Wednesday, May 29, 2013

ask the trainers: machines vs free weights: what's best?

awhile ago i offered up my trainers as a resource to get your fitness questions answered. today, i'm sharing the first question and answer, which is all about understanding the differences between using machines and free weights at the gym.

this question comes from my girl lori:

"every time i work with a trainer at my gym, they always tell me to avoid the machines. if machines are so evil, why are they even there?! and what's so wrong with them?"

i'll give a few bullet points to summarize the answer (because it helps me learn and retain knowledge), but the full answer can be found at the applied fitness solutions blog. check it out for more reading fun. :)

  • there are no "good" or "bad" exercises (or exercise tools), it all depends on what you're training for, or what your goals are)
  • machines and free weights can both apply positive exercise stress to the body and cause positive changes. what matters is how the stress is applied (sets, reps, rest intervals, etc) and the application is relative to your particular goals
  • you can apply circuit training or heavy training to both machines and free weights and get the same effect from each method. for example, if you went quickly through a series of machines without rest, you'd get a circuit effect. if you did the same thing with free weights, you'd get the same circuit effect. no difference between the effect on the body if you're doing the same thing
  • bottom line: all exercises are good when applied appropriately in a workout program. "bad" only may actually be "bad" if you're using equipment that doesn't align to your goals or could result in injury

i hope that helps clear up the misconceptions about machines, free weights and whether or not one method is "good" or "bad"!

if you have any questions you'd like to ask the trainers, let me know in the comments! i'd love to keep this as a regular segment on my blog.

ps - i know this post looks sponsored, but it's not. i want to give appropriate credit where credit is due (hence including their logo) because these guys work hard and are taking time out of their day to answer all the questions i throw at them on a regular basis :)


  1. awesome idea. thx for the info !

  2. I've always assumed free weights (assuming you're doing them correctly) were a better route because you're in control, requiring your body to do all the work. Great answers. I had a question and totally lost it :(

  3. Great thoughts! Strength training is admittedly confusing to me as a whole. I currently do a strength class called Body Pump at my gym, which guides me through exercises using hand weights and weights on a bar. Makes it less confusing than coming up with my own routine, but I'd like to learn more. Thanks for the info! :)

  4. Yeah, I find it tough on my own, too. Body Pump is kind of like a circuit with weights. There are 3-4 minute segments of lunges, squats, biceps, triceps, shoulders,etc, all with weights (bar or free weights depending on exercise). It's an hour long, and the Instructor guides the class and checks for form. :)


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