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Free Weights or Machines: What Are Most Effective?



Free Weights or Machines: What Are Most Effective?

Strength training in most cases is associated with a very important dilemma - which is the best to use: free weights or machines? It is not as simple to answer this, and if you will take a look on forums/communities where people discuss this subject you will see there is not a unanimously answer in favor of free weights or machines. Each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages when building muscle, but their use in different stages of training is a new concept that has to be taken into consideration by all bodybuilders.  

Especially, beginners who are the most confused about what they have to choose. That’s why further we will tell you what type of weights fit you more depending on your training experience.

First Month in the Gym

First month in the gym

It is very important for every beginner to have a good physical condition before practice bodybuilding. So make use of free weights or machines to get a good physical condition. your main goal during this pre-workout stage is to get your muscles used to new loads and stress. Use dumbbells and barbells for a wide range of exercises, and keep in mind that during these 2-4 weeks you have to learn exercises and the right technique of execution.

First Year

First Year

If you have more than one month experience of training in the gym than you can exclude any isolation exercise and focus on free weights. There is no need to get engaged in complicated set and supersets for each group of muscles executed at machines.

Basic exercises will allow you to get involved in work all group of muscles since the main goal of you during this first month is to increase strength and not muscle mass. One hour workout is perfect for you, but you feel this is too much for you can limit it to 40 minutes. This will be great too.

Second-third Years in the Gym

Second-third Years in the Gym

At this stage, having already a good increase in strength, you can add to two exercises with free weights, one isolation exercise (machine exercises). To be more clear let’s take an example. For building chest muscles you can do bench bar in lying and inclined position and add a cable crossover exercise.

More than 3 Years

Bodybuilders with more than three years training experience are wondering what and how they should train. their body gives them the right answer for them. Why? Because during these years of training, bodybuilders learn to listen to their body, and they know how their body reacts to a particular load.

So, training with free weights is highly advisable during the first year, as you concentrate your efforts on increasing strength and not muscle mass. And during second-third years in the gym, when you can combine them with machine exercise. Further, when you are already an experienced bodybuilder, you can choose whatever best fit your body and greater stimulates your muscle growth.

Machine exercises are great for use during your first month in the gym when you need to get your body adapted to new loads and stress.

Let’s further the main pros and cons of free weights versus machine use.

Free weights:

Free Weights

-Body position when working with free weights is not fixed, that allows you to learn to feel the consistency of the muscles. To convince yourself about this do few squats, and you instantly will feel such a harmony between body and mind.

Must Read: Free Weights vs. Machines: What’s the Difference?

-Free weights are more effective in increasing the strength of your body. When training with free weights you are not fixed at all in a position, thus allow to include in the work synergistic muscles, that help target muscle to get bigger. As a result, the body works as a single interlocking mechanism.

-Free weights require stabilization of the body during lifts weights. This means that in work are involved muscle-stabilizers, thus during some exercises are worked out many smaller muscles meantime.

- Free weights have been used for a long period before machine appears. That’s why their effectiveness is time-tested.

- Free weights are less expensive than machines and more versatile.


- In order to execute free weight exercises correctly, you will need to be taught by someone with more experience. Free weights are hard to learn, that’s why it easy to choose machine where movements are greatly limited.

-High risk of injury. The most common injury associated with free weights are the cases when you drop them, especially when using heavy weights. Also, machines have a strictly defined path, while free weights have not and there is always the risk of injury because of the wrong position.

-When exercising with free weights, you do not know exactly all the time what exercise you are doing and what group of muscles you're working.  It is very easy to get confused about what you should start with and muscle you work.

- You will lose time every time you need to change weights.



-Machines are great for isolation exercises. You can use them for working some special group of muscles after you get an overall increase in muscle mass.

-There are some specific exercises for the machine only. It is about the vertical thrust block and extension or leg curl, which can be done only using the machine.

-Low risk of injury, due to a possibility to follow the right technique of execution. It is dictated by the construction of the machine, but this doesn’t mean any risk of injury at all.

-Machines a very easy to use, and in case of any issue you can consult instruction.

-Many trainers help relieve undue stress on your back. This can be useful for people with a problematic spine.

-No loss of time for changing weights.

Among disadvantages should be mentioned the following:

-Limited possibilities of exercises execution.

-They work only some group of muscles and has no effect on others.

-Machines are expensive, and not everybody can afford to have one at home. Along with this, they occupy too much space.

Summarizing the above we can say that none of this two method of training can be used alone, excluding the second one. During your muscle building experience, you will have to use both of them. Each of them has own advantages and drawbacks. Free weights involve in work stabilizers and synergist muscles, while machines are great for a special group of muscles. When you prepare your workout program include both of them, based on your gym experience as well.

If you are a newcomer, opt for machines, after a month and during the first year choose to work with free weights. Further make a combination of free weights and machines (2:1), and you will see what work best for you. Hopefully, you get the answer to the question what is more effective free weights or machines and concentrate your all your efforts on further workouts!

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