Should you use free weights or machines?

We find out whether free weights or machines are best for improving your strength on the pitch

Free weights

We can’t quite put our finger on why, but there’s something manly about holding a pair of rusty old dumbbells in your hands. Plus, strength training using free weights will not only satisfy the alpha male in you – it’ll also help to improve your physical performance out on the pitch. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning noted improvements in acceleration, peak sprinting velocity and 40-metre sprint time, in a group taking part in strength training twice a week for seven weeks. A further study published in February of this year showed a group of young footballers who underwent a weights training programme suffered far fewer injuries during a season than a group who did no resistance work. 

More after the break


1.“Free weights give you a greater range of movement, meaning you’ll use more muscles with every exercise,” says strength and conditioning expert Mathew Monte-Colombo.


2.”When you use multiple muscle groups you burn more calories, so you’ll get a tougher workout with dumbbells or barbells.”


3. “Compound exercises like deadlifts and squats will also strengthen your core – machines won’t as they’re in a fixed position.”   


 Resistance machines are the lifeblood of the modern super-gym, but can flashy pieces of technology really help you to hold your own on a bog of a Sunday League pitch in the middle of winter? Well, actually, it turns out they can. In 2008 the University of Saskatchewan in Canada decided to put a controlled group through an eight-week training programme using just weights machines and found knee extensor thickness increased by 4.9%. Strength also improved by an average of 13.9% across the major muscle groups that were trained. Even better, the study showed that levels of testosterone – the hormone you need to build muscle mass - were boosted by an average of 21% during resistance machine workouts. Give them a go and you’ll be bursting out of your jersey in no time at all.


1.”Machines are great when a player begins a resistance training programme and needs to build a base level of strength,” adds Monte-Colombo.


2.”Some players struggle to lunge and squat with correct technique, but it’s easy to teach a young player how to use a machine.”


3.”During injury rehabilitation, machines are a good way of isolating a specific muscle group and slowly adding resistance.”

Winner: Free weights


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