Free weights force you to use auxiliary muscles to stabilize the weight and control the movement. This involves greater muscle recruitment and thus better gains in size and strength.
Modern machines are more ergonomically designed, allowing natural planes of motion. In addition, more weight can be used on a well-designed machine than with free weights.
- Studies comparing barbell bench press with Smith machine bench press show greater muscle activation of the shoulders using a barbell.
- Studies show lifters can use up to 1.5 times more on plate-loaded machines than with free weights.
- Machines are a fixed-form exercise and are limited to moving through fewer planes of motion.
- Free weights are a free-form exercise that allow for movement in multiple planes.
- Most free weights require a spotter, whereas most machines can be used without one.
- Free weights produce “functional strength,” which is more applicable in real-world situations.
MACHINES HAVE BRIDGED THE GAP, BUT FREE WEIGHTS STILL RULE.
For the average guy who is trying to put on some muscle the differences between free weights and machines have narrowed significantly. Nevertheless, free weights offer greater advantages for overall development of strength and muscle mass.
Free weights should always be the foundation of any effective bodybuilding program.