Free Weights vs Machines – Which is Better for Weight Training?

free weights vs machines

What is difference between free weights and machines?

It is a frequently discussed topic if workout machines or free weights are more efficient to build muscle. I remember when I was a beginner I was confused as well. There is no question that both type of equipment has its benefits and drawbacks.

Read on to find out the results of free weights vs machines.

Workout machines vs free weights comparison

Benefits of resistance machine exercises

  • Weight machines are better for beginners as the motion is fixed and controlled. They let us focus on one specific muscle group without the need of other ones that are required for keeping the balance or controlling the motion.
  • Resistance training with machines does not demand such a routine.
  • They are safer to use. Just think about bench press. What would happen if you were in the middle of the move and there was nobody there? With a Smith machine for example, you can avoid injuries, and you are more willing to do heavier lifts. They are better in case you workout alone.
  • They are suitable for isolation since we can focus on one particular area. If you want to build more defined and isolated muscles, you should use machines.
  • You can adjust the resistance fast and easy.



  • A machine can cause injuries if it is used too frequently and for a long time. The movement is controlled and fixed so always the same muscles and joints are worked and under stress.
  • Because only one muscle is trained supporting ones are not stimulated, and that may lead to imbalance.
  • Most of the weightlifting machines cannot be adjusted, they have fixed structure. Hence, no matter if you are taller or shorter than the average, having shorter or longer limbs, you can only do the range of motion that the machine provides. Of course, this unnatural movement is not beneficial for gaining muscles, and it may cause injuries as well.
  • Since fewer muscles are worked, fewer calories are burned. Hence, they are not so effective to lose fat. (I’m not talking about cardio and fitness equipment like treadmills here.)


To sum up if you are a newbie, you may start with machines and as you get familiar with lifting start doing free weight exercises.

Recommended: Best home gym machines


In the following video you can learn how to use the most popular machines efficiently.


Pros of free weights

  • Resistance training with free weights require more muscles to work together. They are compound movements. Besides the primary ones stabilizing muscles are also involved, for example, to keep the proper posture, etc. Just think about squat. While you do the move besides your leg muscles almost every others of your body work. Your core to keep the balance, your shoulder and arms to hold the barbell and so on.
  • Because of the compound moves, your body needs more oxygen. Therefore, your heart and lung works more leading to cardiovascular health benefits.
  • Since more muscle groups are involved you will burn more calories as well which leads to weight and fat loss. It is especially true for compound exercises just like squat, deadlift, etc.
  • Weight training develops your balance and muscle coordination. When you lift, your core is activated seriously in order to keep your body in its healthy position.
  • They let you perform a full range of motion leading to improved functional strength and more mass.
  • The resistance provided by gym machines is limited. Your can lift heavier weights. For example, a bar can handle hundreds of pounds.
  • More affordable. You can buy an Olympic barbell set and dumbbells on pretty affordable price these days and with that you can have complete workouts at home. For the half of the price of a modern machine, you can buy a complete set and perform far more types of free weight exercises. To tell the truth, my home gym consist only dumbbells, a barbell, and some basic fitness tools.

Check out: Best Weight Training Equipment for Home



  • The risk of injury is higher. Since the motion is not driven, it is important to perform the movement correctly and slowly. If you are a beginner learn how to do the various exercises appropriately and use lighter weights first. It is important not only to avoid injuries but also to get the best outcome from the particular activity.
  • One of the main reasons of injuries is that people try to use heavier weights that they can handle safely and with that they cannot control the motion.
  • It is a bit more time-consuming considering that you should put up an take off weights, or bring them from one place to another.


From the following 2 videos you can discover the most beneficial dumbbell and barbell exercises.




What do I think which is better to get balanced muscle mass and for strength training? A gym machine or free weights?

I vote on free weights and bodyweight exercises. If you want to be strong and gain muscle, this training the best. When I did bodybuilding only 15-20% of my routine was about using machine weights.

However, as you see weights and gym machines have their cons and pros, and you should decide which workout type suits your goals.

  • Do you want to enhance your strength and gain mass? Use weights.
  • Do you want to isolate your muscles? Then, use machines.

Or you can combine the two as most of the bodybuilders do.

Free weights or machines? Do what works you!

I agree with this guy totally.

More tips

  • No matter if you use weights or machines for strength and conditioning training program, pay attention to the proper technique! A poorly-performed exercise is ineffective, even worse lead to injuries. A typical mistake that beginners make is that they want to use too heavy weights and with that they do not have the proper form. Choose the right resistance to your fitness level.
  • Stretching before and after your workouts is recommended. It lowers the risk of injuries, prepares your body and helps recovery.
  • Train your entire body. Do not neglect any body part. For example, people use neglect their legs.

Weight machines vs free weights? Which works better for you and why? Share with us below.


James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

4 thoughts on “Free Weights vs Machines – Which is Better for Weight Training?”

  1. I’m looking to tone my arms with major bulk and I’ve heard so many conflicting stories in which is better to use and how often. Can you help?

    1. If you are a beginner you can start with machines as they provide more controlled motion, so you can get used to working out. Then, you can continue with light free weights.

  2. Free weights are better in general, in my opinion, but when it comes to general use I think most people prefer single function equipment / machines.

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