The question of whether free weights or machines are better for training has been discussed for decades, but has no obvious answer. There is often an inclination toward the idea that free weights are better than machines, but ultimately it depends on the preferences and objectives of each person.
It is important to understand the pros and cons of each method, and, with this information, you can choose the method that best fits your own personal goals.
The machines are easy to learn to use and have illustrations showing the correct form for each exercise, helping you avoid mistakes that can cause injury. This feature generally makes them the best choice for beginners.
Machines also allow you to isolate muscle groups more efficiently, which is especially useful for those who want to train only a specific muscle. This aspect also makes machines especially helpful when you’re doing physical therapy or recovering from an injury.
An additional advantage is that machines allow training with heavier weight without the assistance of others. Having someone act as a spotter is unnecessary because the machines have safety measures already built in.
Training with machines usually makes a workout less intense than it would be if you were using free weights. This is because they usually require less of the body. Machines are also not the best option to do compound exercises (such as squats and deadlifts), which train several muscles at once and are among the best to gain mass.
By isolating specific muscles, the machines also do not train the stabilizing muscles. Without strengthening these muscles, there is an increased risk of executing movements the wrong way and causing injury.
The machines can also be difficult to use at peak times at the gym. It may sometimes even be necessary to share one with multiple people, impacting the effectiveness of the workout.
Free weights offer the freedom to train doing a wide variety of movements, without being restricted to the range of the machine. They also allow numerous variations to train each muscle in a diversity of ways.
Additionally, free weights help train the body as a whole. They require the use of several muscles at once in order to maintain balance during each movement, increasing the level of difficulty of your workout.
Another benefit of free weights is that they allow you to train anywhere, eliminating the need for a gym when you don’t have access to one. Because of this, they are also the cheapest option. You can buy some weights and set up a home gym for less than the price of a monthly membership at many gyms.
Unless you’re working with a trainer, it’s hard to know the correct way to do each movement, and errors in execution may cause injury. If in doubt, the best option is to always ask for help from a professional.
Another drawback is that certain exercises require someone else’s help when they are done with free weights. This can be necessary both for assistance in positioning heavy weights in order to do a movement correctly and for safety reasons.
While there is no consensus on whether it is better to use free weights or machines to increase muscle mass, there are certainly pros and cons to each approach. Ultimately, you need to choose what works best for you based on your workout style, or combine both to get the best of both worlds.