Free Weights vs Machines – Pros & Cons

free weights vs 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 more suitable 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.
  • Weight 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 group. 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 group 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 suitable for fat and weight loss. (I’m not talking about cardio and fitness equipment like treadmills here.)


To sum up if you are beginner may start with machines and as you get familiar with muscle building start doing free weight exercises.

Related: Best weight resistance machines for home


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


Pros of free weight lifting workouts

  • Exercises with free weights require more muscles to work together. Besides the primary muscle group secondary ones are also involved, for example, to keep the balance, posture, etc. Just think about squat. While you do the move besides your leg muscles almost every muscle of your body work. Your core to keep the balance, your shoulder and arms to hold the barbell and so on.
  • On top of that, 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 exercises develop 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 muscles mass.
  • 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 exercises. To tell the truth, my home gym consist only dumbbells, a barbell, and some basic fitness tools.

Related: Best Weight Training Equipment for Home



  • The risk of injury is higher. Since the motion is not controlled, 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 learn the most beneficial dumbbell and barbell exercises.




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

I vote on free weights and bodyweight movements. If you want to be strong and gain muscle, these workouts are the best. When I did bodybuilding only 15-20% of my routine was about using machines.

However, as you see both has its cons and pros, and you should decide which workout type is suitable for your requirements.

  • Do you want to enhance your strength and pack on muscle? Use weights.
  • Do you want to isolate your muscles? Then, use machines.

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

Do what works you!

I agree with this guy totally.


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  1. Sammie
    • James