What's Better Free Weights or Machines?


Woman in weight room

If weight loss is among your resolutions for 2019, you're likely tailoring what you're eating and how you're exercising to meet your goals. 

Not only does regular exercise help with weight loss, it also can improve your overall health and fitness, as well as reduce your risk for — or manage — many chronic illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes.

For a well-rounded exercise regimen, you should include aerobics — think jogging, swimming or cycling — and strength training with free weights, weight machines or resistance from your own body weight.

However, many people are uncertain about incorporating weightlifting. Some worry they'll bulk up, while others try to do too much too fast. 

One question that frequently comes up is: What’s better – free weights or machines? While each offers pros and cons, both are excellent at building muscle, burning calories and helping you stay healthy.

Here is some information about both types of weightlifting exercises to help you choose where to head while at the gym. And, no matter what you choose, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a new routine. He or she can make sure the exercises you plan to do are safe for you and can suggest modifications or precautions you might need to take.

What are the Benefits of Free Weights?


  • Promote quicker strength gains as they require more balance and coordination than weight machines.
  • More versatile – you can do many different types of exercises with free weights that allow more range of motion.
  • Inexpensive – you don’t need a gym membership. Free weight dumbbells are inexpensive and can be found at many stores. And, because of their versatility you don’t need many to perform a wide variety of exercises.


  • May result in more injuries if your stabilizing muscles aren’t strong enough.
  • Depending on how much weight is being lifted, you may need a “spotter” in case you need help.
  • Good form is essential to isolate the correct muscles and avoid injury.

What are the Benefits of Weight Machines?


  • Great for people new to exercise. May show diagrams to help in the exercise and educate about the muscle groups being worked.
  • Provide a more controlled range of motion, thus decreasing chances of injuries.
  • Provide an easy way to track success – weights can be increased as you get stronger.


  • Machines are big and expensive.
  • If you don’t have space or the money to build a home gym, you often need a gym membership to use the equipment.
  • Not as versatile as free weights.

Most people who work out incorporate a variety of weights and machines into their routine because they find different weights and machines are optimal for different muscle groups.

About this Blog

Learn about bariatric surgery and get the support you need to continue on your weight-loss journey. We offer workouts, recipes and tips from Bariatric Surgery program team members, and stories from patients like you.

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