Free Weights vs Strength Machines

Benefits of Both for Resistance Training

Blog content from Mike Avery, Senior Health & Wellness Director

Resistance training can come in many different forms. Two common forms are free weights and strength machines. So which is right for you? Let’s explore where they stack up against each other.

Strength Machines Free Weights and Bodyweight
Easier to control form X
Builds greater joint stabilization X
Typically more core involvement X
Ease of body positioning to work major muscle groups X
More variety and exercise options X
Beginner friendly; ease of use X

Which one is best for you?

The answer like many things is…It depends! It depends on the exercise, your goals and where you are on your journey. Beware of those that say, “never do or use this.” There is typically a time and a place for all equipment types and training styles. Your choice should be based on what is best for you; a nice mix can provide some variety in your routine.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each:

Strength Machines


  • Easier to control weights and keep form
  • Ability to isolate muscle groups
  • Easily position your body to work major muscle groups


  • Requires less work from muscles to stabilize joints
  • Limited core activation

Free Weights


  • Requires greater joint stabilization, strengthening the “weakest link”
  • Typically more core involvement


  • For some it may be difficult to position body to work certain muscle groups
  • Easier to lose form and therefore increased risk of injury


If you have any questions about free weights and strength machines, please see a member of our Health and Wellness team next time you’re at the Y!