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Exercise Machines vs Free Weights
What should you be using when strength and weight training?

The advantage of belonging to a gym is that you have a choice between the various types of weight training equipment. All quality gyms have a large selection of fitness equipment for strength training and bodybuilding providing you with many workout options. Basically you should be taking advantage of and using at least the 5 different types of weight training equipment that I am going to outline and discuss below. This will provide you with plenty of variation in your workouts and keep your muscles constantly adjusting rather than getting used to the same day-to-day workout. It also keeps you motivated and interested in your workouts. If there are certain exercises that you love to do from week-to-week, that’s ok too. Just vary their order and the way you perform them a little (depending on the exercise itself).

Personally, I like to use the 5 different types of weight training equipment that my gym has available: free weights, plate-loaded machines, pulley machines, barbells and work stations. I will change which ones I do every week and the order in which I do these exercises as well. Also, every year I like to add or delete new or old exercises so that my weight training routine is more dynamic. It also keeps me motivated by doing this.

Free Weights

Using free weights provides you with the greatest range of motion and allows you to perform many different exercises with many variations. They can be used to perform exercises while lying down, seated or standing. When exercises are performed standing they engage more of the entire body – in the case of standing dumbbell bicep curls, the core and the legs are used as support. They can even be used for full-body exercises like the renegade dumbbell row.

As you can see, free weights allow for a lot of flexibility in training options.

The only drawback is the safety factor. If you are using very heavy weights, for example for chest presses and shoulder presses, you have to be careful and a spotter, someone to spot and help you out is very beneficial. A spotter can put you at ease as well as motivate you to pump heavier weights.

Plate-Loaded Exercise Machines

In this category I am going to talk about weight training machines where you have to add your own weight plates. This category includes for example the plate-loaded Hammer Strength machines. With these machines you can select the amount of weight you wish to use and set the desired seat height to your body height. With their current technology these machines have been designed to offer an excellent range of motion. The range of movement is no longer just linear and the movement on these machines is also very smooth. It’s ideal for getting a great pump and amazing muscle definition. You can push yourself without having to worry about not having a spotter on-hand. Hammer Strength machines with these characteristics are my favorite.

Pulley Machines

These types of machines fall into two categories: seated and standing. What I like about these machines is that they offer constant resistance (as long as they are properly maintained) and there are so many variations of any single exercise that you can do with these machines. Plus they are very safe to use. The standing exercises using these pulley machines can also provide you with more of a full-body workout since you are required to use other body parts for stability and support.


I primarily like and use them for biceps because it gives me a great pump. It really works the bicep muscles hard and I can change grips to work out the biceps from different angles, so this piece of fitness equipment provides me with this type of flexibility. You can either use the straight or easy-curl barbell for this exercise.

Of course there are other exercises you can do using barbells as well: forearm curls and upright rows.

Exercise Workstations

This type of exercise equipment involves workstations where you can do hanging types of exercises: hanging ab crunches, pull-ups, etc. I like to include these exercises for a little variation and particularly as I get closer to summer to get a more ripped look.

In summary, as you can see, there are many advantages to using the full line of exercise equipment at your gym when you are weight training or bodybuilding. There are of course other types of fitness equipment which I do not use personally but you can search for and find articles written on them on my website by other fitness experts.

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