is at the gym.
  • Neglects Your Stabilizing Muscles – Since most machines target and isolate one muscle group your stabilizing muscles around your joints won’t be used. If your stabilizing muscles take a back seat for too long then you’ll increase your risk of injury.
  • Easily Outgrown – As you keep on progressing in the gym a machine just won’t be enough for you to make gains.

To sum up free weights are more effective than machines because they focus on compound movements, total body strength and you can never outgrow them, but that doesn’t mean never use machines. Any good workout routine should include both free weights, machines and any combination of exercises.

If you have anymore questions about free weights or machines then leave a comment down below.

6 thoughts on “Are Using Free Weights Better Than Machines For Building Muscle Mass ?

  1. Hi Andrew

    Thank you for this post, I am a 50 year old guy and I did a lot of weight lifting when I was younger. Actually, I was able to build a great body (42 cm biceps) and I am a hard believer of free weights, but now I start getting more injuries on my joints when I workout so based on your experience, do you think I can perform a good routine with machines ? and if you have any routine that you can recommend to keep me in shape, thanks again It was great to read your post, best of luck.

    Roberto

  2. I am a bit of a fitness fanatic and found this website to be very interesting it was well written and contained very useful information. I often wrestled with the advantages and disadvantages comparing the free weights/machines. I found the site very easy to navigate and found information I wanted very quickly. I will certainly be looking forward to your new posts Andrew !

  3. You’re on the money with this post.

    I train with both free weights, machines and pure body weight exercises like pull ups, dips, etc and I can attest to the fact each of these have their advantages.

    I mainly train for general fitness so proper form and technique is the first thing I master before increasing any weight.

    Another type people ignore is training with cables/bands which can render some really targeted exercises particularly for the core and hip muscles.

    1. I agree Sam resistance bands/TRX cables are also a great way to stimulate your muscles and it’s a shame they aren’t more popular.

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