Are Free Weights Or Weightlifting Machines Better to Build Bigger Muscles?

Are free weights such as dumbbells and barbells superior to weightlifting machines for building bigger muscles?
By Peter Tuesday, October 4, 2011, 04:52 PM

Are free weights such as dumbbells and barbells superior to weightlifting machines for building bigger muscles? Well, both free weights and weightlifting machines have its own pros and cons and what you use will depend on a few things e.g.  experience level, strength and goals.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each in more detail so that you can get a better understanding on how and when to use free weights and when to use machines.

 Advantages of weightlifting machines

  • Excellent for beginners because it is not so intimidating and the range of motion is fixed, so a bodybuilding novice need not wonder whether he is lifting correctly to target a muscle group.
  • Easy to use as machines usually have instructions on them.
  • Safer – It won’t drop on you in a middle of a lift.
  • You can go heavier if you don’t have a gym partner with machines as most machine these days have safety features built into them and some even have some spotting system built into them as well so you can squeeze out a few extra reps on your own.

Disadvantages of Weightlifting Machines

  • Because of its isolation of muscles, your workout hits only the targeted muscles with little involvement of supporting or synergistic muscles thus your muscle gains will be slower and less balanced.
  • Since weight lifting machines have a fixed configuration, your workout does not factor in your body frame and structure. Whether you have a big or small build, narrow or wide shoulders, you will be using the same pathway range of motion and width of grip. This will raise your chances of becoming injured as well as having poorer muscle development.
  • If you work hard you will soon find that most machines have a limited amount of weights and so your progress will pretty much come to a halt.

Advantages of free weights

  • More stabilizing muscles and synergistic muscles are involved. So you are actually exercising more muscles and therefore will develop more muscle growth and strength.
  • Improve your balance and muscle coordination since you need to balance the weights during your lift and this calls on many muscles to do so. So your muscle coordination and sense of balance will naturally improve.
  • Convenient and inexpensive since you need not join a gym and free weights are much less expensive than machines.

Disadvantages of free weights

  • Increase injury risks if lifting with wrong form and technique.
  • Time consuming because you need to bring the weights from one area to another or physically taking time to adjust, add or decrease weights.
  • IF you do not have a training partner you will struggle to push out the last few reps which will have a negative impact on your results.

So which is better for building bigger and well balanced muscles? Yup, free weights take the cake over weight lifting machines for building muscles faster and bigger. However, since both weightlifting machines and free weights have its own advantages and disadvantages, you can then weigh the pros and cons to use machines or free weights for your workouts or even a combination of both to suit your personal requirements.