A couple days ago, I posted an article talking about the advantages and disadvantages of free weights and machines. You can find that article here.
Weight training is primarily about building muscle of course, and we know there are many advantages to building muscle. So I won’t go into the nitty gritty. Suffice it to say that you can build muscle with both free weights and machines.
I like machines for those that have limited range of motion due to perhaps an injury, age, or some other impairment. They are also great for ‘finishing’ exercises. So, I will often use them at the very end of a workout and go to absolute failure. You see, as much as I love squats or bench press, as I work out along, I am not able to go to 100% failure. With machines you can do that without a fear of injuring yourself.
Machines however aren’t good for those that are very tall or very short. They are meant for average height people and if you aren’t average height you may need to modify the exercise a bit, and that isn’t always the best idea. Whereas anybody no matter the size can use free weights.
When using free weights, your body is of course on a fixed plain of motion, and as a result doesn’t work as many muscles. Free weights require you to stabilize your body and typically to work your core (I hate that phrase), resulting in more muscles worked overall and more calories burned.
So, what do I use? What do I recommend? The vast majority of the exercises from all of my workouts are compound, free weight exercises. I feel that I am getting more bang for my buck if you will because it works more muscles, and uses more calories and as a result burns more fat.
If you aren’t sure how to do an exercise, just ask somebody at the gym. Chances are they will be happy to help. You can also view a video library like the one at Muscle and Strength, and it will show you how to do basically every exercise out there.
Good luck, train smart, train hard, and keep your eye on the prize.