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Free Weights vs. Weight Machines

Posted Jan 23 2010 7:17pm

Sorry for the break in posting for a day. I was at home with my parents helping them move some things. They are moving from the house I grew up in into a townhouse since my brother and I no longer live at home. I didn't get my Saturday work out in, even though moving is definitely a workout!

My workouts are resuming tomorrow. I have to get up and babysit in the morning but the boyfriend and I are going to head over to a park afterwards to do a longer run. It has been a while since I have done a "long" run so I am going to stick to probably around 6 miles. The boyfriend is getting back into his marathon training so will probably do some sort of run in the double digits. I look forward to running again outside (hopefully the weather holds out).

I joined a gym about 4 months ago to work on my strength training. I was running 5 days a week and greatly improving in my cardio endurance, but I realized that I was slowing losing most of my muscle strength. I wanted to find a balance of cardio and strength training.

The main ways that I strength train are:
-free weights
-weight machines
-strength classes
(specifically, Body Pump)

I was very confused as I started my strength training. Was I supposed to use free weights, weight machines, or both? I didn't know too much about free weights so I focused mostly on weight machines for my strength training combined with classes.


I wanted to learn more about using free weights and the differences they bring over weight machines.

Some advantages of weight machines:
-Easy to use: they are easy to understand when you are beginning your weight training
-Saves time: you can quickly transfer between machines
-Less intimidating: I know when I first started the "free weight" section was always filled with HUGE muscle builder type people which intimidated me. It was easier to get on the weight machine where I knew what I was doing.

Of course, there are always some disadvantages:
-Too much support: The machines supports your body which causes you to use fewer muscles groups at the same time.
-They are limited: Each machines typically works only one muscle group at a time.

Weight machines are more beneficial if you are a beginner, in a hurry, or are rehabing from an injury.

It is only fair to look equally at the advantages and disadvantages of free weights:


Advantages of free weights:
-Versatility: They can be used for a variety of exercises for your entire body.
-Natural movement: You are able to move your body through natural motions that you do every day (i.e. squats, overhead lifts, and rotations).
-A whole body workout: You are supporting your body by working on specific muscles, while also using smaller stablizing muscles that are not used with weight machines.

Disadvantages of free weights:
-Harder to learn: You may need instruction before using weights to avoid a risk of injury. It is also important to learn which exercises work each muscle group.
-Risk of injury: Because you do not have a fixed path with free weights you have to be very careful of your form. Incorrectly doing some exercises can cause injury.

Free weights are more beneficial if you want to get the most out of every workout quickly, are working out from home, and careful and patient with your form.

I want to begin to incorporate a larger number of free weight exercises in my workout. I am going to be researching exercises and learning how to do them correctly. I will be sharing these with you in case you are interested in learning some too!

Off to bed for me, nighty night!

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