Strength training is an import part of a fitness routine, and has a myriad of overall health benefits. There are a number of ways, however, to accomplish a regular lifting regimen. Specifically, lifters can utilize free weights, those not locked into place by any external apparatus, or weight lifting machines, designed to limit movement and range. Both have benefits and potential drawbacks, and it can be difficult to identify if you should use free weights or weight lifting machines in your workout. Are free weights better for building muscles than machines? This article helps simplify this decision, discussing the pros and cons of each choice and empowering you to make an informed decision that suits your physical needs.
Free Weights- Pros
In general, free weights are the most effective at building overall strength. This is a result of the way the body manages the movement of heavy items without the assistance of a machine. Basically, because the weight being lifted is unrestrained, the muscles themselves must keep the weight balanced and fixed, and in doing so works a number of different muscles while improving strength in the targeted group. By working these stabilizer muscles during normal workouts, the body becomes naturally stronger than if the movement of the weight was locked in place. Additionally, one of the benefits to free weights is the equipment itself. Free weight equipment is simpler, smaller, and significantly cheaper than weight lifting machines, and effective workouts can be accomplished with high-quality resistance bands or an affordable dumbbell set for a fraction of the price of something more mechanical.
Free Weights- Cons
Free weights, such as kettlebells or a traditional barbell with a bench, can lead to excellent health and fitness results when used correctly, however the lack of support from machinery means they require more care in their operation. Utilizing proper form, and knowing your own personal limits, are important to avoid injury, while having a spotter during bench press is an absolute necessity. Because of these additional requirements, effective use of free weights can be somewhat difficult for beginners, and may require instruction from a trainer first. Free weights can also require various weight plates or dumbbells to account for the need for varied or increase weight over time, which can be problematic for storage purposes. Although the best free weight exercises are incredible for boosting performance, they can be a bit tricky to properly set up.
Weight Lifting Machines- Pros
The true benefit to weight lifting machines lies in their ease of access. The machines found at typical gyms are intuitive to understand and frequently come with instructions so that individuals with little technical knowledge of lifting can begin working out. Likewise, because the weight of the machines is supported by scaffolding, the risk of injury due to improper form is significantly reduced, although care should still be taken to utilize the machine as directed. With machine lifting no spotter is required, and workouts can be completed by even novice lifters. Additionally, weight lifting machines allow for specific muscle groups to be isolated and worked more extensively than with free weights, which can be helpful in preparing for a specific sport performance or in recovering from an injury.
Weight Lifting Machines- Cons
One of the major drawbacks to resistance machines is the additional cost associated with them. Some of the best weight lifting machines for strength training, such as the Marcy Stack Dual Function Home Gym, are extremely high-quality and incredibly effective, and are an excellent choice for those willing the invest in their workout routine. The alternative, however, is a gym membership, which can quickly become significantly more expensive than free weights. Gyms are also not as conducive to maintaining a regimen for some people, who find the additional burden of travelling to a gym and potentially dealing with a high volume of other people problematic. Machine lifting also involves a shorter range of motion, which, combined with the unnatural movement associated with a rigid apparatus, does not properly work stabilizing muscles and diminishes real world strength compared to free weights.
Both options discussed have important potential benefits, and both come with costs, but the most important factor in answering the question of whether free weights are better than weight lifting machines is absolutely your own fitness situation. Maintaining a healthy body means, first and foremost, understanding your body’s idiosyncratic needs, and tailoring a workout to be accommodating. What does your workout routine look like? Let us know in the comments below!