Machines vs. Free weights

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  • Well said!
  • I just wanted to add in that I love free weights, I've just started doing them.

    I thought I was doing so well by doing the weight machine circuit at the gym, I thought it would make me stronger and help me lose the weight faster. My weight has practically stalled for months now (a rate of about half a pound a week).

    I started doing free weights about a week ago and have this '101 exercises to do with weights' book. I make my own routines up from the book and my weight is dropping quicker then it has in a long time! (I've dropped two pounds already!)

    My body actually feels worked, like I'm challenging it, I can feel specific muscle groups sore after exercise. All machines ever did was make me tired.

    Yay free weights!
  • One thing I've noticed since working with barbells more and just general free weight type work is my abs get sore without any ab work. Also I really do feel like I get a total body workout and feel muscles that weren't even a dominant part of the workout.
  • Same here nelie, when I was just doing cardio and the machines my stomach never got sore. I always felt like I couldn't work it enough.

    But since starting free weights, I have that great soreness you get from a good work out in my obliques and other sections of my stomach. I feel like I accomplished something, even if it's not an exercise for that specific part.
  • Slim down legs
    Is it true that squats and lunges are the best way to slim your legs?
  • It's good to vary from both of them. When my body becomes used to a certain machine, I switch to free weights using a different movement. It's generally important to "shock" your body when weight training. Free weights allow bigger movement and offer a variety of ways to move the weights.
  • Training in a solid proven way that focuses on basic free weight compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, chins, dips, rows and military press really can make a huge difference in overall body composition. Everyone with the ability should try it IMO.
  • Since Meg's video links go to a pay fitness site (how the internet changes in 7 years!) I thought I'd link to her suggested starter free weight exercises on a different site.
    Please edit/update if there are better ones out there or if I've linked to the wrong version.

    You will have to switch to the female tab for videos featuring women.

    Chest press

    One arm row (for back)

    Shoulder press

    Bicep curls

    Overhead extensions (for triceps)

    and Mel's additions

    Dumbbell Squat

    Free Bar Squat - need help with this one, too many options and I'm not sure what I'm looking for
  • Free weights are superior to machines as you've said. It requires you to use more energy to stabilize the weights. I like to mix in machines towards the end of my workout. For example for push days i do barbell bench press, incline dumbbell bench press, dumbbell shoulder press, dips, and then i would finish it off with machine cable flyes, and cable tricep pushdowns.
  • My PT had me do Machines for 6 month simply because machines allow you to isolate and target specific muscles during a work out or therapy session. Free weights activate more muscles and forces you to create your own resistance and control over the weight you lifting. I have always preferred free weights for that reason, but because of my injuries now I do mixture of both.
  • It definitely depends on the person. Both are good. Many are opting for machine whereas you can also use Free weight which has great advantages too and is good for starters.

    Meet Sarah.

    About a year ago, Sarah saw an infomercial about a "multi-unit" workout machine. The announcer called it a "revolutionary" piece of equipment, claiming that people would see results in "just 2-4 weeks". It exercised all major body parts and the female model shown using the machine said it "was safer and more effective than free weights."

    Intimidated by gyms her whole life, Sarah knew having her own home gym would be the key to her finally getting into shape. She had heard that machines were safer than free weights. Besides, the machine came with "easy to follow video instructions". The price was steep, but as Sarah imagined changing her body, she got her credit called and grabbed the phone.

    On the day of delivery, Sarah was surprised to see it took up twice the space she was told it would, limiting space in her already cramped den. Excited to get started, she popped in the video, and hopped on the machine. Sarah soon found that she, at 5í3", was too small to fit on the machine for some of the exercises. She continued on anyway, trying to ignore the fact that her lower back and knees were starting to hurt a little.

    Sarah used her new revolutionary machine exactly three more times. For the last six months, it has been her unofficial clothes hanger.

    What happened? Sarah thought she was buying a machine that would be very easy to operate and be a safe alternative to free-weights. Unfortunately, Sarah and many others are misguided by heavily marketed hype by machine developers. When it comes to effectiveness, particularly for the beginning exerciser, free-weights (i.e., dumbbells) rate much higher than expensive machines in terms of:

    1. Cost. Three or four sets of dumbbells would have cost Sarah less than 10 times the amount she spent on her machine.
    As she gets stronger, she would have to buy more, though even a full set would not set her back nearly as much as the machine did.

    2. Space. Dumbbells take up far less space than most of the exercise equipment sold on infomercials. You can easily place them in a closet, out of sight under the bed, or in a corner. There are even dumbbells you can adjust (i.e., PowerBlock) that allow you to adjust the poundage on one set, eliminating the need for single-poundage dumbbells.

    3. Variety. Most machines are designed as one-dimensional. Even the most extensive multi-unit machines will allow exercisers to perform only a limited number of movements in a restricted range of motion. Free-weights can be used in ranges of motion based on the exerciser, not a machine. Use free weights along with benches or Swiss Balls and you have multitude of exercise options.

    4. Suitability. Sarah couldnít use her "multi-usage" machine for certain exercises because the machine was too big. This is not an uncommon problem. Even though most machines have adjustable seats, arm pads, and lever arms, there are limitations to their range and some may not fit the very small or very large person. However, if you can grab a dumbbell, you can use it.

    5. Functionality. Exercising with free-weights increases the likelihood that the effects of the exercise will cross over into real-world situations. Think about it. How often during the day do you lie in a diagonal supine position and push weight up like you would on a machine leg press? Probably never. But how often are you required to do activities that are biomechanically identical to the squat? Sitting, getting in and out of a car, crouching down to pick something upÖall the time! Properly using free weights will increase the functionality of an exercise to real-world situations.

    6. Safety. It seems counterintuitive to consider free-weights as safer than machines. Most of us have heard (somewhere..) that we could get hurt with dumbbells and that machines were "safer." Maybe just the idea of someone doing a huge bench press lends itself to imagining the likelihood that one might lose control of the same amount of weight if they ever attempted it.

    Safety during exercise is more about proper form, technique, concentration and control rather than exercise apparatus. Someone can get hurt on a machine just as easily as with a dumbbell if incorrect form is used. As always, if you donít know how to do something, find someone (i.e., a reputable trainer) to show you how.
    Safety as a result of exercise is a long-term issue. It is not necessary for the body to stabilize itself or the weight during movements on most machines, because the weight apparatus is fixed. Key stabilizer muscles are then never given the chance to get stronger. Free-weights allow the exerciser to utilize core muscles and allow multi-plane movement that forces the exerciser to strengthen stabilizer musculature, which support joints. Over the long-term, free weights are superior to machines for building a stronger, more functional body.

    You donít need to spend a fortune on a piece of exercise equipment that youíll never end up using and wonít suit your needs. A few sets of dumbbells are effective, intelligent alternatives to buying equipment, especially for those setting up their own in-home gym or workout area.
  • machines are an unnatural way of becoming fit
  • you should try spending time working outside
  • I've been hearing a lot about muscle confusion. It's good to change up your workout routine every few weeks. I use the dumbbells for a few weeks and then I switch to machines and then I do something else. The machines are great for beginners and can help prevent injuries. I'm not ready to hire a personal trainer so I do find some of the exercises with free weights more intimidating. I also need to be mindful of my knees. All this excess weight is horrible on my joints.
  • I enjoy machines and im a male. But the focus should always be dieting which is harder then going to the gym and going through the motions.