Machines vs free weights? That is the question.
Perhaps not THE question, but a good question anyway.
In a way its like asking “Contacts or glasses?” or “Bottle or can?” It depends on a few things that are all based on your individual needs and goals.
The simple answer is:
Both – if you want a fully complementary resistance training program.
But why are you asking?
– What are your goals?
– Do you want to get big and beefy?
– Lose some weight?
– Strengthen up?
– Tone up?
– Have you been injured and wondering what the best rehab is?
– Perhaps you are stronger / bigger on one side than the other and want to balance out.
– Do you belong to a gym?
– Are you wanting to build a gym at home?
A home style Smith Machine has an angled rack, and two high low cables. Couple this with a set of dumbbells, and plates for both the 2″ and 1″ bars, and a set of weighted body bars for functional training as well. Add a free weight squatters rack and a bench that works as a leg extension and curl using the plates.
Then you will have a combination of both.
Plus if you add a variety of balls – stability, medicine and yoga. BOSU’s and bands (ankle, broad and tube)
Over time you can collect these pieces. Just read through the general pro’s and con’s and at the end to find out how to get started.
The following is just a broad overview of the best and not-so-best of each and you can decide from there.
Are free weights better than machines?
For an in-depth discussion read these other two posts and come back again;
Free Weights vs Weight Machine
Head to head the biggest advantage of the machines over free weights is the ability to really allow a muscle to grow. Because of the isolated focus and ability to safely push more weight, the machines would be the pick for this.
But you don’t need to feel confined to the machine to develop your strength. There are many ways of getting over plateaus using a combination of free weights and ingenuity. By way of example; it is a common sentiment that in order to be able to do a pull up or increase the number of pull ups (chin ups) you can do; that an assisted machine is the best bet. You can still get assistance by placing your shins on a ball or a bench.
You could also add a set or two of negatives to your usual pull-up routine to push you past the hump.
The biggest advantage of free weights over machines would be the versatility.
Regardless of what you decide to do, at minimum check out these two books. As a matter of fact these will suit you perfectly from doing stretching and body weight only exercises, through all the free weight and machine exercises. Including workout programs for general or specific goals (like football or golf fitness).
The books “Getting in Shape” and “Getting Stronger” will be all you need to start.