Selectorized Versus Free Weight

When you're designing the next stages of your fitness center, you find yourself faced with the big question: Are Selectorized Machines better than Free Weight? Unfortunately, there's no straight answer, but this quick blog should give you a decent idea of which is better for you. Before proceeding, make sure you have an idea of your average user, and your facility. Is this area supervised or unsupervised, is your average user experienced or a newcomer, what's their age and starting fitness level? What is best for “you” may not be what is best for a facility. When making this decision, understanding the pro’s and con’s are important when applying them to the user demographic. Liability is something very important to consider in unsupervised facilities as well as the education of your user. If you're shopping for your home, the answers are probably "unsupervised, and your own level" (and it may be best to answer our 11 New Customer Questions.

Selectorized: 1. Unsupervised Facilities: Building off the "Safety" aspect, making sure your facility is safe from a liability issue is essential. In unsupervised facilities, selectorized is the right choice 9/10 time; the safety of the machine and the ease of use mean that trainers don't need to constantly watch users. Also, other users won't be asked for spots, help with liftoffs, or other general disruption. As a bonus, they work well in supervised facilities too! Teaching users how to execute advanced movements on machines builds credibility and retention.

2. Learning Curve: For first time users, it's difficult (but not impossible) to get selectorized machines wrong. With their placards explaining the exercise, the muscles activated, and proper positioning, new users can often enter a machine and start engaging in a safe effective workout with little to no coaching.

3. Barrier to Entry: As stated above in the "Development" section of free weights, using free weights engage more than simply the intended muscles. If an individual doesn't have those muscles developed, however, they may need more targeted training to train in the safest, most effective way.

4. Better ROM Feedback: Range of Motion (or ROM) is important for all exercises, it's the principle of extending your arms during a pull-up, touching the bar to your chest during a bench press, or making your legs parallel to the floor for a squat. In this case, however, the feedback we're referring to is actually built into the machine. The machines allow for assistance during the more difficult portion of the motion so the weight stays constantly challenging even when the muscles are reaching their limits.

(This is an example that allows better ROM feedback for a Cybex Glute machine.)

5. Fuller ROM: While we're talking about ROM, machines allow not only better feedback, but a better actual range. The idea is that when using the machine properly, and moving from the starting position to the final position, the full ROM has been achieved. This means users don't need to check their leg-curl form in a mirror, they only need to lock in and move their legs from start, to finish, back to start in a slow and controlled fashion, and they've completed their full ROM.

6. Rehab Options: In rehabilitation clinics, smaller muscle training is not only possible, but at times mandatory. With selectorized equipment, training small muscles recovering from surgery, strains, or other damage is possible in ways that free weights may not allow.

7. Safety: This one is just a no-brainer. When operating the equipment properly, it becomes almost difficult to harm yourself. There's no bar to drop on your chest or head, no falling dumbbells to crush toes, and no clips popping off or bars flying everywhere.

8.Exclusivity: When it comes to certain muscles, machines are the only option: leg extensions, leg curls, and hip adduction/abduction to name a few. Sure, you can activate those muscles with squats, but targeting those muscles specifically is all but impossible.

Free Weight

1. Price: Obviously it's a lot easier to get a few sets of dumbbells for $100 to $300 dollars than it is to get even a used piece of strength equipment for $1,500. This also allows for the possibility to sell later on, since free weight hold a lot of value. Also, with the money saved, the options for niche or preferred pieces are a lot more reasonable.

2. Versatility: has a list of over 130 exercises for just dumbbells, and over 190 exercises for barbells. Free weights give options to the users as expansive as the user is creative. This means the more you work, the more you can do, and if you work with someone experienced, you have a whole host of options.

3. Comfort: When it comes to more complex exercises, different people need different settings. For example, your bench-press form is probably not the same as my bench-press form, and with free weights, we have the option to adjust as necessary and keep things comfortable for users of any shape or size.

4. Development: Moving with free weights requires more involvement from other muscles; these muscles stabilize the weight during the movement and develop more than just the targeted muscle group. For example, when doing a push-up on an unstable surface (Bosu, Exercise Ball, ETC), the engagement of the upper/middle trapezius and serratus anterior is significantly boosted.

5. Service: When it comes to service and maintenance, free weights absolutely excel; the cost is next to nothing, and there are fewer moving parts to check for wear. For residential or inexperienced users, this can be incredibly appealing.


Selectorized Machines excel at:

  • Lower Liability in Unsupervised Facillities

  • Exclusively Training Small Muscles

  • Lowering the Learning Curve

  • Decreasing the Barrier to Entry

  • Better ROM Feedback

  • Fuller ROM

  • Assiting in Rehab

  • Maximizing Safety

Free Weights excel at:

  • Lower Price

  • More Versatility

  • More Comfort

  • Maximizing Development

  • Lower Service

When it comes to the debate of Free-Weights VS Selectorized, there is no definitive answer. Hopefully this guide will assist in the process of determining the best choice for any individual or group looking to make the change into a stronger, healthier lifestyle. Made your decision? Now that you've chosen your style, and if you're looking to create a facility, let us help you find what you need.


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