Why You Need Machines Not Just Free Weights to Build Muscle


When it comes to building muscle, 1 thing is for certain:

You need to lift and place stress on your muscles in order for them to grow.


What’s the best type of resistance training to maximize muscle gains?

Is it free weights?

What about machines?

Maybe bodyweight exercises?

Also how do you incorporate any of these types of exercises into a routine?

Keep reading and I’ll give you the full scoop.

The Rising Popularity of Free Weights

More and more nowadays, people are using free weights as their main type of resistance training, and there are plenty of good reasons for it. Free weights:

-Generally allow you to use more weight

-Allow you to work in multiple planes of motion

-Activate more core stabilization

-Can improve dynamic joint stabilization & proprioception

-Can improve athletic performance

-Are good for emphasizing particular muscle groups or targeting multiple muscle groups

However, this isn’t to say that free weights are perfect; they have their downsides as well:

-Can be intimidating for beginners

-Are more dangerous if improper form is used

-May require a spotter

-Require multiple barbells and dumbbells to change the intensity

-Are generally harder to learn proper technique

Despite these cons, I’m still a really big fan of free weight exercises, and they still make up the majority of the exercises in my training routine. However, free weights aren’t the end all be all.

Sure old school bodybuilders popularized free weight exercises, but they didn’t have the option of training with machines like we do today. As you’ll soon be able to see, machines certainly have some benefits of their own.

Why You Shouldn’t Forget About Machines

With all of the hype surrounding free weights, it’s very easy to push machines to the side (not literally of course) and completely forget about them. However, here are 6 reasons why you should use machines in your workout routine:

-Doesn’t require a spotter

-Provides more support for special-needs individuals

-Can be less intimidating for beginners

-Can target specific muscle groups for rehab or building muscle

-Can limit excessive ranges of motion that may lead to injury

-Gives wide range of loads in one weight stack, making drop sets and pyramids a breeze


This isn’t to say that machines are perfect because they certainly have their downfalls as well:

-They’re expensive and take up a lot of space making them less than ideal for a home gym setup

-Most machines isolate muscles, which doesn’t allow for total-body or compound movements

-Machines usually move in 1 plane of motion, making them a bad fit for improving athletic performance

-They do very little to challenge the core

-Short, tall, or obese individuals may not be able to adjust the machine properly

Ok so with the pros and cons of machines out of the way, let’s get into how to actually incorporate machines into your workout routine.

How to Incorporate Machines into a Killer Routine

In my opinion, I believe that machines are best utilized at the end of the workout.

Here are a few reasons why:

-The weight stack makes it easy to do burn outs or drop sets to finish off a muscle.

-It’s easier to use more weight with machines when you’re already fatigued than it is with free weights.

-You are less likely to get injured on a machine while training in a fatigued state.

Note: When I say fatigued, I’m referring to being fatigued from previous exercises in the workout.

So this is how I would incorporate machines into a typical push/pull/leg workout split:

Push Day:

Incline Dumbbell Press (Free Weight Exercise)

Standing Barbell Military Press (Free Weight Exercise)

Skull Crushers (Free Weight Exercise)

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Free Weight Exercise)

Hammer Strength Chest Press (Machine Exercise)

Pull Day:

Chin-Ups (Free Weight Exercise)

Incline Dumbbell Curls (Free Weight Exercise)

Seated Cable Row (Machine Exercise)

Preacher Curl Machine (Machine Exercise)

Leg Day:

Bulgarian Split Squats (Free Weight Exercise)

Dumbbell Forward Lunges (Free Weight Exercise)

Single Leg Leg Extensions (Machine Exercise)

Hamstring Curls (Machine Exercise)

Standing Calf Raises (Machine Exercise)

As you can see here, you’re still utilizing free weight exercises a good majority of the time. This is what I would consider to be ideal because at the end of the day I do think that free weights are superior to machines.

However, I think that it would be silly to train exclusively with free weights 100% of the time. Machines, without question, can provide you with some amazing benefits.

In Conclusion

Are there upsides and downsides to using free weights?


Are there upsides and downsides to using machines?


How do you get the best of both worlds?

Use both of them in your routine.

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

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