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Comparing Free Weights and Resistance Machines

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Strength training is crucial to maintaining healthy muscles and bones in your body. This is true for all ages and gets even more important as you get older. Having stronger muscles and bones will help make daily living activities much easier. Tasks such as climbing stairs, carrying grocery and getting out of bed can be challenging for older individuals who lack muscular strength. The good news is, there are many ways in which we can incorporate resistance training into our workout routines and daily lives. Resistance training is defined as any exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance. It requires you to move your limbs against resistance that can be provided by your body weight, resistance bands, weighted bars, or exercise machines. This article will compare two specific forms of resistance training that are prominent in almost every gym, free weights, and resistance machines.

Free Weights

Free weights are defined as any weight used in exercise that does not have any attachment to an apparatus. Examples of free weights include dumbbells, barbells, weighted bars, and medicine balls. One major benefit of free weights when compared to resistance machines is their cost. Barbells are much more cheap than buying equipment such as the smith machine to perform a bench press. Free weights are also mobile and can be taken with you in a convenient fashion. They can be stored in your living room at home or even in a drawer at the office for use while on breaks. Free weights also allow you to move your body in all three dimensions as you do in daily living. You can lift forward, backward, horizontally, and vertically. This allows for greater muscle activation and strength gain. With free weights, not only must you lift the weight with your muscles, but you also are forced to stabilize your body and this activates other areas of the body. The risk in free weights is attributed to the benefits of it. When lifting free weights, you are at a higher risk of injury because of the free range of motion. If you are not lifting with correct form, you will likely pull a muscle or worse.

Resistance Machines

Resistance machines are any apparatus that involves a controlled movement against weight. These are more prominent in gyms and fitness clubs due to their cost and the amount of space they take up. This form or resistance training also has its benefits when compared to free weights. Machines only allow you to move in a fixed axis in two planes. This form of exercise is safer than free weights but limits the amount of activated muscles to only large muscle groups. This can be a drawback for everyday activities that require strength in those stability muscles as well.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I would say that there is no better form of resistance training, when comparing free weights and resistance machines. Both have their unique benefits and risks when comparing the two. I would recommend machine weights for those new to working out because it allows them to exercise within a safe range of motion and still get the benefits of resistance training without the risk. Also, these populations may not be aware of the correct form when using free weights so machines are a better choice. I would recommend free weights for those who are somewhat familiar with resistance training and are aware of the appropriate techniques and forms. Keep in mind it is okay to incorporate both forms of resistance training in your exercise regimen and doing so will only benefit your overall health. 


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