Machines or Free weights, which do you prefer and why?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 19, 2015 3:48 AM GMT
    I'm relatively new to all this. I've been lifting for about 6 months now, mostly on machines with some free weights in between, and I'm curious what RJ's opinion is on the subject. Which in your opinion is better and why? Frankly, I'm a newbie and dealing with an ancient shoulder injury which, if I'm not careful, can be mildly painful when I work out, so I generally prefer the machines. But what do you guys think? Are there real advantages to switching to free weights? Does it even matter at all?

    >>hopefully I got this in the right forum category this time
  • Destinharbor

    Posts: 4433

    Mar 19, 2015 4:18 AM GMT
    I really like the Hammerstrength machines because they force you to stay balanced left vs right but still isolate and groove form. That said, Dumbbells work all the stabilizers and give you more usable strength. I can push much higher weight on machines but know if I don't also work with freeweights, eventually I'll either be unbalanced or hurt. But all that is Hammerstrength. You have to stay balanced.
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    Mar 19, 2015 5:29 AM GMT
    I really like cable machines, particularly for shoulder rehab - lots of control with the right touch of instability.
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    Mar 19, 2015 6:03 AM GMT
    I really like the Hammer Strength machines because I can push a lot of weight without my shoulder aching. I'll give the cables another shot. I tried them before and it hurt, but I was probably pulling too much weight- yeah, I'm THAT newbie icon_redface.gif
  • bishop65

    Posts: 226

    Mar 19, 2015 2:06 PM GMT
    I use mostly free weights...mainly barbells. I will also use dumb bells and kettle bells. I think cables are good as well. The only time I use a machine is the smith machine for calf raises. Stick with dumb bells and barbells.
  • starboard5

    Posts: 969

    Mar 19, 2015 2:24 PM GMT
    Machines and free weights actually engage your brain in different ways. With a machine, you are primarily moving a resistance in some plane. With free weights, you're controllling a mass in three dimensional space; it involves balance, proprioception, and focus. The downside to free weights of course is greater potential for injury if you don't maintain proper form. If you can afford a well qualified trainer, that's the best route. Barring that, there are some good books out there like Stuart McRobert's " Thr Insider's Tell-All Handbook on Weight-Training Technique" (goofy title, but good reference.) And there are tons of videos on YouTube, of course. I like the Hasfit series.

    Cable machines are a great middle ground and highly versatile.

    Good luck and tell us how you progress, ideally with pics! Also remember, never sacrifice form for higher weight.
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    Mar 19, 2015 2:55 PM GMT
    Kerry_90 saidI really like the Hammer Strength machines because I can push a lot of weight without my shoulder aching. I'll give the cables another shot. I tried them before and it hurt, but I was probably pulling too much weight- yeah, I'm THAT newbie icon_redface.gif

    Start with one brick and just proceed to four tops. Great not only for front and side flyes but those all-important inner & outer rotations/rotator cuff exercises which I warm up with.
  • jeepguySD

    Posts: 651

    Mar 19, 2015 2:56 PM GMT
    I prefer free weights for most exercises. Though they require a lot of focus on correct form, to me the motion is more natural, and free weights engage smaller stabilizing muscles that tend not to engage with a machine. I also like cables a lot too for a range of different exercises.

    I do, however, prefer machines for exercises that are difficult to get into the starting position without a lifting partner (such as overhead dumbbell press). In those cases I can do more weight with a machine than with free weights. Machines are also good for dangerous exercises. I prefer squat press over regular squat just because my knees are getting old.
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    Mar 19, 2015 5:28 PM GMT
    jeepguySD saidI prefer free weights for most exercises. Though they require a lot of focus on correct form, to me the motion is more natural, and free weights engage smaller stabilizing muscles that tend not to engage with a machine. I also like cables a lot too for a range of different exercises.

    I do, however, prefer machines for exercises that are difficult to get into the starting position without a lifting partner (such as overhead dumbbell press). In those cases I can do more weight with a machine than with free weights. Machines are also good for dangerous exercises. I prefer squat press over regular squat just because my knees are getting old.


    I usually goblet squat. I prefer freeweights, partly because of the ROM benefits, and also because of your reasoning.
  • Destinharbor

    Posts: 4433

    Mar 19, 2015 5:34 PM GMT
    eagermuscle said
    Kerry_90 saidI really like the Hammer Strength machines because I can push a lot of weight without my shoulder aching. I'll give the cables another shot. I tried them before and it hurt, but I was probably pulling too much weight- yeah, I'm THAT newbie icon_redface.gif

    Start with one brick and just proceed to four tops. Great not only for front and side flyes but those all-important inner & outer rotations/rotator cuff exercises which I warm up with.

    Agree, especially for the flys- actually better than free weights because you lose resistance with free weights once you stop fighting gravity. To the OP, just limit cable work on machines that use both hands to move one stack, though even some of those are part of a good program. Try to make sure both sides of the body left/right and front/back are equally strong. If you push one cable with both hands, the stronger arm will carry more of the load and develop more than the other. Think symmetry.
  • FRE0

    Posts: 4864

    Mar 19, 2015 6:39 PM GMT
    What's this free weight vs machines controversy? Surely both have their place. There are some muscles for which machines work better than free weights and vice versa.

    Surely a good workout program would include both free weights and machines.
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    Mar 19, 2015 10:25 PM GMT
    FRE0 saidWhat's this free weight vs machines controversy? Surely both have their place. There are some muscles for which machines work better than free weights and vice versa.

    Surely a good workout program would include both free weights and machines.


    And sometimes you just want to change things up. Do something different. Machines, cables, free weights, isometrics.....it's all good!
  • wesv

    Posts: 907

    Mar 20, 2015 5:57 AM GMT
    Free weights. I have free weights at home and that's where I prefer to workout. In contrast, a gym has mainly machines which means less variety in my workouts.
  • DJEsco_

    Posts: 80

    Mar 20, 2015 1:22 PM GMT
    Ughh. Im not a big fan of machines. The weight on them seems inaccurate. Of course I used cable machines. Occasionally ill use the reverse pec machine for delts and the hamstring curls, but other than that its free weights for me. Gotta develop those stabilizer muscles.
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    Mar 20, 2015 1:45 PM GMT
    One trainer explained to me that there are millions of muscle fibres. Free weights, because each movement is more likely to be slightly different from the last movement or from the same exercise you did last week, recruit more muscle fibres than machines. On a machine your muscles follow a track, hence limiting the number of muscle fibres that can be recruited. When I do use machines I save them for after the free weights. Cables are a middle ground.
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    Mar 20, 2015 1:51 PM GMT
    I prefer free weight except for fly which is more convenient to use a machine. Do be careful with HammerStrength machines as for some the mechanical design puts undue pressure on shoulders.
  • britrunner

    Posts: 7

    Mar 21, 2015 9:01 AM GMT
    Free weights, as all reasons mentioned above, the ability to vary angles, grip etc... However machines do have a place, have and will continue to use especially working around an injury or weakness. They offer support, control and can prevent over strain if used correctly.
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Mar 21, 2015 9:08 AM GMT
    Free. More stabilizer muscle involvement.icon_idea.gif
  • Rhi_Bran

    Posts: 904

    Mar 21, 2015 3:51 PM GMT
    I like a variety of both. I like using machines for burnout reps because when you reach the point of muscle failure, you run less risk of fumbling the equipment and injuring yourself because it's all guided.