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Free Weights vs Machines: Do You Really Need to Choose?

Rack of free weights at Planet Fitness
When it comes to free weights vs machines, why choose? You can mix up your workouts and get stronger by incorporating both into your routine!

by Autumn Jones

So, you want to get stronger — that's awesome! Now for a big decision: free weights vs machines. Most gyms are going to be stocked with all you could need in both departments, but before you spend time trying to decide which is right for you, let's take a look at what each has to offer!

Keep in mind that your choice to use either free weights or machine weights can depend upon your physical fitness level, your personal goals, your access to the equipment, and your preferences, as Mayo Clinic notes. Once you understand the benefits of each option, you can consider incorporating one — or both — into your routine to help you achieve your fitness goals.

Benefits of Free Weights

A set of free weights can be found at just about every gym, and with good reason! This versatile exercise staple helps do more than just beef up your biceps — it can also improve your balance and stability while making your entire body stronger. According to Shape, when you work out with free weights, your body is working harder to stay upright with every rep. Because of this, muscles other than the ones you are targeting with the free weights become engaged and ultimately more powerful. This means that with every curl and weighted squat, you're also contributing to your core and balance.

When it comes to experiencing the benefits of free weights vs machines, it's important to keep in mind the accessibility of free weights. You can find them just about anywhere that calls itself a gym, and you can also purchase a set to keep at home. Free weights can even travel with you to the trails, track, or park when you want to incorporate some strength training into your outdoor fitness activities.

Benefits of Exercise Machines

Just one walk through the weight machine area of the gym will show you that if there's a muscle that can be strengthened, there's a machine for the job! According to a study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, using weight machines can improve your performance in sports and help make everyday tasks easier. For instance, each rep you do on the leg press pays dividends when you're climbing the stairs at work, taking the dog for a walk, or playing catch with the kiddos.

Weight machines are also a great choice for those who are new to strength training, since a machine can help you learn good form while providing plenty of support for the rest of your body. If you're looking to really isolate a particular muscle, machines may be your best bet.

Deciding Between Free Weights vs Machines

Ultimately, no matter which option you choose, you'll be making the right decision! While you might prefer to use one method over the other, to really maximize your exercise plan, you should aim to incorporate both forms of strength training into your workouts. This will provide your muscles with new challenges and keep your fitness routine feeling fresh.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.