Training: When to use machines VS everything else

Training: When to use machines VS everything else

When everyone walks into a gym the first thing they most often see is machines. Every big gym has them. Are they great to work out on No, but they do help the client feel comfortable about training. They are easy to adjust and come with pictures. Although, when using machines you still need to follow a program.


Free weights, cables, resistance bands, exercise balls and steps all need to be shown to the clients to prevent injuries. This is why gyms have machines. Most clients are intimidated by this equipment because it does not come with pictures.  This type of equipment though does make you activate more muscles. For example when you are using a chest press machine nothing has to be stabilized. When you are using dumbbells for a chest press every part of the range of motion needs to be stabilized. Hence more muscles are being activated. The more functional you can make an exercise the more it will benefit you down the road. I am not recommending you stand on an exercise ball either. That is an exercise that is not very functional unless you’re an elephant in the circus.

Many clients lack the strength needed to perform weighted functional exercises. Those clients need to start on machines to develop the base strength while still incorporating functional body weight exercises to also develop the stabilizing muscle strength. A prime example is a push up. Some older adults cannot even do a push up on their knees. Those individuals need to start on machines to develop that strength.


Once a client has developed a base of strength and stabilization it’s time to move on to complete functional training. Although this can take some time to get to this point. Most clients only want to train once a week with a trainer and then maybe come in once on their own to perform the same workout. This is ok but it severely slows the clients’ progress forward. Each individual adapts at a different rate and that is truly based on dedication to reaching their goals. The more a client trains the faster they will adapt and progress towards their goal. Every client however does need to have an assessment performed before ever touching a machine or anything else. This assessment will tell the client and trainer what muscles are active, over active or under active. By knowing this information a personalized program can be designed to address any muscular issues.

Functional training, why is it needed? Think about holding dumbbells and stepping up and down off of a box. In real life this is like carrying grocery bags up stairs. Now think about a dumbbell shoulder press. In real life it’s like putting a box up on a shelf in the closet. Ok last one a dumbbell chest press. In real life it’s like holding a child over your chest while playing. Basically every exercise you perform that’s functional has a purpose in real life.  That’s why free weights, cables, resistance bands, exercise balls and steps are considered functional equipment.


If you have performed a proper assessment and can move directly to functional training I highly recommend it. The more muscles you can activate during a workout means more calories burned, as well as, more strength developed.  Don’t be afraid to move away from the comfort zone. Ask questions of a qualified professional. Hire a trainer and actually work with them often.

I hope this has helped to explain more about when to use machines VS everything else. Thank you for reading my article. Please feel free to always ask me questions or make comments about anything you have read.


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