Gym Equipment Showdown: Resistance Machines Vs Free Weights, Which To Choose?

free weights vs machines

Whether you’re trying to develop your shoulder muscles or want to enhance muscle endurance, you need to make sure that you’re using the right equipment.

But that leaves you with the question, should I be training with free weights or should I be using the gyms’ resistance machines? Or maybe both?

Which one is going to provide you with the best results?

Well, I can tell you that there is no definite answer here, there are reasons why you may choose one over the other and this will ultimately depend on what your goals are and your training style.

Personally, from my experience, I have found that free weights deliver faster strength gains. However, resistance machines offer benefits too.

Below, I’ll tell you more about both and the benefits they provide.

Free Weights vs Machines – Quick Overview

What Are Free Weights?

First and foremost, you should learn more about free weights. What are they?

Free weights are weights that are not attached to any type of gym machine. As the name suggests, they can be used freely or without a machine. Think of exercise like squats and curls.

When searching the market, you will be able to find an assortment of free weights but the most common that you will come across can be found in the list below.

  • Specific weight dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Fixed barbells

Free weights force your body to work harder to keep the weight balanced. As a result, this means that you’ll achieve more in terms of strength and power growth.

If you sit down with a dumbbell and lift one at a time, you’re using free weights. If those weights are attached to a machine in the gym, you’re using a resistance machine.

In addition to this, free weights are more versatile. They offer a better range of motion so they can be used for more workouts.

What Are Gym Machines

weights vs machines

Most people will use a resistance machine when they visit a local gym. There are two types.

You can use a plate loaded or pin loaded machine. With a plate loaded machine, you will add weights to the machine before lifting those weights.

With a pin loaded resistance machine, you will move the pin to adjust the weight. These machines are very convenient because they allow you to lift significant weight quickly.

The biggest difference between resistance machines and free weights is the fact that resistance machines are stationary, gravity is less of a factor, and motion is limited.

To take advantage of the machine, obviously, you’ll need to stay near it. You may need to sit or lay on a bench or seat.

Furthermore, your movement when using one of these machines will be limited. Using a combination of free weights and resistance machines is the best way to achieve your fitness goals.

Which Is Better For What?

When you ask athletes which option they prefer, you will get a mixture of answers. Some will lean toward the resistance machine while others lean toward the free weights. It is really a matter of preference and, as to which will work best for you.

When it comes to shopping for these types of exercise equipment, it is crucial to know their capabilities and usability. Know the best purposes of both options.

Are Machines Or Free Weights Better For Burning Calories?

resistance machines vs free weight training

To achieve maximum weight loss with a resistance machine and free weights, a cardio boost is a necessity. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to keep their heart pumping when utilizing free weights and resistance machines.

This rule applies to both burning calories and burning fat. When you compare the two options, it is obvious the resistance machine will burn more calories than free weights.

Resistance machines help the body consume more oxygen, resulting in more calories burned at the end of each workout. The intensity of calorie burn with a resistance machine depends on several factors. The main factor is higher resistance.

Which Is Better For Building Muscle, And Body Building?

If your primary goal is to build muscle rapidly, you should stick with free weights.

With resistance machines, the weights are balanced for you.

You’ll adjust the weight before grabbing the bar and exercising. As you can see, resistance machines make things easier for you.

Free weights are more difficult. You’ll have to pick up the weights and use your body to keep them balanced.

If the weight tilts too far one way or the other, you’re going to damage something or get hurt. You’ll depend on your body being strong enough to keep the weights balanced.

Since your body is working harder, you’ll achieve more when using free weights.

Ultimately, free weights are better for body building and building muscle fast. Nevertheless, there is nothing preventing you from using both during your gym visit.

Are Machines Still Good For Building Muscle Or Not?

While you’ll likely be able to build muscle using free weights more effectively, you cannot ignore the benefits of resistance machines.

Resistance machines can still help you build muscle. Plus, these machines offer benefits that you can’t find elsewhere.

Using resistance machines is one of the best ways to strengthen weaker muscles and it is safer.

If you need to train your non-dominant arm, you should try using a resistance machine. You can use the machine to focus solely on the weaker muscles until they’re on par with the muscles in your dominant arm.

What About Beginners? Which Is Better For Them?

Ultimately, beginners should start slow and experiment with both machines. This will help you find out what you like using most and allow you to learn correct form.

However, I would recommend spending more time with resistance machines because they offer another level of convenience and they’re safer, and I am not the only one that thinks this.

Mike and Joy from Fitnessbaddies also think that as a beginner you should start out with resistance machines over trying to lift free weights.

As you progress you can slowly start moving towards weighted dumbbells and barbell workouts.

With resistance machines, there is no need to balance the weights.

They’ll allow you to build your muscles while minimizing the risks involved.

What About For Seniors? Are Machines Safe?

As you grow older, it becomes more and more important to be active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The only problem is, this only becomes harder and harder.

The things that used to come easy are now so much harder. This is why many seniors avoid resistance machines.

This is a huge mistake because resistance chairs and other common resistance machines are good muscle-building options for seniors. Heck, they are good muscle-building options for just about anyone.

Anyone that has difficulties completing exercises while standing can especially benefit from these style machines.

This is because they allow you to effectively utilize bands and get the benefits all while remaining seated.

It's Good To Use Both Weights And Resistance Machines

machines or weights

While lifting weights and resistance machines each offers their own unique benefits, there are plenty of people that like to incorporate both into their routines. Despite what you might believe or what you’ve heard, incorporating both can provide some unique benefits as well.

In fact, one of the best ways to round out a weight lifting routine is by incorporating some resistance routines.

And, this is because resistance training causes the muscles to contract against an external force while also increasing strength, tone, mass, and muscular endurance.

Well-rounded routines Incorporate Both Weights and Machines in their Workouts

Well rounded workout routines will always include both free weight training and resistance training on machines because there are many benefits that both styles of training offer.

There are several types of routines that utilize both the theory of weight training and resistance training. The only problem is, most people don’t understand the theory.

Along with this, they think that weight and resistance training takes special equipment and machines.

This is not always the case at all. You can even incorporate the theory of both weight and resistance training by utilizing your own body weight. Pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, squat thrusts, lunges, and step-ups are all the perfect examples.

You can actually take your squats to the next level by incorporating resistance bands. All you have to do is get a resistance band, step on it with both feet shoulder-width apart, and perform a squat. Make sure you hold onto the ends of the band with one hand on each side then squat.

This added resistance is extremely beneficial as the resistance mimics the same stimulus that you would get from utilizing free weights or a cable machine. Your legs and butt will certainly feel the burn when taking advantage of a routine like this.


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