Artist: PeopleImages

Equipment training vs. free weight training

by john harris

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions in the fitness field: Which is better, equipment training or free weight training? Personal trainers, fitness experts and exercisers are divided on this question. However, the question cannot be answered simply and universally.

Advantages of equipment training

Learning the movement sequences and exercise execution

Especially if you are new to the gym, you are drawn to the machines first. Here, instructions are available and a clear sequence of movements is given. This is not a bad thing, because you don't have to think about too many things at once. Beginners should first try the machines, because here they get to know the movement sequences and can concentrate on the pure exercise execution. By always performing the same movements on a machine, it helps your muscles and nervous system coordinate. This practice will also make it easier for you to transition to dumbbell and barbell training.

Note: This does not mean that you can make fewer mistakes on machines. Again, posture, proper execution, the right weight for your level of training, and the right number of repetitions are very important. Beginners often make mistakes in this regard and should definitely perform the first units under professional guidance.

Isolation of individual muscles

In contrast to free weight training, with equipment training you train your muscles in isolation. This can be used to strengthen certain muscles. For example, if you can't do a pull-up yet, you can use the lat pull-down to strengthen your back. However, the lat machine can be seen as a middle ground between free weight and machine training, as it is a more complex exercise. Isolation exercises are also suitable as an addition after complex exercises to completely "exhaust" the target muscle. For example, this is very popular with bodybuilders or women whose goal is a bigger butt. They first perform complex exercises such as squats and deadlifts and then do abduction on the machine or donkey kicks.


Machine training can also be used very well after injuries. Here you can train well "around" the injury. If straining the injury is possible again, you can slowly load the area again with equipment training.

Free weight training

Functional and complex

Probably the biggest advantage you can achieve with free weight training is the more complex intermuscular exercise execution. Because you have to stabilize the weight all the time, several muscles are working at once. Your core is loaded much more during the basic exercises than during machine training. This improves your abdominal and back muscles, which leads to better posture. By working different muscle groups at the same time, you also burn more calories.

Strengthening tendons and ligaments

By the interaction of the muscles not only in the musculature a higher stimulus is set, in particular also your tendons and ligaments profit from the free weight training. They become stronger and therefore the risk of injury decreases. Tension or hardening is often caused by weak tendons and ligaments and can be improved and avoided in the long term through training.

Improvement in everyday life

Basic exercises like deadlifts or squats are modeled after everyday movements. Over time, people have become incorrectly accustomed to movement patterns. The movement pattern from deadlifting can also be applied to when you have to lift or carry heavy things. In addition, deadlifting promotes the stability of the intervertebral discs and the lower back, thus preventing injuries in everyday life.

The complexity of movements in everyday life can be imitated with the help of free weights and basic exercises. So you benefit in your daily life from performing basic exercises in the gym. Your mobility, coordination and agility will improve.


As you can see, both variations have their advantages. You can build muscle mass up to a certain point with both variations. But if you want to do something good for your body as a whole and train your tendons and ligaments, then basic exercises are an absolute must. In the long run, without basic exercises like bench press or squats, you won't be able to expect strength and muscle mass gains. But don't worry, you won't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When doing free weight training, correct execution is an absolute must to avoid injuries. So it is recommended that you take a trainer at your side. He will show you the correct execution.


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