Machines Vs Free Weights:
Age long debate that comes around in cycles, first machines were better then free weights were better, I”m sure that in the not to distant future machines will be there again. Here are the pros and cons for both:
Machines: PROS – Easy to learn and use, Isolate muscle groups more efficiently, Allow you to train with heavier weights without assistance, May be useful for elderly populations and/or rehab.
CONS – Non-functional, Neglect smaller stabilising muscles, you are restricted to a specific movement pattern, very expensive, may cause injury directly and indirectly (through poor form and trying to lift really heavy because you feel you can). Those who benefit from machines are beginners and people on rehab programmes.
Free Weights: PROS – Allow you to train functional movements, you can use full range of motion, more variation, greater demand on stabilising muscles, train anywhere, can perform large muscle compound movements easily, less expensive.
CONS – Takes some skill to learn correct technique, need a spotter to lift heavy, greater chance of injury if not done correctly.
Those who benefit from free weights are most people, athletes, body builders and people on rehab programmes.
When it comes down to it, which of the two to use for maximum results is essentially a personal choice, if overall strength development is your goal then free weights will get you there quicker and with more balance, machines are great to build up an initial strength level of targeted muscles and to train with if you have no one to assist you in heavy lifts.
Free weights are also a better option for specificity with training.