Free Weights vs. Weight Machines

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In December, I bought myself a year-long membership to my local Planet Fitness gym. If you’ve ever been to a gym, you know they have cardio machines, free weights, and weight machines.

I’ve been going to the gym about 4 days a week, mostly using the cardio machines. I use the free weights and weight machines once in a while, and it got me wondering.

What’s better: free weights or weight machines? So, I’ve done some research, and as usual, I want to share with my readers!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty about the differences in the actual weights, we need to talk about fitness goals. Different fitness goals mean different fitness needs and training.

Structural Goals

These are goals pertaining to the structure of your muscles, like building mass or losing fat. Free weights are the optimal tool for structural goals, but weight machines are a good second choice.

Performance Goals

These are goals that focus on improving the function of your muscles, like training for a competition or sport. Free weights or body weight exercises are best for performance goals.

Now, we can focus on the weights themselves. I’ve used BodyBuilding.com and AWorkoutRoutine.com for the following information.

Free Weights

  • More versatile for different exercise moves
  • Stimulate the total body
  • Help your balance and core strength
  • You can train anywhere, even at home
  • Allow for natural movement
  • Use additional muscle groups, not just the one you’re targeting

Weight Machines

  • Can target a specific muscle group
  • Can isolate one muscle
  • Are easier and quicker to learn for beginners
  • Have less potential for injury
  • No spotter needed
  • You can lift heavier without as much risk of injury
  • Good for bodybuilders to use after a free weight workout

From my own personal experience, I feel like free weights give me a better, harder, more effective workout than weight machines. When I do a free weight routine, everything is tired, and I even get a really good cardio workout. I feel like I get more done in the same amount of time.

However, I do like the machines when I want to try squatting with a really heavy weight. I can’t squat much with free weights because I don’t have the upper body or back strength to hold a barbell that weighs more than I do. But with a machine, I can easily attempt squatting more than my bodyweight without the fear of hurting myself. The machines are also quicker and easier for adjusting the amount of weight.

Overall, I’d say it really depends on personal preference, fitness goals, weight lifting ability, and overall strength. Let me know in the comments whether you prefer weight machines or free weights!

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Wake Up and Smell the Workout: Exercise Schedule

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If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time figuring out your workout schedule for the week/month. There is so much conflicting information out there. I’ve read that you should workout at night, that you should workout in the morning, that you should do an hour of cardio each day, that you should do 30 minutes of cardio per day, that you shouldn’t workout if you’re sore, that you should do yoga if you’re sore, that you should lift weight before cardio, that you should lift weight after cardio, you get the point… enough with all this information!

I’m not an expert or anything, but after years of working out with different types of exercises and different lengths of sessions, I think I’ve finally figured out a good workout schedule for myself. I’m not going to say it’s best for everyone, but it is what works for me. I like to do different types of cardio, weight/strength training, and pilates.

I always like seeing how others set up their workout routines and schedules, so I thought it might be helpful for all of you to read about mine!

I workout 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. I let myself have weekends off, so I can rest and have some fun!

I workout whatever time of day I can. If I have time in the morning, I get up early. If I have time at night, I do it then. I don’t think the time of day you exercise matters; it’s whatever works best for you.

I typically exercise for 1 to 1 and a half hours per day, depending on how I’m feeling or how much time I have.

I usually do 30-40 minutes of cardio each day, alternating between HIITs (high intensity interval training) and running on the elliptical machine.

My routine is separated into 2 lower body days (1 day of weights and 1 day of pilates), 2 core training days (pilates for abs, 1 day of weights for back, and one day of pilates for back), and 1 upper body day (half with weights and half pilates). I only do one upper body day because I started getting really bulky shoulders/arms, so I decided to cut back.

I use FitnessBlender.com videos for all my weight training and HIITs and Blogilates.com for all my pilates workout videos. I also use the elliptical machine in the gym here on my college campus. I have free weights in my room: a set of 2 pounds, a set of 5 pounds, a set of 10 pounds, a set of 15 pounds, ankle weights that go up to 5 pounds, exercise bands, and a 1/2″ thick exercise mat.

So here’s my weekly routine!

Monday 

  • Cardio: HIITs  30-40 minutes
  • Weights: Legs & Glutes 30-40 minutes

Tuesday

  • Cardio: Elliptical 30-45 minutes
  • Weights: Back 10 minutes
  • Pilates: Abs 20-25 minutes

Wednesday

  • Cardio: HIITs 30-40 minutes
  • Weights: Upper Body 15 minutes
  • Pilates: Upper Body 15 minutes

Thursday

  • Cardio: Elliptical 30-45 minutes
  • Pilates: Lower Body 30-40 minutes

Friday

  • Cardio: HIITs 30-40 minutes
  • Pilates: Abs 20-25 minutes
  • Pilates: Back 10 minutes

Again, this is just what works best for me. Everyone is different, so I encourage you to experiment with different routines until you find one that works for you! I hope this helps you get some ideas of what you can do to spruce up your workout schedule!