Free Weights and Machines

July 12, 2009

What is your preference when strength training — free weights or machine resistance?  Here are some characteristics of both.



1. Machines allow you to isolate a muscle.
2. Machines control the movement of the weight, and therefore may be “safer”.
3. You generally don’t have to worry about getting trapped under a weight when using machines.
4. Because of numbers 2 and 3, above, a spotter is not absolutely necessary when using machines.
5. Each machine is made for a specific movement or movements and cannot vary from its intended use.  For example, a machine that allows you to do a biceps curl will only allow you to do a biceps curl, nothing more.
6. If you’re traveling out of town and you want to workout, you might not find the same machines you’re used to.

Free weights:


1. Free weights allow “natural” lifting, i.e. lifting an object as we naturally would lift it.
2. Muscles are not exercised in isolation when lifting free weights.  Major muscles, minor muscles, and supporting muscles are worked.  E.g. in a bench press the major muscle worked is the chest.  Minor muscles worked are the triceps, and front shoulders.  In addition, the core (abs, lower back, obliques (sides of abs)), portions of the upper back, and wrists support the bench press movement.
3. A single barbell or dumbbell set can be used in a variety of exercises.  In fact, one barbell set or set of dumbbells can be used to work your entire body.
4. It is possible to get trapped beneath a free weight, so a spotter is needed for some exercises (e.g. bench press, squat).
5. When traveling, it is usually easy to find a gym with a good set of weights.

Which do you prefer to workout with?


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11 Responses to “Free Weights and Machines”

  1. Hi Darryl,

    Thank you for how you demonstrate your fitness and exercise expertise in your explanation of the different characteristics between free weights and isolation weight machines.

    I really do like the variety. It also depends on where I am. Like today and with my grief recovery workshops, sometimes I am traveling, in a hotel, where there are just those little mini-gyms. And I have limited time. Then I make use of What Is There. At home, I tend towards using a kettlebell or free weights so more muscles and my core muscles are engaged.

    Take care,

    April Braswell

    Young Widows Grief Bereavement Counseling Vegas Orange County, Costa Mesa Fountain Valley Huntington Beach, CA

  2. Hi Darryl,

    I was just thinking of you today as my sister and I worked out at the gym here in Orange County. Today was cardio only. Free weights and machines are NEXT! Right now I am working on re-establishing the workout HABIT! Once that is firmly in place, than I will vary and mix it up.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

    Single Baby Boomer Dating Success Expert

  3. Hi Darryl,

    thanks for that excellent explanation about the differences between free weights and machines for a workout.

    Indeed, I tend towards using a free weight because I have this at home and can simply USE it. I don’t “have” to make it to a gym. The fuller range of motion is best.

    Best regards,

    April Braswell

    Single Baby Boomer Dating Expert

    Widows Grief Support Group, Bereavement Counseling, Stages of Grief, Workshop Orange County, Costa Mesa Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, CA

    Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Orange County, Website Marketing, Web Design, SEO, Social Media Marketing

  4. I prefer machines. I haven’t been in the gym in years, but if I were to work out again I would again choose machines.

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services – Babysitters and Nannies

  5. Lynn Lane says:


    Great article. I love to use both. I start with free weights then finish with cable work.

    Lynn Lane
    Warrior Of Success Training

    Success Strategies For Life

  6. John Ho says:


    I prefer machine resistance, be it magnetic or hydraulic.

    I feel that it’s “safer” than free weights too.

    John Ho
    Numerology Expert Helps Understanding Personality for Better Influence & Persuasion (WordPress Blog)
    Numerology Expert Birthday Numeroscope (Vox Blog)
    Numerology Expert Helps Understanding Personality for Better Influence & Persuasion</a

  7. Rob Northrup says:

    I like the machines because the ones I use are hooked up to computers that tell me what to do next and count for me…

    Seize the Day,
    Personal Asset Protection For Small Business Owners
    Have You Covered Your Assets?

  8. I like free weights for some things and machines for others. I have two rotatr cuff injuries and a herniated disc in my neck, so machines are better for chest exercises and squatting.


  9. JJ Jalopy says:

    I’ve been led to believe that free weights are more effective, but I generally prefer machines as I feel safer and I can lift heavier and feel like He-Man!




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