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The Fitness Zone

Free Weights vs Machines vs BODYPUMP™
October 14, 2014 | by Brad Higgins

Whether you are brand new to strength and resistance training, or you are a veteran, chance are you probably haven't tried ALL things weights in the gym, so we have asked Master Coach, Brad Higgins to break down the difference to THREE key and popular strength and weight lifting programs and classes that you will most likely see in your gym, so you have a heads up befire you jump into the deep end.


is a 60-minute high-metabolic barbell class that focuses on the whole body. A BODYPUMP™ workout challenges all major muscles groups by using simple exercises, such as squats and presses.

An instructor controls the exercises and uses a variety of music tracks to keep you motivated. BODYPUMP™ helps introduce beginners to weight training and can also help challenge the more experienced gym-goer. Classes are run all over the globe, so no matter where you live or where you travel you can continue your training with a BODYPUMP™ class.

Because a BODYPUMP™ class consists of high repetitions of exercises with very little rest, it is more similar to a high intensity endurance session. If you are looking for more hypertrophy or to gain strength then a more specific weight-training program could be more productive. In a group setting such as a BODYPUMP™ class, it can be difficult for the instructor to give attention to everybody and therefore exercises may be done with improper form, which could set you up for injury.

Free-weight training…

is using an external weight, such as a barbell or dumbbell, which is not attached to another structural device. Using free weights can keep variety and fun in your workout. Free weights can be used at the gym, home and outside because they are easy to move around.

Free-weighted exercises usually mimic everyday movements, which is a more functional way of training. However, free weights can require more coordination and control than machine-based exercises, which help guide you through the movement. This make free-weight training challenging and knowledge of proper form is important to prevent injury. When lifting heavy with free weights, it’s often a good idea to have a spotter.

Machine-based equipment…

uses a stack of weight for resistance controlled by pulleys, cables, gears or cams. A machine-based exercise goes through a guided range of motion, which is great for beginners to weight train or injury rehabilitation. A machine assists with the control of the movement and if properly adjusted it can provide correct form through exercise.

Machine-based exercises generally aren’t functional because they don’t mimic everyday life movements. Machine-based equipment can be very expensive compared to free-weights so therefore you’ll likely need a gym membership to use this equipment.

There are a variety of ways to train and people have a number of reasons as to why they exercise with free weights, machines or classes like BODYPUMP™. Whichever exercise you choose to perform, make sure it is tailored to your personal goals. Remember to always do something you enjoy and always try to create variety in your training sessions.


Brad is the Master Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness Vic/Tas.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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