• 604-362-9571
  • Monday - Sunday
Blog Free Weights or Machine Weights, Which is Better?


Free Weights or Machine Weights, Which is Better?

  • by Michelle
  • January 5, 2012

This is a question I get a lot from clients and regulars in the gym, so I thought this would be a great topic to discuss to start off the year right.  For starters, by free weights I mean dumbbells or barbells and by machine weights I mean large machines and pulley systems found in most gyms.  When starting a new fitness regimen it’s often hard to decide what equipment is best for you; therefore, knowing the pros and cons of each will help you to decide which is best.

Let’s break down the positives and negatives for using each form of resistance training:

Free Weights


-activate stabilizing muscles as well as the targeted muscle to build whole body strength

-allow an exercise to go through a full natural range of motion and you can mimic movements more functional to real life movements

-Can be used for a variety of exercises for the entire body, so you don’t have to move from machine to machine

-burn more calories because you are working more of your body in each exercise


 -Hard to learn for beginners because they require base strength, skill, and coordination to perform exercises with proper form

-Injury risk is higher because there is not a fixed path to push a weight into and there is also risk of dropping weights if you are lifting heavy

-When using machines you know exactly what muscles you are working, but there are so many options with free weights this could lead to confusion about where to start

Machine Weights


-Provide support to the joints and body when performing exercises, which is good for beginners, people rehabbing injuries, or those wanting to lift heavy weights without access to a spotter

-easy to use because they are on a fixed path and usually have diagrams and instructions available right on the machine

-less intimidating because you know exactly what muscles you are working and that you are doing the exercise correctly

-take less time to change weights than working with free weights


-burn less calories because they are to supportive on the body and you are only working the targeted muscle, making them less functional

-Limited because only one or two muscle groups can be worked per machine so in order to do a full body workout you have to move through multiple machines

-more difficult to work uni-laterally, meaning one arm or one leg at a time, which will help pin-point and reduce weaknesses

With resistance training, programs can be created involving many different types of tools.  This could include free weights, machines, body weight, tubing, suspension trainers, or medicine balls, for example.  When looking to create a resistance training program specific to you, consider your specific goals, experience level, and equipment available to you in order to create the best workout for you!

Email Michelle@CORE-Condition.com for more information on what form of resistance training will be best for you.


Michelle Roots BA Kin, CSCS, PES