What’s Better – Free Weights or Machines?

Dumbbells for the win!

Dumbbells for the win!

What a weekend – I had nine friends in town (2 from Massachusetts, 1 from Ohio, 1 from New York, 2 from D.C., 1 from Memphis and 2 from Nashville), so our apartment got kind of hectic.  However, the daily updates are back!

For those of you guys with limited time in the gym, you need to be concentrating on exercises that work and recruit as many muscles as possible.  Sure you can use a machine and work out a single muscle group decently, but your range of motion is extremely limited – you can push it out, and then lower it back to the starting position.  Although this certainly helps prevent injury by not allowing you to drop weights on yourself, it’s limiting the amount of work your muscles can do in the same amount of time.

If you’re a daily reader of the blog, you know that I am a big fan of efficiency.  If you can get more done in less time, why do anything else?  Because of this fact, I strongly prefer free weights to machines for many reasons.

  • When you use free weights, your body has to use every single muscle to keep the weight stabilized as you raise and lower it. Because you’re using these extra muscles (that you’re not using if you’re on a machine) to keep things steady as you lift, you’re getting more done in less time!
  • Because you’re using free weights (like dumbbells) you get to work both your left arm and right arm independently, instead of using a barbell you can find out if your body is out of balance.
  • Machines often put your body in weird positions or at odd angles which can cause injury (shoulder press machines, pec deck machines, etc.) I’ve learned to stay away from because they put unnecessary stress on unwanted muscles and joints at funny angles.
  • Free weights make you feel better about yourself (this is my own opinion).  You see a weight, you pick it up.  The next time you’re there, you either try to pick up that same weight more times than before, or pick up a heavier weight.   If you’re on a machine, you’re just pulling a pin or turning a dial.  It’s not as easy/fun to see the growth.

Now, there are a few things to consider when using free weights, and that is the safety factor.  If you don’t have good form, or you don’t have a spotter, you can get “injured bad” because you could drop the weights on yourself or mess up a muscle by doing it incorrectly.  Make sure you practice perfect form, and really concentrate on isolating the muscles used in the exercise and you can see greater gains in the same amount of time.

This is why I prefer to do incline dumbbell press instead of a chest press machine, squats with a barbell instead of in the smith machine, straight pull ups instead of lat pull-downs on a machine.  It seems more natural, more muscles get recruited in the process, and I get more out of it.

Here is my routine now. I keep it simple, I use free weights, and I’m seeing great results.

-Steve

Get The Rebel Starter Kit

Enter your email and we’ll send it right over.

  • The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
  • The most effective diet and why it works.
  • Complete your first workout today, no gym required.
  • These are the tools you need to start your quest.