Machines Vs. Free Weights: Which Should You Use?

Tell me if this sounds familiar; you walk into a gym and just stand there. As you look at all the equipment that that gym offers, you continue to stand there with the one concerning question: which type of weights should I use; the free weights or the machines. Well lucky for you, this article will help you the next time you’re looking lost at the gym.  


*Because you’re reading this article, I’m assuming that you know what free weights are, as well as what machines are so I won’t go into that. If you don’t, check out Google, I heard that they know everything.  


Why use machines?

Machines are easier to use. It’s hard to use a machine wrong. I thought it was impossible until I trained at the gym at my university. Yikes. Anyways, the way machines are built, it allows you to “stay on track.” What I mean by that is, they have a specific and precise way that the levers are moved. Compare that to a free weight where there is no set path and you have an increased chance of messing up technique. This makes machines a great option for newbies. 

Less likely to get injured using machines. With free weights, you take on the risk of injuring yourself. Things like dropping a kettlebell on your toes or smashing your finger with a dumbbell are all scenarios that happen more times than we would like. If you go on Youtube and search weightlifting accidents, 98.47% of them will be using free weights. Using a machine, you don’t take those chances.  

You’re able to use more weight. This is because the fact that balancing and stabilizing are taken out of the equation; therefore you are able to focus on the muscles that are being worked and less on the ones not being directly targeted. This is perfect for those that are injured in other muscles that won’t allow them to be able balance effectively for the exercise.  

Able to target a specific muscle. This is huge for bodybuilders as they like to be able to isolate and work on a certain muscle that needs specific attention.  


Who should use machines? 

Beginners. Until you learn the correct technique for exercises, you’re doing more harm than good. Machines will “guide” lifters through the correct technique majority of the time.  

Injured/Rehabbing. If you aren’t able to walk, chances are you probably wont be able to squat freely either. This is where machines come into play. There are leg exercises that allow you to sit and not have to worry about keeping your balance and standing upright. 

Bodybuilders. Like I mentioned early, machines help you get that better pump and allow for a certain muscle get special attention.  



Why use free weights?

Able to hit the full range of motion for the muscle and joints involved. Machines are designed for everyone to use, and since we know everyone is different, that is a pretty unreasonable standard. With free weights, you can use them how to where it is more individualized and fit to your body. It is absolutely necessary for full ranges of motion to be hit. This leads to our next statement.  

Build more muscle. Hitting a full range of motion for the muscles is an essential for gaining muscle. When the muscle isn’t pushed and trained at its full range, muscle fibers are being neglected and not hit which leads to less growth all together in that muscle. 

Build strength. Multi-joint movements are great to do when training. They hit multiple muscles and are great for building strength. Machines are not very efficient at these like free weights are.  


Who should use free weights? 

Advanced lifters. Safety first. Again, learn the technique before diving. 

Those who want to build strength.  

Athletes. Machines aren’t able to mimic movements that athletes do in their sport. Free weights are able help with balance, stability, coordination, etc.. This is crucial for athletes because sports require a top level in all of those. 


Final Verdict 

Which should you use? There are many factors that play into this determining. The main thing is what your goal is. There aren’t any right or wrong choices, just more suitable. Hopefully this helps make your decision a little bit easier the next time you are questioning your choice of equipment.  


Buddy Broncho made his first appearance in UCO's own newspaper The Vista. It was the October 3, 1932, issue where a Broncho appears wearing a UCO football uniform. He has appeared numerous times throughout the years from local Edmond papers in the 60's to state-wide papers in the 80's. The commissioning of the first ever live mascot appears in UCO's 1979 Bronze Book where Buddy Broncho made his first public appearance at Homecoming. Since that time, Buddy has been a fixture at UCO events and in the hearts of UCO students.