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Free Weights vs. Weight Machines - Sears

Workout Showdown: Free Weights vs. Weight Machines

Weight lifting does more than just give you big musles. It can help you increase stamina, endurance, bone density and a number of other great things. You can either use free weights, such as dumbbells, barbells and medicine balls, or weight machines designed to target specific muscle groups. The differences between free weights and machines are quite varied, and some weight lifters may choose to utilize both forms of lifting. Let's take a look at both so you can create the pefect home gym.

Free Weights

Weight Machines


AffordableLess affordable


Free range of motionControlled motion

Customizing Weight

Weight changes can be fast or slowWeight changes are often rapid


Multiple muscles are worked togetherMuscles are worked in isolation

Free Weights

Advantages of Free Weights

  • Lower cost - Free weight sets are often much less expensive than machines, and you can also buy individual pieces and slowly grow your collection over time to avoid a large up-front expense.
  • Free range of motion - Since you are not controlled by the cables and bars of a machine, you can move more naturally and comfortably.
  • Efficiency - With an expanded range of motion, you can perform compound movements that strenghten the whole body.
free weights

Limitations of Free Weights

  • Higher injury risk - Without a machine to guide your motions, there are more ways to incorrectly perform moves and potentially injure yourself.
  • Spotter - Many movements, such as bench press and squats, you may require a spotter when trying to hit heavier weights.

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Weight Machines

Advantages of Weight Machines

  • Isolates muscle groups - Weight machines are designed to work a specific muscle or muscle group, so you can focus your workout on a target area as well as avoid working muscle groups that are hurt or susceptible to injury.
  • Lower injury risk - While injury is always a possibility, you are less likely to hurt yourself due to improper equipment use with the controlled motions of a weight machine than with free weights.
  • Fast weight changes - If you need to change the weight that you're lifting, you can easily change it by switching the settings on the machine instead of swapping plates around.
weight machines

Limitations of Weight Machines

  • Higher cost - Weight machines are often significantly more expensive than free weights.
  • Controlled motion - Since you're being guided through motions, you don't get the added benefit of working additional muscle groups.

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