Should I use exercise machines or free weights?


If you have the option, opt for free weights. The gold standard in strength & conditioning is to perform an exercise using free weights (dumbbells or a barbell). Why? You’ll burn more calories by engaging your stabilizer muscles. Translation-it’s more challenging. More challenge = more muscles being worked = more calories burned.

When you sit down in a machine, you are working through a fixed range of motion, you’re essentially allowing your nervous system to get lazy because it doesn’t have to recruit any stabilizer muscles during the move to ensure you move efficiently. For example, performing a seated machine shoulder press.

You are only engaging your shoulders (primary) and triceps (secondary). Instead-try performing a standing dumbbell shoulder press. You’re now recruiting more muscles. You are working your shoulders, triceps, your core is now involved, and your various stabilizers (in your hips, shoulder complex and lower leg) are being called on to control and balance your body while pressing the dumbbells overhead.

Take home message: more challenge = more muscles being worked = more calories burned = better results for you!

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