Free Weights Vs. Machines

I know we’ve all been through it. We walk into a well equipped gym for the first time and see all the different machines that are offered.

A dozen contractions each designed to work your legs, arms, back, shoulders, chest, and abs. And then we glance at the free weight section and see the line-up of different dumbbells and benches.

It can all be a little overwhelming at times. This article’s gonna tell you the difference between free weights and machines and the uses of each.

Free Weights

For the most part, when I’m talking about free weights, I mean two things. The first is dumbbells. The second is the barbell.

Now, I know that nowadays there are kettlebells and the like but as I always say, you can’t run before you learn to walk. So we need to learn the basic principles first before we get into more advanced exercises and equipment.

The main advantage of free weights and exercises employing them (I have to speak generally here) is that no matter how good or strict your form is...

Free Weight Will Always be Somewhat Compound Exercises

This means that this will employ supporting muscles so you’re not only working the muscle group that you’re targeting, you’re also working the muscles groups that oppose it and support it.

Free weights are good because since they work, to a certain extent, all your muscle groups, they help to build a complete looking physique. That is, your shoulders will tie into your chest, your biceps and triceps will grow into your shoulders, and your legs will look like they stem naturally and powerfully from your lower back.

At the same time though, free weights, because of their nature, are not best for isolation exercises and that’s where machines come in.


We’ve all seen the machines with the pictures showing the different muscle groups that are being worked by a certain exercise and that’s really the point of these contraptions.

Machines Are Designed to Isolate Muscle Groups

so that when you use one, it forces you to focus on one and only one muscle group, saturating it and working it to the max. Because of this, machines are great for building definition.

While free weights are useful for building size and different repetition schemes can force the muscle fibers to work their hardest, they are never quite as effective as a machine workout for developing that ripped and shredded physique.

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve essentially uncovered the general role of both machines and free weights, the important take-away message is that you need to be using both in order to build a complete body and work each muscle group to its fullest.

As a general guide, I usually start with the big free weight exercises and generally work towards the machines at the end of the workout.

This way, I’m pounding the muscles when they’re fresh and shaping and molding them as they tire.

Until Next Time,