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Machines or Free Weights? An Attempt to End the Debate!

Machines or Free Weights? An Attempt to End the Debate

Everyone in the fitness community knows about the “free weights vs. machines” debate. In fact, this is one of the oldest topics discussed in the world of health and fitness, and everyone has an opinion.

However, knowing the pros and cons of each can help you make the most of your workouts, no matter your fitness levels. This blog details how machines and free weights work, the safety and injury risks, and a complete machines and free weights exercise routine.

Check out this forearm workout with cable, free weights, barbells, and machine variations!

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How Machines WorkHow Free Weights WorkSafety And Injury RisksScientific Evidence And StudiesBenefits5-Day Free Weights Routine5-Day Machine Workout PlanConclusionFAQs

How Machines Work

Machine workouts are effective at isolating muscle groups because the design of the machines guides the movement and limits the involvement of secondary muscles. This allows for targeted muscle training, which benefits individuals aiming to focus on specific muscle groups.

Machine workouts can help individuals isolate better by limiting secondary muscle engagement. This strengthens the targeted muscles, leading to more efficient and practical training.

This is great, particularly for beginners or those recovering from injuries, because it reduces the risk of incorrect form and prevents subsequent injuries. By providing support and guidance, machine workouts can help individuals safely and effectively build strength and muscle endurance, contributing to overall fitness and well-being.

Looking for machine workouts? Check out these 6 cable workouts!

How Free Weights Work

Free weight exercises offer numerous benefits. They can engage multiple muscle groups, including secondary and stabilizer muscles.

Individuals can effectively target multiple muscles by incorporating squats, deadlifts, and bench presses with barbells, improving overall body strength and balance. This enhances your overall physical performance and strengthens your body, reducing the risks of injury.

In addition, free weights allow natural body movements, contributing to enhanced athletic performance and everyday functional fitness. This is why, free weight exercises help individuals develop strength and coordination that can be directly applied to various activities and tasks. This comprehensive approach to building strength and stability sets free weight exercises apart, making them essential to any well-rounded fitness routine.

Looking for a free weights exercise routine? Check out these 5 back workouts with dumbbells!

Safety and Injury Risks

One of the biggest benefits of machine workouts is that they’re safe. Since the movements are controlled, they decrease the possibility of weights dropping mid-exercise or during poor form, especially when you’re exhausted. This control of movement makes them great for you, especially if you don’t have a gym buddy.

However, with free weights, you need to know the right form to avoid any injuries when training. In addition, because they’re unstable, it’s important to have a spotter to stay safe, especially when lifting heavy.

Because of this, free weights could lead to injuries, especially if you’re ego-lifting or working out without a personal trainer. However, with the right form and progressive overload, you’ll easily master them.

Try these 4 lat exercises that combine machine and free weights for an intense routine!

Scientific Evidence and Studies

Much research is out there comparing the effectiveness of free weights and machines. According to a study, whether you use free weights or machines, your fitness levels will inevitably increase because they’re crucial to resistance training.

Similarly, other research suggests that you’ll gain strength, power, and general fitness whether you do free-weight exercises or machine-based workouts. This means both can be equally useful if you get your form and technique right.

Mix free weights and machines for a complete pull day workout!

Benefits of Doing Machine And Free Weight Exercises

Pros of Machines

  • Greater safety and is easier to learn.
  • Isolates your targeted muscle group, keeping secondary muscle engagement at a minimum.
  • Ideal for people who are either starting out or rehabilitating injuries.

Cons of Machines

  • Your stabilizers aren’t engaged fully.
  • Since you have to follow a set movement pattern, it may not work for everyone.

Pros of Free Weights:

  • Since free weights work multiple muscle groups at once, they build strength and coordination.
  • As they offer a full range of motion, they improve your functional fitness.
  • They’re portable, so you can have an at-home workout setup.

Cons of Free Weights:

  • There’s a greater chance of injury if you’re not familiar with the right form or don’t have a spotter when lifting heavy.
  • You need to have enough knowledge about exercise movements to effectively engage your targeted muscles.

A 5-Day Free Weights Workout Routine

Day Muscle Group Exercises Sets x Reps Load Frequency
Day 1 Chest Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Press, Chest Flyes 3 x 8-12 70-80% of 1RM Once a week
Day 2 Back Barbell Rows, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups 3 x 8-12 70-80% of 1RM Once a week
Day 3 Legs Squats, Lunges, Hamstring Curls (dumbbell) 3 x 8-12 70-80% of 1RM Once a week
Day 4 Shoulders Barbell Upright Rows, Lateral Raises, Front Raises 3 x 8-12 70-80% of 1RM Once a week
Day 5 Arms Barbell Curls, Tricep Extensions, Plate Curls 3 x 8-12 70-80% of 1RM Once a week

 A 5-Day Machine-Based Workout Routine

Day Muscle Group Exercises Sets x Reps Load Frequency
Day 1 Chest Chest Press, Pec Deck Machine, Cable Crossover 3 x 10-12 Moderate to Heavy Once a week
Day 2 Back Lat Pull Down, Seated Row Machine, Back Extension Machine 3 x 10-12 Moderate to Heavy Once a week
Day 3 Legs Leg Press, Leg Curl Machine, Leg Extension Machine 3 x 10-12 Moderate to Heavy Once a week
Day 4 Shoulders Shoulder Press Machine, Cable Lateral Raise, Rear Delt Machine 3 x 10-12 Moderate to Heavy Once a week
Day 5 Arms Tricep Pushdown, Bicep Curl Machine, Cable Wrist Curls 3 x 10-12 Moderate to Heavy Once a week

Form Better Habits for Long-Term Success

Free weights, as well as machines, have their place in a well-rounded fitness routine. Once you understand the advantages and drawbacks of each, you’ll know which ones to go for according to your fitness goals. Remember, the only way to truly gaining strength and power is by staying consistent with your workouts!


Is it better to do free weights or machines?

Whether you lift free weights or do machine workouts, they’re both aspects of resistance training and will increase your strength, power and fitness ability. However, which one’s better depends on your fitness level and goals, and overall athletic abilities. For instance, free weights work your muscles and stabilizers, boosting your strength and coordination. On the other hand, machines isolate your muscles and are much safer to do. This makes them great for beginners as well as those recovering from injury. At the end of the day, go for the ones that you’re comfortable with.

Can you build muscle just using machines?

Yes, you can build muscle only with machines. This is because machines target isolated muscles. This ensures that your posture is correct, eliminating the risk of injury. Not only are machines great for beginners thanks to the stability they provide, but they also offer rehabilitation for those recovering from injury. Since you can always increase and overload your resistance levels with machines, they’re quite effective in building muscle.

Why do bodybuilders use machines instead of free weights?

There are several reasons why bodybuilders use machines instead of free weights. Some of these advantages are:

  • They add tension to your targeted muscles by isolating them, allowing them to sculpt a specific muscle.
  • The strict form of machines allows them to maintain, reducing the risk of injury while lifting heavy.
  • The safety machines provide due to the controlled movements, especially during supersets and drop sets that require advanced technique.

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