All things being constant (same weight, same exercise), you will get more benefit from using free weights than you will from a machine. Two reasons:
- Because free weights allow for a full range of motion. We all come in different shapes and sizes, machines don’t. So they don’t account for each individuals body type and how they move.
- Free weights place greater demand on your stabilizing muscles, keeping your joints healthy and functioning properly. Machines can isolate muscle groups more efficiently, but they neglect your stabilizers and your core.
In most cases, machines are better for:
- Rehabbing if you have to work around certain areas
- For advanced lifters who may be looking to target a specific muscle group a little harder with accessory work
- For situations where an advanced lifter does not have a spotter and wants to go heavy
- Elderly population
- Beginners who are not yet comfortable or able to lift very much weight yet
Some other things to consider are that machines are non-functional. This means that they are not great for completing human movement patterns like the squat or the deadlift. Functional exercises translate over much better to our everyday life. As an example, someone who understands how to deadlift properly is a lot less likely to throw their back out when they are moving furniture or picking heavy objects up off the floor. That is functional. The leg press machine is not functional.
Also, free weights give you more bang for your buck. Yes, they require more time and it takes more skill to learn proper technique, but they certainly allow for more full body exercises than machines do, which in turn allows you to get more done in a short amount of time.
In addition to that, they also allow for a much wider variety of exercises. Machines are limited to one or sometimes a few exercises. Grab a dumbbell or a kettlebell and your options are limitless.
Lastly, free weights are certainly the more economical option for working out from home. They take up less space, and they are far less expensive.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using exercise machines. Ideally, most people should incorporate both free weights and machines into their training program.
But if it comes down to choosing one over the other, free weights will give you the most bang for your buck.
Committed To Your Health,
Brian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach, LLC – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personally tailored training plans and customized meal plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, and Ezine Articles as well various health and fitness blogs.
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