Free Weights vs Machines: What should YOU use?

free weights vs machines which is better for miuscle building primalbreedfit

The debate between free weights vs. machines has been going on for years now, yet there is still a ton of confusion around this topic. With so much BS information available out there, my goal with this blog is to provide clear cut true information that guides you in the right direction. In this article i will list the key benefits for using both free weights and machines, so you can decide which is best to use for yourself.



To better understand this topic, first we must identify what we are trying to accomplish through exercise.

When you go to work out, the main goal should be tension.

Muscles do not know how or where the tension is coming from, they just know that they are put under mechanical stress. The amount of tension the muscles endure during lifting is what will force adaptation and growth.

Both weights and machines are tools that can be used to create tension.


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Free Weights

Dumbbells and barbells are the ‘bread and butter’ tools for working out and getting in great shape.

Being free weights, your body will have to stabilize itself. This means using free weights will challenge your stabilizing muscles groups with every exercise.

Having the ability to provide a stable platform is a huge key factor in getting maximum tension through a working muscle. Therefore, it is incredibly important to train your stabilizing muscles in order to maximize results in your major muscles groups.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

Another key benefit of free weights is that it allows you to adjust exercises to fit your specific body type in order for you to use correct exercise execution and get the most out of it. This is another huge component of your fitness success because every individual is slightly different and slight modifications of most exercises may be required to fit your frame and provide maximum tension.

Free weights allow you to perform compound exercises which are excellent and highly recommended to build a solid training foundation.

The body works as a unit.

Using compound exercises such as the barbell back squat, barbell bench press and trap bar deadlift will use a large amount of muscle groups at the same time during each lift. This provides a great amount of tension and stimuli for your entire body, efficiently.

Lastly, free weights such as dumbbells make it very simple and efficient to train your body unilaterally to avoid imbalances.

  • Work your stabilizing muscles
  • Provide flexibility of modifying exercises to fit your body
  • Enable you to train your body as a unit ( compound exercises)
  • Allow you to train your left and right side of the body independently (unilateral exercises)


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Machines, just like free weights provide tension to the working muscle and the reality is that the body does not know the difference between where the tension is coming from.

As a mentioned above, free weights will require your body to stabilize itself.

Most often than not, your stabilizing muscles will fatigue quicker than the working muscles.

Machines are a great tool that can be used to artificially stabilize your body in a certain position so you can continue to create maximum tension through that working muscle.

Another great use for machines are if you are coming off an injury and your physical ability is currently limited. Machines can provide a good workout without stressing the specific injured areas.

A potential drawback that most machines have is that they are standardized and built to fit a specific body type.

As you probably know, we are all built differently and may require adjustments during different exercises in order to create maximal muscular tension.

Reality is that some machines may fit you just right and provide great tension and some may provide minimum stimulus and mostly joint aches and pains.  

  • Allows you to artificially stabilize to create maximum muscle tension
  • Allows you to work around your injuries
  • Not built to fit everyone properly


Final Words

There is a time and use for both free weights and machines.

Both are simply tools to provide tension to the working muscle. Based on your fitness level, individual situation and goals, use both as seen fit.

Prioritize equipment based on what allows you to create a strong mind muscle connection.

Your ability to create tension during an exercise  is the deciding factor on the best exercises and/or equipment for you.

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