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What Works For You: Free Weights or Machines?


One thing today’s fitness go-getter has that others didn’t even just a few decades back, is options. There has never been more ways to build muscle and stay in shape than there are today. Most muscle building or toning type equipment falls into two main categories – free weights or machines? In essence, both do the same thing by helping you build muscles and gain strength, but free weights and machines are totally different beasts. Which is better? Well, depending on what you want to achieve, the answer could be either. We examine the benefits and drawbacks of both free weights and machines, and let you decides which works better for you.

Free Weights


  • Evidence suggests you can achieve greater strength gains using free weights.
  • You get a greater range of motion and involve more muscles groups performing compound exercises like squats, chin-ups, and bench press when using free weights.
  • Free weights offer a greater amount of exercise variations.
  • If you’re building a home gym in the basement, the free weight route is often cheaper than buying larger machines.


  • Free weights are typically harder to use for beginners, as machines offer more direction through a fixed path of motion.
  • Having to change the weight repeatedly on free weights can be time consuming and a pain.
  • Using free weights typically carries a greater risk of injury.



  • Pulley-based machines offer a relatively consistent amount of resistance during the entire range of motion.
  • Machines are significantly easier to figure out, forcing you into specific movements. There’s little second guessing, offering much more direction than free weights.
  • Machines offer the ability for circuit training, which means bigger calorie burning and more defined toning.


  • While their simplicity makes for a greater ease of use, machines don’t offer the same versatility as free weights, sometimes making exercises too repetitive and even boring.
  • Machines need significantly more maintenance than free weights, which could be costly if your workout destination is a home gym.
  • Machines also take up a lot of room, which could make your basement gym an extremely cramped space.