A majority of people who are members of a gym or who work out have the goal to lose weight and get more fit. I am not saying every person wants to lose weight and train for fitness, but a majority of people are really looking for mostly health benefits, being able to fit in their clothes better and have a better quality of life.
So the question I get asked in the gym most often is, “Should I do free weights or machines if I want to lose weight and get toned?”
My answer is usually the same which is, you want to use both. But I want to give you an explanation of the differences between them and how you can best use them to get the most results possible without making your workout go on for two hours a day.
Free Weights vs Machines
Free weights are mostly used to incorporate your larger muscle groups such as legs, chest, and back. What they will mostly do for you is build a strong foundation so you can add on more lean muscle tissue which will help increase your metabolism.
When you perform free weight exercises, you cause your body to use more than one muscle group. This benefits you as far as calorie burning is concerned because you are getting more of your body involved in the exercise and workouts. The rule of thumb is, the more muscle groups in your body that are being stimulated while exercising, the more calories you will burn.
If you are looking for burning the most calories while you are doing resistance training, then I suggest you focus on free weight exercises instead of machines. The biggest myth out there is, if you lift free weights you will get bulky. This is a huge myth, so do not worry.
Machines are mostly used for isolation. For example, if you do a tricep pushdown you are only focusing on your tricep. Machines are great to use after you have built a foundation of lean muscle tissue. I like to look at machines as the equivalent of a roof and its role in building a house. If you are expecting to build a large home, you would not put on the roof first if you do not have a foundation.
The best times to use machines are if you are planning on doing some more advanced techniques such as drop sets or super sets where the intensity may be dangerous to do on free weights if you do not have a spotter.
So a great question I get asked is, “Which exercise is better for toning my legs? The inner and outer thigh machine or a squat?” My response to that would be the squat because you would use more muscles, therefore building up your thighs and glutes and burning more calories.