Free Weights VS Machines 0
in Fit on the Side

Free Weights VS Machines

free weights vs machines

Free weights vs machines. We’ve already discussed the importance of lifting weights and all the benefits it brings. When you are faced with the choice of machines or free weights, which section do you head for? Having worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years, (Pilates Instructor, Dance, Rock Climbing and Personal Training) I’ve come across the free weights vs machines debate a lot. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of free weights rather than machines, but there are definite pros and cons to both.

free weights vs machines


Machine Pros

If you are a beginner.  Is this your first time at the gym? Your best bet is to start on the machines.  They  usually have pictures showing you exactly what exercises they are for. They can still be intimidating (a topic I will cover in a later post), but you can pretty much figure them out.  Also, If you don’t have the benefit of working with a personal trainer, you can easily create your own workout simply by targeting all the different machines.

Injury recovery. If you are just getting off an injury and have your doctor’s okay to workout, you might want to stick with machines at first, as you will be able to isolate a specific muscle group. Your movements will be more controlled and you can focus on your range of motion and rehabilitation.

Machine Cons

Can cause injury. Doing the same movement over and over again for long periods of time can actually cause overuse injuries. If you aren’t using proper form, we’ve all seen that guy jerking the machine so roughly that the whole thing moves, that can cause injury as well. The machines can give you a false sense of security and bad form combined with too much weight is a recipe for disaster.

Less strength gain for functional movement. Although you might find that over time you are lifting heavier weights, you probably aren’t really getting stronger. I know that may sound a little bit confusing, but think of it this way. If you are just repeating the same simple movements over and over again, using the same muscles in the same way, what happens when you introduce a new complex movement like lifting a heavy box?  To lift the box, all of your different muscles have to engage in a specific pattern and if you haven’t been doing that in the gym, then you risk injury.

free weighs vs machines

Free Weights Pros

Versatility. If you are more advanced then give free weights a try as you are not limited to the range of motion that you can do on a machine.

Imitate everyday movement patterns. They are more versatile and you can imitate many of your everyday movement patterns. Due to its incredible range of motion, let’s use the shoulder as an example. Years ago when I was in physio, I noticed many elderly people, all with similar injuries to their shoulders and rotator cuffs.  They had hurt themselves putting away the dishes. Now for most of us this is an unimaginable injury, but in the future, who knows? By using free weighs, you can easily re-create similar movements which will protect you as you get older. Okay and for vanity’s sake, a nicely sculpted shoulder muscles look great too.

Increased use of all your muscles. In addition, adding small equipment like a physio ball, forces you to work on your core as you try to balance. All those small stabilizing muscle groups  that support your dominant muscles have to engage. Even a simple exercise, like an arm lift, forces you to activate your core, so that you don’t wobble or fall over. Now try that same movement while doing a lunge, standing on a balance board or BOSU ball. It becomes much more challenging.

Free Weights Cons

Spotter is sometimes required. Not for every exercise mind you and it depends on how much weight you are lifting, but there are definitely times when you want to have a second pair of hands helping you out. Unless you are working out with a partner, this can certainly pose a bit of a challenge.

Increased risk of injury. I know what you are thinking, this same point was brought up under the machine cons, but it applies to free weights as well. When weight lifting, you need to be vigilant with proper form. Watch yourself carefully in the mirror and ask yourself, “are my stomach muscles engaged? Are my shoulders relaxed? Am I balanced? Am I standing with my feet hip width apart (where applicable)? Is my head in line with my shoulders? Am I hunching forward or arching back?” It’s a lot to think about and once you are used to it no big deal, but at first you should be conscious of what your body is doing.


In truth, most of us should probably be doing a combination of both types of workouts. The machines are there to help you with more rigid movements and the free weights will help you the functional training. Whichever you decide to focus on, take some time to make sure that you are present in your workout, leave the day’s stress outside and pay attention to your movements. Using the proper form and weights will help reduce chances of injury and give you the best possible workout. So go hit the gym and make sure to stay safe and have fun. Next up is a beginner’s guide to using weight machines.


At the gym do you prefer free weights or machines?

*For more on free weights vs machines follow me on instagram and pinterest*

You Might Also Like

Underactive Thyroid And Weight Loss

Wrist Exercises For Bloggers

Great Metabolism Myths

Best Stretches Pre And Post Swim

Shoulder Stretches

Can Food Really Burn Fat

Everyone Can Learn To Love Exercise

8 Ways To Learn To Love Running

How To Maximize Your Gym Time

How To Keep Your Diet On Track

6 Best Exercises For Runners

20 Minute Workout From FitWise

Urban Hiking The New Workout

Best Stretches For Relaxation

Why You Need To Cool Down Post Workout

A Fool Proof Easy Way To Lose Weight

Your Workout Motivation

How To Get Your Diet Back On Track

How To Easily Get Fit And Healthy

High Impact VS Low Impact

How To Become A Runner

Cute Workout Gear For Every Body Shape

How to Stick With Your Diet When No One Wants You To

Fitness Myths Debunked

September Ab Challenge Week Four

4 Ways To Turn Your Walk Into A Workout

How Breathing Can Improve Your Workout

FitWise A Sneak Peek

Your Guide To Killer Abs

Run Better With These Easy Tips

Stretching Mistakes You Might Be Making

Home Gym Must Haves

How To Deal With Bloating

Tips On Getting And Staying Fit In 2016

September Ab Challenge Week One

October Fashion Beauty And Fitness Picks

Why Do We Focus On Weight

Best Travel Workout

Sports Drinks VS Water

How To Work With A Personal Trainer

Beginners Guide To Gym Equipment Part 1

Why Should Women Lift Weights

Talk Fitness With An Expert

Summer Health And Beauty

Yoga VS Pilates Which One Is For You

Diet And Fitness Tips You Need To Ignore

September Ab Challenge Recap

Exercise And Your Skin

When You Don’t Have Time To Workout

Your Summer Fitness Guide

Your Must Do Morning Workout

How To Deal With A Bad Workout

Toning VS Bulking Up

The Only Diet You Need Is Balance

September Ab Challenge Week Two

Best Warmup For Your Workout

How Much Weight Can You Lose In A Month

Is being thin enough

Do I Really Need To Workout

How To Have Energy After Lunch

A Beginners Guide To Gym Equipment Part 2

Muscle Imbalances And Upper Body Pain

Best Low Impact Workouts

How To Be A Better Athlete

Traveling With A Sensitive Stomach

Why What You Wear To The Gym Matters

7 Healthy Morning Habits for Looking And Feeling Your Best

Losing Weight In 2017

Best Exercises For A Desk Job

What If I Hate The Gym

How To Relieve Joint Pain

Natural Energy Drinks

Is Training Harder Better

Best Exercises If You Are On Your Feet All Day

Is CrossFit Right For You

5 Day Workout Plan Part 2

Eat Carbs And Lose Weight

The Truth About Abs

Is Running Bad For Your Knees

What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Exercising

When To Listen To Your Body

Frequently Asked Fitness Questions

Muscle Imbalance And Back Pain

Pocket Fitness Guides

Why You Shouldn’t Weigh Yourself

Best Foods To Give You Energy

Killer Foam Roller Ab Workout

Ultimate Foot Guide And How To Relieve Foot Pain

How To Feel Confident About Your Diet

Best Recipes For Food Sensitivities

How To Stay Healthy While Traveling

5 Best Abdominal Exercises

7 Times It Is Okay To Skip A Workout

Lean Greens Review

Why You Are Doing Your Ab Workout All Wrong

Get Fit The Easy Way

Why Is Exercise So Important

5 Day Workout Plan Part 1

Should I Use A Heart Rate Monitor

All About Pilates

What To Eat Before A Party

Benefits Of Walking

Killer Abs Ball Workout

Why You Are Not Losing Weight

How To Feel Confident When Working Out

How To Incorporate Pilates Into Everyday

Best Stretches If You Sit At A Desk All Day

Which Style Of Yoga Is Best For You

How To Cut 500 Calories A Day Without Exercise

How To Speed Up Weight Loss

What To Do Post Workout

What To Do When You Plateau

Ultimate Weight Loss Guide

20 Minute Workout By FitWise

Best Gifts For The Fitness Lover

Hit The Gym In Style

How Important Is A Warmup

Working Out Diet And Your Period

How To Get A Shapely Butt

How To Increase Flexibility

My Gym Bag Essentials

Top 5 Fitness Posts of 2015

Succeed At Working Out

Must Do Morning Stretches

How To Come Back After An Injury

What Is Pilates

FitWise Straight Talk About Getting Fit And Healthy

What Is The Deal With All These Diets

How To Stay Healthy For The Holidays

How To Start Running

Working Out After 40

Foot And Ankle Exercises

How To Maintain Weight Loss

Are you Over Exercising

5 Stretches To Do Before Bed

Best Exercises To Tone Your Glutes

How To Increase Your Endurance

5 Daily Habits That Hurt Your Health

All About Your Knees

How To Choose The Best Running Shoes

Foods That Reduce Stress

Cold Weather And Muscle Pain

No Gym Arm Workout

The Truth About Protein Shakes

Why Do I Need To Stretch My Calves

Losing Weight In Your 40s

How To Make A Short Workout Count

How To Detox Your Body Naturally

Ballet For Fitness: Is Back In Style

The Basics Of Hip Stretches

How To Know If You Are Exercising Too Much

Health Fitness And My Thyroid

How To Boost Your Metabolism

Tips On Working Out In Summer Months

10 Easy Ways To Get More Fit

Pros And Cons Of The Elliptical

Should You Exercise When You Are Sick

How To Make Exercise A Habit

How To Buy The Best Running Shoes

How To Workout In The Morning

Morning Stretches True North Fitness Guide

How To Be Healthy Without Trying

How To Wear Athleisure

What Is Your Perfect Workout

11 Most Common Workout Mistakes

European Travel Italy

Diet Foods To Avoid

Tips For Getting Back To The Gym

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

How To Curb Emotional Eating

How To Ease Sciatic Pain

How To Strengthen Your Bones

Best Exercises If You Do Manual Labour

Muscle Pain VS Injury

Why Exercise Is Good For Your Skin

Can I Lose Weight And Still Eat Sweets

5 Cardio Myths Debunked

September Ab Challenge Week Three

How To Feel Good About Your Body

Treadmill Running Charts

Why Your Workout Suddenly Feels Hard

Running Outdoors in Winter

Get Fit While Watching TV

How To Increase Your Bust Size

Why You Should Take A Dance Class Now

Theraband Workout

How To Incorporate Exercise Into Everyday

How To Actually Lose Weight

Your At Home Workout Routine

Why Not Drinking Enough Water Can Make You Fat

Muscle Imbalance And Knee Pain

How To Alleviate Back Pain

Post Workout Beauty Hacks

How To Keep Gym Clothes Fresh

Ballet Inspired Leg Workout

How To Eat Healthy Without Trying

6 Tips To Stop Bloating

At Home Quickstart Workout

Best Headphones For Working Out

Fitness Fanatics Shopping Guide

Top 10 Songs For The Gym

Best Stretches For Runners

The Importance Of Cross Training

How To Buy Workout Clothes

Why Is Sitting Too Much So Bad

Why Should You Meditate

How To Treat Sore Muscles

How To Love Your Body

Best Complimentary Activity For Your Workout.

Best Exercises For a Toned Back

Best Arm Exercises For Summer 2015

What To Look For In A Smoothie

How To Stay Healthy In Winter

Staying Fit When You Have No Time

Everything You Need To Be A Runner

Fitness Terms You Should Know

The Importance Of Stretching In Style

How To Improve Your Posture

What To Eat Pre And Post Workout

Stay Fit And Healthy For The Holidays

What You Should Know About Fitness

Caffeine And Working Out

How To Deal With Muscle Cramps


  1. I have a nice balance of both in my routines and its been working out great for me so far! I prefer free weights in most cases for smaller muscle groups ( shoulders, biceps, triceps) and a nice combination for the larger muscle groups. Plus its always nice to switch it up. Nice article tho! ty!

    1. Thank you! It sounds like you have the perfect routine.

  2. Great post. I also prefer a good balance…it all depends on how much you want to hit certain muscle groups and the goal is.

    1. Exactly! I always think of you whenever I put these posts together. I know that you always get it.

  3. Great post..

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

    1. Thanks!

  4. Great post Caroline! That was really informative xx
    June Wants It All

    1. Great! Thanks for stopping by.

Comments are closed.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.