Free weights are better than machines

Comparison: training with machines or without?

Most exercisers prefer exercise machines like the chest press, leg press, shoulder press, etc. The rest turn to the free weights. (e.g. a well-organized dumbbell workout) Some say that machines can train individual muscle groups such as the chest, biceps and triceps better. They also say that exercising with machines is safer than using dumbbells. The other side says that free weights are better for building total body strength and muscle.

So which side should you listen to?

The short answer is, if you want to build muscle as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible, use dumbbells for the majority of your workout.

However, this does not mean that machines are unusable. Usually, you will make faster progress using both machines and dumbbells.

By the end of this article, you will understand the difference between free weights and machines, the pros and cons of both training methods, and the advantages of both training styles.

Comparison: Exercising with Machines vs. Free Weights

A machine exercise isolates you into a set range of motion where you only have to focus on pushing / pulling the weight.

In this case, the handles are firmly locked and, as I said, all you have to do is push / pull.

A free weight exercise is an exercise in which you are forced to control the direction of a weight as you move it. It also uses many other muscles to keep the weight in the right direction.

The bench press is a good example where you need to use the stabilizing muscles of your shoulders, arms, and legs to move the bar in the right direction while your chest actually helps push the weight.

Most free weight exercises typically use dumbbells and barbells, but kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, and other aids can also be used. Do you need a suitable training plan for your individual goal? Then just speak to our trainers in the fitness studio in Vienna Brigittenau. We will be happy to help you create one or advise you.

Differences between machines and free weights

Stronger muscle activation

Free weights cause more muscle activation, which means that you usually also stimulate muscle growth better. This means that with each repetition of a free weight exercise, you are targeting more total muscle mass than with a machine exercise.

The squats, one of the most common free weight exercises for exercising your legs, involves your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, back, and even your abs.

On the other hand, training with machines like the leg extension does a very good job of training your quadriceps but not much more either.

However, some muscle groups are difficult to train with only free weights

The calf muscles serve as a good example here.

The calves respond best to a combination of bent leg and straight leg exercises, both of which are easier to perform with machines.

Training with machines is a good finisher

As you have already learned, machine exercises mainly work one muscle group. As an example, after a hard chest workout (where your arms are already quite stressed), you could train your tri and biceps on the respective machines in isolation.

In summary, if you want to build as many muscles as possible, you should do most of your training with free weights and then work strategically with machines on the individual muscle groups that you want to focus on. Do you have any questions about training with machines? Then just contact our staff in the fitness studio in Giesing. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.