Machine-based exercises

Free weights vs Machine Exercises - Which is best?

When it comes to training and working out in the gym, we all have our own personal favourite exercises and/or pieces of equipment for training. But what is best? Let’s take a look:

Free weights based exercises
Basically, free weight exercises are exercises that are performed using free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, or other similar free bars. Some of the main benefits include:
  • Work more muscles – Free weights allow you to work more muscles with each movement. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead press and bench press are powerful movements that work several muscle groups at once. The more muscles you work, the more effective the exercise!
  • Full range of motion – Free weights allows you to have complete freedom to move around rather than being locked into a specific range of motion or pattern. This allows your body to perform more functional movements and strengthen stabilizer muscles.
  • Increased muscle mass – Free weight exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which increasing the muscle-building potential of the exercise.
  • Works stabilizer muscles – As the weights are not attached to machines, you are required to control them and stabilize them so that you perform the exercise correctly. This helps you to build and strengthen your core and your stabilizer muscles.
  • Increased variation – You can perform a HUGE variety of different exercises for all major muscle groups in the body.

Free weights based exercises

Machine-based exercises
Machine-based exercises are exercises that are performed using resistance machines in the gym. This includes all of the traditional machines such as leg extension, chest press, shoulder press, etc as well as cable machines. They can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Perfect for beginners – machine exercises can help beginners become accustomed to engaging the correct muscles, increasing strength and perfecting their form before moving to free-weight exercises which require a little more coordination.
  • Injury prevention – Machine-based exercises can greatly reduce your likelihood of injury in the gym. The machines are designed to allow you to only work the muscles that the machine intends you to work. As other muscle groups aren’t recruited, you are less likely to put them under extra strain and pressure.
  • Isolate “lagging” muscle groups – Machines can be very useful if you have one specific body part that is lagging in comparison with the rest of your body. For example, if your quadriceps are small in comparison with the rest of your legs and you continue to perform free weight exercises such as squats or lunges – your entire leg would continue to grow in size and would still be disproportional. However, if you were to perform machine-based exercises that isolate the quadriceps such as the leg extension, you are able to focus on building that muscle only and creating a proportional physique.
  • Perfect form – Machines guarantee that you use perfect form almost every time you use them. Many people perform exercises using barbells or dumbbells using improper form and often wonder why they can’t see any changes to the muscles that they think they are training. Machines are designed so that it is practically impossible for you to use improper form, ensuring that you are always engaging the muscle you want to target/work.
  • Useful for rehab/injuries – Machines are a useful tool to increase strength quickly and safely following an injury. Since machines isolate, it can be easier to work around certain injuries.

So, which is better?
For optimal results, it is recommended that you follow a well-designed training program that combines free weight exercises and machine-based exercises. However, preference does play a role and ultimately you will get the best results from following a program that you enjoy – whether that be predominately free weight or machine-based. At the end of the day, the form of strength training you choose should be based on what your goals are and what makes you feel good. After all, isn’t that what exercise is all about?

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