Free Weights vs Training Machines – Which Is Best For Upper Body Toning?

The debate on whether free weights vs training machines continues in the UAE. A Personal trainer and fitness expert in Abu Dhabi provides some great advice and tips on his preference.

Free weight vs training machines - the debate continues

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Many people have a preference for either free weights or training machines when it comes to toning the upper body - is one better than the other?

Free weights or training machines (or both). Free weights in one form or another have been around for centuries. Training machines are a newer option but do you get better results from one or the other. The good news is that free weights are easy to use at home as part of your personal training plan.

We asked a professional PT from Abu Dhabi what they think is best. 


Question: When it comes to building and toning the upper body many people in the UAE have a preference for either free weights or training machines and the debate about which is best continues. As a personal trainer in Abu Dhabi do you think one is better than the other?

As a personal trainer in Abu Dhabi I will always go for free weights. If we only take a look at the hormonal response, then definitely we need to give priority to free weights.

Of course, machines have some advantage over free weights but only if we want to isolate a certain muscle. I will always try to avoid training clients on machines. Either upper body or lower body, I will always go for free weight exercises because in my opinion the results are better.

Free weights permit a full range of motion which leads to recruiting more muscle fibers; this in turn leads to a higher secretion of muscle building hormones.

The problem with training machines is that you will outgrow them very fast and after a while you will not see any progress.


Flexibility when it comes to targeting muscle groups


Question: Do training machines like Lat Pull-Downs and Chest Press offer the same flexibility to target individual muscle groups like free weights can?

In my opinion, NO. If we take a look at the bodybuilding legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, his trademark was a huge chest. One of the ways he achieved that was with Dumbbell flys (free weight exercise), because when he was doing flys he was able to achieve a huge range of motion which would be too restrictive on a weight machine.

IF you want to develop chest muscles, then go for free weights. If you take dumbbells you can reach a full range of motion in which you will be able to train and stress your pecs in many different angles.

Stress on the muscle is required in order to stimulate growth.

Free weight exercises in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will give you more flexibility and variety to train your muscles, creating an increase of stress and therefore development.


Which provides better results?


Question: Do you think that you see better results when using free weight for training in Abu Dhabi and Dubai or are the results the same as machine training?

In my opinion Free weights will give you greater results. Free weight exercises and multi-joint movements are going to give you a much bigger bang for your buck because they recruit more muscle fibers.

This results in a greater stress response, higher secretion of muscle building hormones (testosterone, etc) and greater adaptations in future strength and performance.

Observed from the scientific point of view, deep squat and leg press affect the same muscle group, but what’s the difference?

For example, some research where they compare effects of squats (free weight) and the leg press (training machine), they found 50% higher testosterone levels and 3 times the growth hormone for the squatters.

These compound movements hit more than one muscle and the more fibers you stress during an exercise the more testosterone will be released into the bloodstream.


Are training machines better for beginners?


Question: Machines to tone and build the upper body are more often easy to learn for a beginner so does this make training machines more suitable for beginners and reduce the risk of injury?

Machines are more suitable for beginners as they provide you with support and guidance. If you are beginner, learn proper form of exercise on machines and then progress onto free weights after that.


The pro’s and con’s of free weight training and training machines – the bottom line



Question: Can you provide some pro’s and con’s for both free weights and machines for upper body toning for clients in Abu Dhabi who are confused about which option might be best for them?


Pros of using Free Weights in the UAE:


When using free weights you are stabilizing the weight, which will force you to use other little muscles that you didn’t know you were using.

You are the only one who is controlling the weights, which makes it harder and more effective.


Cons of Free Weights in the UAE:


Well, now it becomes complicated. I will take a risk and write my opinion. There cannot be any cons of free weights – but only IF you are doing it properly.

If you have a proper form and can control the weight then there is nothing to worry about – this is why when starting out you should seek the advice of a professional muscle building personal trainer in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah.


Pros of a gym training machine in the UAE:


Machines have the ability to isolate a specific group or groups of muscle, making them ideal for physical therapy patients that only want to do one leg or arm.

They are also good for handicap people or older people who can’t handle all of the stress of free weights but still want to work out and get in shape. Training machines are very safe.

Most machines will keep you in a strict range of motion and therefore you will have less of a chance of creating any injuries because you won’t be going past your limits.

Machines will also help you control and stabilize the chosen weight.


Cons of a gym training machine in the UAE:


It’s not a natural range of motion and therefore you won’t be using all of your muscles to stabilize the weight. Many machines are also easily outgrown.

As you progress a machine just won’t do the trick for you anymore. 

In Summary.....

To summarise – stick to the Free Weights if you can and if you feel comfortable using them

Find A Muscle Building Personal Trainer, Sports or Fitness Coach In Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah

Want to find a great personal training for muscle building and body toning in the UAE? The UAE Personal Trainers website can help. All PT profiles in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Sharjah are professional coaches who provide training both at home or at your local gym. 

Each personal trainer profile page includes a quick contact form. You can contact the coach direct and they will get back to you as soon as possible.

Use the filter options on the page below to closely match your training goals with the right coach and even select to show male, female or all personal trainers. 

The price for personal training in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and RAK can be found on the personal trainer profile page. Each coach has their own price information and training fees. When you contact a PT they will provide full details about price, discounts and promotions. 

All personal trainers listed on the UAE Personal Trainers website will provide a free fitness consultation to get a better understanding of your health and fitness goals. 

Freelance personal trainers and fitness companies provide PT at home, your gym, outdoors. Online personal training is also an option for many coaches and their clients.