Free Weights vs. Machines: What’s the Difference?
Most gyms have several distinct areas: stretching and abs, cardio, strength, a circuit room, classrooms, and more. Within the strength area, you will usually see free weights and machines. While both are beneficial in helping you to build strength, there are stark differences in their uses and how they work in general.
What are Free Weights?
Free weights are weights used in weightlifting that are not attached to anything. So, they are free! Using free weights allows you to be very functional with your movement, and will enable you to target almost every muscle in your body with just one or two weights. Included in the free weight category are barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, and kettlebells. All of these can be used not only in strength training but for working on cardiovascular health as well.
What Are Weight Machines?
Weight machines are also found in the strength area. They are the large pieces of equipment, usually with a bench, that allow you to put a pin under the weight that you would like you to use, and then guide you through a workout with padding, handles, or foot plates. Weight machines are great for beginners who are working on their fitness goals because, though they do not mitigate bad form completely, they do assist in keeping your form on track.
Free Weights vs. Machines
Free Weights Work Several Muscle Groups At Once
Many of the workout machines on the floor may work several muscles in one area. For instance, the leg press machine will work your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Comparatively, if you target your glutes with a weighted squat using a dumbbell, you will be working all of those muscles used in the leg press and your core muscles, the muscles on the insides and outsides of your thighs, your adductors and abductors, and the upper body which is holding the weight of the dumbbells. This is a good and bad thing. If you know proper form or have someone helping to keep your form on track, free weights are the way to go. But, if you are new to working out, or aren’t quite sure how to complete the exercise with proper form, the machine is going to get you great results as well!
It is essential to develop a strong core to protect your spine, help with stability, and to keep you moving well into your elder years. You may not realize it, but core muscles allow you to do simple movements like a twist in your chair, stand up, sit down, carry groceries, and so much more. People often don’t notice how weak their core is until these tasks get much more difficult. By adding free weight exercises to your routine, you will engage your core while working on functional movements like squats (sitting), lunges (walking), curls (picking things up), and this will help you to be a healthier, more independent individual for years to come. Some machines do help to strengthen your core as well, so if you are feeling like you aren’t quite ready to ‘up the ante’ into the free weight training world, make sure to add abdominal work to your routine and some sort of exercise that requires you to work on balance — we are looking at you, yoga!
Easy To Follow Instructions
One thing you may notice on the machines at Chuze Fitness are photos of each of the exercises. One of the significant benefits of using strength training machines is that they are easy to understand. We have mentioned it before, and we will say it again — if you are new to working out or not sure how to complete a workout correctly, form matters. Use the photos on the machines to help guide you through a workout. Not only are these photos helpful in showing you how to use the machine, but they often highlight what muscles you are working out which will help you to be a more informed exerciser overall. Along with these guides, machines are literally made to assist you. They are great for days where you don’t have a spotter for the barbell or want to get something done without putting too much thought into it. Just sit down, look for the foot plate, pads, or handles, check out the photo of the workout, scan the QR code in your fitness app, and see how to do the exercise! Everybody starts somewhere, and the machines are a fantastic way to do just that.
When it comes to choosing between free weights and machines, it is a toss-up. What you should focus on is strengthening each section of your body. If you choose to use machines, make sure that you are targeting your core, along with your shoulders, and all other muscle groups to keep your strength well rounded. And, while it is easier to target multiple muscle groups with free weights, the same rule applies. Stop by any Chuze Fitness to try out free weights and weight machines and find out which you prefer!
What is your favorite way to build strength, with free weights or machines? Let us know in the comment section below!