The benefits of free weights
The main benefit of training with free weights is that you are lifting the weight on your own. This results in real world strength and strong stabilizers. In addition, exercises with free weights teach you proper lifting mechanics under a heavy external load. Those benefits are invaluable and turn you into a well-tuned machine. You are complete, like Voltron.
Another important factor is joint mobility. Free weights allow you to find your groove whereas machines force you in a pre-determined pattern and positions. There’s very little room for adaptation, and this may cause injuries due to improper positioning.
To top it all off, free weights are not as expensive as machines. A barbell and a few plates cost a lot less than modern training machines.
The downsides of free weights
The main problem with free weights is that they are free, and freedom can be dangerous when it’s in the hands of an uneducated person. A lot of people have cut their heads off while doing barbell bench presses alone. The machines, on the other hand, are usually quite safe and most don’t require a spotter.
The benefits of exercises machines
The main benefit of exercise machines is that they are less stressful on the central nervous system (CNS) and produce a more isolated contraction. Most movements with free weights are multi-joints exercises that involve many muscles. When you want to work on a very specific weakness, this could be problematic.
The downsides of using exercises machines
If your routine consists only of machine exercises, you may die from boredom. Why train like an old man when you can do so much more? Moving from one machine to the next makes working out sort of impotent.
The machines won’t develop good lifting habits that will translate well to the outside world. You may think that you are strong, but you aren’t. The machines often give an illusion of strength.
For example, you may be able to leg press a lot of weight, but that does not mean that you are a strong squatter. On the other hand, free weights always translate favorably to machine movements.
The happy position is always in the middle
If your gym has nice machines, you could incorporate some of them into your routine. The experience will refresh your mind and give you a break from all the squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing….etc.