Machines Vs Free weights

machines vs free weights


In today’s modern era of machines, mechanical machines in gyms are no wonder. Some people believe that more the machines a gym has, better it is rather than just having free weights, so let’s understand the war of free weighted exercises and machine exercises.

Basic definitions

Free weight exercises –

It refers to any exercise which involves free movement of dumbbells or barbells like biceps dumbbell curl, barbell chest press etc are called free weight exercises.

Machine exercises –

Any exercise which involve mechanical machines, cable pulley etc like cable triceps push down, leg press etc are called machine exercises.

Below I am mentioning points which clarify the advantages and disadvantages of both types of exercisesj −

1) Balancing muscles comes into action

Whenever you lift a dumbbell above your shoulder like shoulder press or barbell on bench above your chest, you just don’t left it, you also balance the weights, at this point, balancing muscles comes into action which allow more muscle usage implies better exercise with better muscle stimulation. Actually there is no physical existence of balancing muscle, it’s the same muscle which is lifting the weights. This term is used for better understanding only.

On the other hand, Machines provide stability by themselves, you don’t need to put any extra efforts to stabilize weights so less muscle stimulation in maximum cases.

2) Better Range of motion

Free weights allow you better range of motion. Take an example of dumbbell chest fly or preacher bench, free weight version of these two exercises allows you full flexibility on range of motion.

On the other hand, machine chest fly or machine preacher bench restrict your movement and limit it upto which you can extend your arms.

3) Various angles

When playing with free weights, you can go for various angles for any exercise. Take an example of incline or decline bench press. You can try various (Safe) angles on these exercises for superior muscular development. Every new angle stimulates the muscle in a new way which maximizes muscle growth.

But if you see the machine versions of these exercises, they have a fixed path way where you can move the machine, no new angles are possible. But some new machines are coming in market now a day’s which is trying to remove this limitation.

Cables also provide the same advantage as free weights in this case.

4) Higher risk of injury

When you are doing heavy weights with dumbbells or barbells, lifting them and keeping them down becomes risky, sometimes you even lose control while lifting the weights and they go in wrong direction which leads to injury. Try to have spotter with you when you are not confirmed that you have full control over the weights you are lifting.

With machines, they themselves guide you and force you to lift weight in proper direction and angle. They have a fixed pathway and no risk of injury.

5) Lack of constant pressure

Free weights do not allow constant pressure if not taken proper care while lifting weights. Take an example of biceps barbell curl. Divide the lift into three parts – Top contraction, bottom holding and lifting action. With free weights, it’s difficult to keep pressure on muscle at top contraction and bottom holding which reduces muscle utilization during the lift.

But with machines, you are able to feel the contraction throughout your lift. Machines and pulley constantly put pressure on your muscles which produces better muscle pump.

6) Loading and unloading weights

It becomes a trouble when using heavy poundages, putting 15-20 plates and keeping them back becomes difficult when you are already going through an exhaustive workout.

But in modern machines, putting on weights is as simple as pressing a button. Pulley exercises also allows very simple change in weights too.


Machines and free weights have their advantages and disadvantages, combine both to produce tremendous muscle pump. We are entering a modern era which will introduce us more and more machines in our life but always remember, there is no exact replacement of free weights, and you will see them in gyms even after 100 years.