There has been a long running debate as to which is better, machines or free weights. The truth of the matter is that both have their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. The following will highlight the positives and negatives associated with the use of both free weights and strength training machines.
Machines are a great tool for the beginning weightlifter because they automatically build in the correct strength training motion. Machines also offer more safety features than do free weights which could possibly allow a person to train with a machine alone although this is not recommended. Machines can also offer feedback to an athlete as some machines give the athlete information such as heart rate or blood pressure which can be used by the athlete to tailor their program to their unique needs. Machines are also very versatile and can allow an athlete to train multiple muscle groups at the same time. Many machines are also designed for easy storage in the home as they will fold up or collapse in various fashions so that they can be put away in closets or under beds when not in use. This is a great feature for someone who likes to train at home as the machine can offer the athlete the opportunity to train many muscle groups with a single, easy to store answer to the training problems.
Free weights are better than machines at helping athletes develop stabilizer muscles. While machines may help an athlete develop muscle strength, the muscles do not develop the ability to balance a heavy object while simultaneously building the muscle’s mass. These stabilizer muscles are important in developing hand-eye coordination and are a key part of what makes weightlifting so beneficial. However, free weights can be dangerous as it is easy for them to be dropped which can result in an injury. The storage of free weights is often less compact and can be a problem for those that have a limited space to workout in their home. Overall, the pros and cons of both free weights and weightlifting machines seem to balance one another out and the specific training situation for every athlete continues to be the deciding factor as to which is used. Most prefer to combine the use of both in order to maximize their routines.