Beyond the basics, there isn't a lot of consensus when it comes to getting fit— while some swear by a healthy workout 'diet' of cardio and free weights, others will tell you to focus on heavy lifting and do away with the light sprinting.
However, one of the more interesting dichotomies among weightlifters seems to be the ongoing debate between effective lifting strategies— is it better to use a machine equipped to guide your progress, or does lifting free weights without assistance work more muscle groups and provide a more authentic workout?
Below, we've curated a breakdown of the pros and cons of both, looking into the benefits you can derive from alternate workout methods based on your specific needs— along with some common misconceptions. Read ahead to find out what's best for you, whether you're a beginner or a veteran weightlifter who's been doing it wrong for 20 years.
One of the most common pieces of misinformation when it comes to power racks and squat racks is that they provide less mobility when compared with free weights. In truth, power racks are intended to function as a safe environment for performing high-intensity dead lifts —they're effectively a mechanical spotter for intense, solo workouts. Additionally, unlike conventional machines, a rack has no moving parts— they simply guide your form during free weight exercises. It's important to note that while resistance machines provide an alternative to free weights, workout racks essentially serve as an extension of your free weight exercises.
So what are the benefits of machines? Most who prefer them will likely provide you with similar answers— while free weights reign supreme as the way to hone your core muscles (used for your balance, stabilization, and overall health), machines are a quick and easy way to build extra strength and size.
They're called 'resistance' machines for a reason— most machines focus primarily on building up muscle mass through increasing resistance exercises that force you to exert targeted muscles groups to their limit. This is great if you want to supercharge a specific muscle group, but may not hold as much potential if you're looking to build a healthy, well-rounded physique.
Ironically, while many newcomers might start out using machines to build up resistance, they may be better intended for veteran lifters who are looking to polish their hard-earned progress gained through years of free weight exercises.