Which gives the best workout, free-weights or machines? It’s an oft-asked question and one upon which the answer varies according to your situation, objectives, etc.

For overall strength and conditioning, free-weight exercises (especially those using compound movements) are generally best. They work a lot of muscles and are great for breaking down and restoring muscle tissue. They also improve coordination because the only thing that’s controlling the weight is you.

However, machines have their uses. They are good for beginners for the same reason, ie, you can start lifting without having to worry about control. Likewise, if there’s an exercise you’re not yet strong enough to perform, such as chin-ups, a machine can offer a useful alternative.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that machines are only for novices, though. Because you’re not having to control the weight, it’s possible to lift heavier than you could with free-weights in certain situations – ideal for serious muscle-builders. Similarly, machines are great for isolating muscles, allowing an athlete to address a weaker area, for example.

So, although free-weights are rightly regarded as the bedrock of any strength training programme, it’s a good idea to use machines as well.