When it comes to planning your gym workout, it can be overwhelming to determine which equipment you should use. Many gyms have an endless list of equipment and tools on offer, and choosing what’s best for you and your goals is not always easy.
One common question we get is whether our members should be using free weights or resistance machines for weight training. Both types of equipment have their pros and cons so finding out which is most effective is hugely dependent on you and your goals. Read on to find out more!
The primary difference between free weights and resistance machines is that machines are fixed in place and only move in certain directions whereas free weights can be moved in any way you wish.
Free weights force you to use more stabiliser muscles in order to control the weight, whereas resistance machines can assist you with the movement by keeping you in place.
Free weights are any weight, item, or object that can be lifted and used for resistance (i.e. barbells, dumbbells & kettlebells)
The main advantage of free weights is that you have more control over how much you lift based on your own physical abilities and needs. Free weights force the body to use more stabiliser muscles in order to control the weight.
Machines are one of the most versatile types of gym equipment. They can replicate many movements that you might do with free weights, like pushing and pulling motions for chest, back, and arm exercises. Machines are great to isolate a specific muscle you wish to target. They also allow for exercises that are more challenging with free weights, like hip adduction, lying leg curl or transverse abdominis contraction.
There are two types of resistance machines: plate loaded and pin loaded. The plate loaded machines work by adding weighted plates to a stack in order to increase the resistance. Pin loaded machines, on the other hand, allow you to change the resistance by simply moving a pin up or down to adjust a pre-existing stack of weights.
Ultimately, both free weights and resistance machines have a time and a place in any strength training routine. If you have access to both, using a combination of both free weights and machines is your best bet in attaining an effective and varied workout. Some exercises might be more easily performed on a machine versus a free weight, so when programming make sure you are choosing what’s right for your overall goal. It is important that you are always aware of your technique to avoid any injuries and never be afraid to ask for help if you need it! The most important part of getting results in the gym is staying consistent and making sure that you are using progressive overload. Always challenge yourself and always show up ☺
If you’re still unsure, or want a more guided approach, consider investing in a personal training session. Just one session will give you a much better idea of which equipment is better suited for you and your goals, and will also help to ensure your technique is effective.