The age old resistance training question… Should I use machines or free weights?
The answer, as you long time readers have probably already figured out, isn’t that simple. In short, probably both.
Free weights allow for loading movements that can also challenge stability at the shoulder girdle, spine, hips, and ankles. Think of things like squats, overhead presses, lunges.
In my opinion, anyone with an average able body should spend a large amount of time learning bodyweight and free weight loaded movements, as they’re foundationally a great way to learn how to move your body through space.
Machines allow for loading movements in a fixed range of motion, so stability isn’t as important. Still relevant, just not always necessary. This can be thought of for mainly “bodybuilding” goals, such as isolating certain body parts or movements and then loading them, without having to have such a foundation of stability. Think of a leg extension, leg press, machine preacher curl, pull downs.
Both have an important role in a complete resistance training regime, however, I always teach bodyweight and free weight motions as a prerequisite, as it forces you to learn to stabilize and control to get the biggest bang for your buck.