Machines, dumbbells, barbells, plates, bands, etc. There are tons of options for workout equipment. Machines are great to build muscle and learn proper form when starting a fitness routine. Progressing to free weights will ensure that you keep building your skills, getting stronger, and improving your fitness. Let’s discuss some benefits of using free weights in your workouts.

You’ll burn calories

Adding more weight to your workouts is an easy way to increase intensity and caloric burn during gym sessions. Using free weights will help you to drive your heart rate up which will burn more calories. Try holding a couple of light dumbbells while doing walking lunges or perform some dumbbell presses instead of using a machine to do chest presses. The weight should never be too heavy that your form lacks. If you’re unable to use the proper form or complete the full range of motion, you should drop the weight or get rid of the free weights altogether for that exercise.

You’ll improve your balance and activate muscles that help stabilize your joints

Using free weights will challenge your balance and coordination. Standing with a forty-five pound barbell resting above your shoulder blades is a lot different than standing with no weight on you at all. This means you’ll have to engage your core and other stabilizing muscles so you can remain upright, which will help improve your balance. This is true for just about any exercise you add free weights too and is a benefit that machine weights don’t have. Machine weights guide the weight for you but free weights engage joint stabilizing muscles, making your body stronger and more sturdy.

Free weights are great for functional training

Functional training is any training that mimics activities you’ll do in your daily life or in sports. This type of training improves strength, balance and mobility. As a personal trainer, one exercise I like to do with clients is an uneven farmers carry. The farmers carry an exercise that involves walking with a dumbbell, or other weights, in each hand. Chances are, in our day-to-day lives, we won’t be carrying two things of equal weight in both hands (think: carrying groceries inside). So I like to have my clients carry uneven weights to improve their abilities outside of the gym and better mimic daily life.


Most free weights are easy to move which can improve the efficiency of your time in the gym. Instead of a workout moving from machine to machine, you can stay in one spot just using a barbell or a few dumbbells. This will speed up your workouts, helping you can the most out of your time in the gym.

There are many benefits of using free weights. It’s easy to track progress, advance workouts, build muscle and improve core strength with free weights. Before beginning a new program with free weights, it’s extremely important to know how to use proper form. Watching videos and using the mirror for feedback is great. If you need extra help, consider hiring a personal trainer. At the very least, you can do a few sessions with one to learn how to navigate progressing from machine weights to free weights.

Sydney Vachon, NASM CPT

Personal trainer at Fit Focus Laconia