Home Gym Guide – Free Weights vs. Machines

Last Updated on November 9, 2018 by marcyproiv

Free weights vs. machines, is a question many have asked themselves during their weight training journey. For those looking to develop their own home gym it’s more than just a question of which type of equipment will deliver bigger gains, it can be a question of economy, space, and results. Today we’re going review the ins and outs of free weights and machines, so you can make an educated choice on the type of equipment to add to your home gym.

Free Weights

First let’s take a look at what defines a free weight. Free weights are any exercise apparatus you can pick up and hold with your hands and utilize the force gravity as resistance. Sounds pretty simple right? Typically smaller in size and multi-functional, these pieces of equipment can include dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, kettlebells, and medicine balls.


Machines, on the other hand, include anything you can sit on while exercising, includes a pully system, or anything with a motorized component.  Any motorized cardio equipment is considered a machine including, stationary bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, rowing machines, stair climbers, etc. Surprisingly machines can also include any weight lifting equipment that’s not a free weight. Examples including leg developers, leg presses, lat pull-down machines, cable bicep bars, smith machines, and home gym machines to name few.

Key Differences Between Weights and Machines


Obviously, convenience is a major factor in determining which kind of equipment you’ll choose for your home gym. When you consider free weights vs. machines, you want to carefully consider what you are looking to achieve. Are you looking for something to help build up your endurance, or are you primarily looking to build muscle?  Free weights are portable and can be stored anywhere in the home.  You’re able to perform a multitude of exercises with just one type of free weight fitness equipment, and can work both the upper and lower body. That being said, machines offer significant benefits of convenience. Cardio machines often offer features like heart rate, elapsed time and calories burned, features you just won’t find with free weights. And machines take the guess work out of exercising, a major bonus for busy people.

The next consideration you’ll need to think about is your available space. Do you live in an apartment or a large home with a garage? More than any other factor, available space will be one of the most important considerations when purchasing free weights or machines.  A large smith machine is awesome, but not practical if you live in a studio apartment unless you plan on sleeping on the weight bench. If you live in a small apartment, or have limited space to store your equipment, free weights may be a better choice. Virtually all free weights can be stored anywhere in your home. The small size of dumbbells or a barbell with weight plates can be stored in a corner of your room or even under your bed. Most machines require significantly more space than free weights so be sure that you have enough, including room to comfortably perform the exercise.

Another important consideration is the cost of the equipment, free weights are significantly less expensive than machines. You can purchase a set of multi-weight dumbbells for under a hundred dollars. Machines can cost more, however machines can be a worthy investment depending on your needs and fitness goals.

Lastly, you need to examine the muscle groups you want to target with your free weights or machines. If you’re looking for a piece of equipment that’s versatile in terms of the muscle groups, free weights offer a great solution for your home gym.  Machines can offer both versatility as well as focus. Smith machines, for example, provide options for a wide variety of upper and lower body training, while treadmills and stationary bikes only allow the user to cycle or run. So obviously having a clear understanding of what you’re hoping to accomplish with your machine is critical to making an informed purchase.

Benefits of Free Weights


Of the many benefits free weights offer, versatility may be the best advantage. Free weights allow you to truly craft a workout regimen that’s tailored just for you. And because free weights can be used in so many ways, there’s virtually no limit as to the exercises you can do. As we touched on above, free weights are significantly less expensive than machines. Finally, free weights give you the ability to work more muscle groups with a single piece of equipment. With an ample selection of exercises that can work both the upper and lower body, equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells are truly multi-purpose. From squats to shoulder presses, free weights offer tremendous flexibility and functionality with your workouts.

Benefits of Machines


A major benefit of working out with machines is their ability to help you develop what is called functional strength. Functional strength is the type of muscle movement that you need to perform everyday tasks like climbing stairs or picking something up off the floor. As the population ages, the benefit of functional strength becomes even more important to living independently. One study also found that functional strength also improves physical performance in elite athletes. A 2011 study of cyclists found that strength training with the use of machines (leg extensions, leg presses, leg curls and calf raises) combined with cycling improved the test subject’s performance more than just cycling alone. Another important benefit from working out with machines is form improvement. Because machines are ergonomically designed to position your body into proper form and limit your range of motion, your form is less likely to be incorrect. Better form means less opportunity to injure yourself during your workout and this translates into a safer workout.

Combining Both Free Weights and Machines for a Total Workout

Free weights vs. machines, each have their benefits and offer significant gains for those looking to slim down, lose weight, bulk up, or gain muscle definition. For the best workout scenario, we recommend a combination of both. Using free weights alone provides a range of options to target both the upper and lower body, but when combined with a machine, such as a cardio machine you truly get the best of both worlds. Combining both strength and cardio into one workout boosts your weight loss due to the fact that combining these two types of exercises increases your energy, or simply put, increases the calories you’re burning. One surefire way to torch those calories is to alternate between free weights and a cardio-based machine. Try performing a set of weighted barbell squats in between time on the treadmill, or alternating rowing and bicep curls. Trust us, you’ll feel the burn.

No matter how you plan on incorporating free weights vs. machines, Marcy offers a wide selection of both for your home gym. Marcy’s selection of free weights is perfect to add to an existing home gym or a great way to start your collection of home exercise equipment. Choose from the following:

Dumbbells – Marcy’s dumbbells include rubber hex or ECO hex designs and come in a variety of weights from 5lbs to 50lbs. Marcy also offers a selection of neoprene dumbbells with a softer grip in weights starting at 1lb up to 10lbs. Don’t forget to add Marcy Combo Weights Storage Rack DBR-0117 for an efficient storage solution.

Barbells – Offered in both standard and Olympic, Marcy has a number of straight and curl bars, as well as a total line of accessories and weight plates to complete your weightlifting regimen.


Kettlebells – Sold individually and as an Apex Adjustable Kettlebell APKB-5009, Marcy’s line of kettlebells are constructed from durable recycled cast iron materials, or soft material and come in weights from 10lbs to 55lbs.

Marcy’s line of exercise and training machines include both cardio and strength training.

Elliptical Trainers – Marcy offers both traditional and compact elliptical trainers for a full body cardio workout.

Rowing machines – From foldable to turbine rowers, Marcy offers a rowing machine that’ll meet your rowing and workout expectations.


Treadmills – Marcy’s line of advanced treadmills include options like the ability to fold for storage, LCD screens and the ability to choose from preset programs.

Steppers – Compact and easy to use, Marcy’s Mini Stepper with Assist Handles and Display | MS-95 and Mini Stepper with Bands | Marcy MS-69 are a great way to tone your legs, and burn calories.

Cycles – Marcy offers a wide selection of mini cycles, training bikes, and recumbent cycles. Designed for the fitness enthusiast, to the active cyclist, Marcy’s cycles offer top-tier features at an affordable price tag.

Smith machine – Marcy’s Smith Machines are powerful home training systems that target multiple muscle groups. Constructed from heavy duty 14-gauge steel tubing Marcy’s smith machines are built to the test of time and use.

Marcy has the right equipment to meet your fitness goals. Affordably priced, and constructed from quality materials, free weights and machines from Marcy are a smart investment no matter what you choose. And should you need help in determining whether free weights vs. machines are best for you, we’re here to help guide you to the best option. Contact us today to learn more about Marcy’s incredible line of high quality, and reasonably priced home gym cardio and strength training equipment!


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