One of bodybuilding’s biggest debates has been around since machines first entered our gyms. So which is better, free weights or machines?

There is always going to be a big controversy regarding the topic, and if you ask around you will probably get many different answers. The big misconception is that machines are for toning and free weights are for bulking, but this is not the right answer. Any resistance training – whether using machines or free weights – can induce toning and/or bulking depending on the training program.

The true answer really depends on the person asking the question, their exercise history with resistance training, their personal preference regarding different exercises, and ultimately their fitness goals.

Just The Beginning

If you are just starting a weight-training program and, like many others, don’t know where to begin; machines are easy to use. It is easy to mechanically execute an exercise using a machine due to the guided range of motion. Not to mention that machines have the benefit of pictured demonstrations, which show the exercise movement and the muscle impacted. In contrast, free weights will require some skill to execute the movement with correct form and technique since the user determines range of motion. However, learning sources are very much abundant in this era of Internet and social media.

Muscle Mechanics

Since machines give you the advantage of focusing only on effort and not so much on mechanics of movement due to guided range on motion, training with machines will allow you to increase load, develop a bigger impact on the targeted muscle, and reduce your risk of injury due to bad form. Conversely, training with free weights will engage your core and more of your muscles (stabilisation muscles) to stabilise the weight you are lifting, which makes free weight exercises more functional whereby the strength gained can be better transferred to everyday activities such as picking up a box from the floor after a deadlift.

Home & Away

Of course, unless you have enough floor space for a machine in your home, you will need a gym membership. On the other hand, free weights are inexpensive to purchase and don’t take up a lot of space, which gives you the convenience to have a set at home and workout at your own comfort.

The list of pros and cons for each of these methods can go on and on, and it’s certain the debate will never end. Many actually agree that it is a combination of both free weights and machines is best way to optimise your physique.

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