Free-weights Vs Machines – What’s Better?

In this blog post we look at the pros and cons of both free weights vs machines. Both have their uses and their place in the fitness world but which will benefit you more now, as well as in the long run?

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Last Updated on April 13, 2021 by Andrew Blakey

Hey Everyone, it’s been a busy couple weeks since our last blog post, hope everyone has been out exercising and enjoying this new found warm weather in Toronto! In our blog post today, our intern Sam, talks about the pros and cons of both free-weights and machine based exercises. Let’s get into it!

We all know the gym can be an intimidating place for first timers, and seeing all the various equipment leaves a lot of people with the question, where do I start? Between all the machines and free weights that are typically found at a gym, if you are a new goer at the gym, it can be hard to figure out what to start and what equipment would work best for each exercise.

Free Weights

Free weights include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and generally anything that is free and unattached from anything else. For certain free-weight exercises, you may require a bench to sit or lie on, or a squat rack to safely perform each exercise.



  • One of the biggest pro of using free weights is that they work more muscles than a machine working the same movement. For example, let’s look at a bench press compared to a chest press machine. Both exercises work your chest, triceps, and some deltoids, however the bench press requires greater activation of the smaller muscles in order to keep it stable. This is compared to a chest press machine which does all the stabilization work for you.

  • Another pro for free weights is that they tend to be better at improving functional strength. Functional strength is the ability of strength to be directly applied to everyday activities. Such as things liking going up steps, squatting down to pick up groceries, or gardening.


  • Greater risk in injury. Since the movement is not controlled by pulleys, it is very important to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly and using a proper amount of weight so that you are able to control the movement. With people new to the gym, they sometimes forget that starting lighter is better for you to improve then by jacking up the weight and hoping for the best.

  • Another con is, free weight exercises can be harder to learn. With free weights, a common mistake is that people will start off lifting too much weight. Sometimes, more than what they are capable of which can result in serious injury.


Machines include anything you sit on or in while you pull or push on a lever through a specific range of motion. Typically you are pushing or pulling onto handles of some sort that use pulleys to lift weights from a stack.



  • They are great for beginners at the gym because they are easy to learn. Machines are good because almost all of them have instructions on them of how to perform the exercise and what muscles are being worked, so even if you have no idea of what you’re doing, machines make it pretty easy to figure the exercise out.

  • Another pro for machines is that they help to prevent injury. Machines are designed in a way that help people stay safe. One of the most common reasons as to why people injure themselves while in the gym is simply because of bad form. With machines, they generally put you in the correct position to push or pull a weight, rather than having to think about what position you should be in


  • Too much of using machines can lead to muscle imbalances. This is because not all the stabilizing muscles of a big muscle group are being activated.

  • Machines generally require less movement and less thought before performing each exercise so typically machines don’t burn quite as many calories as the free weights may. Over time this may have an effect on weight loss if that is one of your primary goals.

In conclusion, both free weights and machines have their pros and cons. We advise that if you are a beginner at the gym that you start out using machines until you develop proper form and eventually move to free weights, which can generally be more beneficial in the long run.

As always thanks for reading our post. This post was written by our intern Sam. Let us know what you like and dislike about this article so we can continue improving going forward! Thanks for all the continued support!

Your Future Fitness | Toronto At Home Personal Training | 705 606 0374

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