The debate has been going on for ages over what is better; machines or free weights?
And the safest answer you will get is, it depends.
Well, on what? They ask..
What your goals are?
What’s your fitness level?
What’s your age?
Or whatever you find at the gym?
The answer might be right if you are lazy to analyze all the pros and cons.
Everyone likes to know who won it in the end just because you can pick the winning side. And who am I to announce the winner? Well, read through to know more about how I trick you into believing it.
Most people would not agree with either of the answers, machines or free weights, because ‘it depends.’ Therefore, I will try to reason the tougher points first before getting into all the obvious ones to support my answer.
Please read through, before hating me on my argument..
Why the machines are not as impactful
By now you have an idea whose side I am on. I will tackle the pros of using the machine first with some reasonable points.
1. Easy to learn and Use: Well if the machine use is easy-for-use to you then probably it is not that impactful anyway. I understand it is more comfortable in a sense that you are in stable position, but it is a bad practice even if you are a beginner.
If you are a beginner or rehabbing your muscles, ‘ease’ is not the word you should be around, but only ‘learn’ and ‘practice.’ (More on it later)
2. Efficiently work on isolated muscle groups: This may be true for the bodybuilders or the ones with lots of experience. But they get to machines after they have traveled a journey and are qualified to work on aesthetics.
No bodybuilder has traveled the journey without free weights or just with the machines. Best practice is to learn how to use the free weights from the very beginning.
3. Allows training on heavier weights without assistance: Very valid point. I might not have a strong argument against this one because some free weights workouts such as bench press and weight squats need a spotter.
If you want to add more weight, the extra strain in between may hurt you. However, on the other hand, if you get a spotter just for a few exercises, that is the best thing.
Bench presses and squats are effective workouts which the most machine-loving trainers also do. Therefore, the argument is slightly weaker if you practically think about it.
4. Suitable for Elderly Age or Rehabbing: Popular opinion is that machines are better for the elderly, which is right. However, this WebMD suggests that best way to treat sarcopenia is through using free weights and resistance bands.
Moreover, interval training and running are other types of workouts for the elderly to maintain muscle or slow down muscle loss. Most interval training exercises require free weights or none at all.
Why Free Weights cons are not too bad
Free weights might not be safe for the beginners is an invalid point. Beginners need to know how to balance free weights when starting to workout. Let’s counter some more points..
1. Takes some skill to learn proper technique: If you are serious about something then do it properly. Learn the proper techniques and get the basics right. Whenever we are told to learn something new, the same theory applies here. No shorts cuts!
Learning the proper way to use free weights is crucial for the beginners. If you don’t know the technique, get a trainer or ask someone around the gym. Everyone will happily help and if you ask their ego a question such as; do you know the proper way to do a bicep curl? There. You made a new friend.
2. High injury risk if not done correctly: That is why you need to learn the techniques. Get the basics right even with the lightest weights. Once you have them, you are in the game for longer than the machines could ever teach you.
Don’t go for something you are not sure about. Ask someone around, make a new friend! If someone doesn’t respond well, move on ask some else till you find a buddy.
3. Spotter Wanted: In both the above points I have resolved the matter of making a friend whom you are not going hang out with but help each other spotting.
Maybe awkward with a new friend you just said hello to if he says no, but by the time you have completed a few workouts, you got enough confidence to be over the awkward moments.
Free weights over machines, any day, any workout..
After countering some of the pros of machines and cons of free weights. Let me briefly list all the reasons why you should use the free weights over the machines.
Free Weights are functional for daily tasks which require athleticism.
You have freedom to try various range of motions with the free weights.
Free weights provide synergetic muscle strength for better stability altogether.
You can do more exercises and variations with free weights
Free weights are less expensive to buy if you get your own
Free weights can be used anywhere to train
Some machines are not suitable for your body, which may cause injury.
Form Better Habits for Long-Term Success
It is best if you start using free weights from the very beginning. Machines kind of spoil you.
Start to learn about the proper ways and techniques, and form a habit around it. Free weights will let your stabilizing muscles grow together with the primary ones. You will learn to get used to the balance and stability.
Learn to drive a manual car, and you will be a better driver. Just learning the automatic would do the job but you won’t be entirely known as a driver.
The analogy is just to explain if you want to work out, learn the in-depth skills which will benefit you in the long run. They won’t spoil you. With any dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell, you will be able to pull off several exercises anywhere you are.
A very humble attempt. But all I want to convey is if you create a habit of free weights, they will serve you better in the long run.