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Physiological Differences between Machines and Free Weights


I don't usually post here but I believe it's the right place to find the answer to this question.

Although my sport is not a strength sport presay. It does require strength and power in excess of my natural abilities.

Due to the fact that I train alone and in the early morning hours. I use machines for all my heavy leg work. I know there is a difference in amounts lifted and strength gained. Between machines and free weights.

Does anyone know the comparable differences between the two. For example a 500lb machine squat would be comparable what in a free weight squat.

This is more for curiousity than anything else. Thanks for any input.


I don't have an answer for you, but I'm curious:

Do you ever do your squats in inline skates? You know, be more sport specific...



Are you asking for a poundage comparison? If so, there's no way anyone here can answer you. It varies so much from machine to machine.


Deadlifts? Squats in a power rack with the pins set just below your bottom position? P Cleans?

I do all of these with no training partner and no spotter... Sometimes in the late evening (after midnight)

Way more fun than machine lifts and I can't see and real safety issue with doing them alone.


Now that would be living on the edge!


Thanks. Yes I was interested to the poundage comparison. Well maybe I will have to find out for my self. I know free squats are way harder to do both form and weight wise. Kind of curious to how big the difference was.

I guess if I really want the answer I'll have to find out myself. Thank again.


Thanks for the positive input. The more I think afout it the more I would like to find out. I beleive you read my mind on the safety issue. I'll have to give some thought to practising my form and investigate for my self.

Again thanks, you've been very helpful


There is no way to compare machine vs. free weight exercises


Yeah i used to exclusively use the 45o leg press and was pushing out 5 reps on about 400kg. Then we had 3rm testing on the squat and I failed on 100kg. It made me realise that although my legs were without doubt strong it was kind of wasted without the trunk strength to transfer the strength.

In my opinion the leg press without having squats in my program was almost entirely useless at improving me at my sport. This my be different in yours though.


When I first started working out I exclusively used machines because I was too scared to to to the 'boys' side of the gym. I was doing significant weight on them though.

When I finally got the courage to go to that side of the gym and try the free weights, I was humbled. There was no comparison at all and I realised I wasn't a weight trainig rock star :slightly_smiling:

Seriously, do what the other fellow suggested and use the rack for squats etc.


Exactly, nothing converts to anything, everything is what it is. If you use 8 plates per side on the leg press for 12 reps, it means you can leg press 8 plates per side on the leg press for less than or equal to 12 reps.


Probably quite a large difference. The dynamics of the two are night and day. If you're looking for general strength and power for an athletic event, I would suggest squats over machines.

I train alone and I still squat heavy. You just have to train yourself to bail out of squats safely. The most common way is just rolling it off your back as you go foward when you're pinned.

If the pins on the racks are set high enough it should cause almost no ruckus (like weights coming down when doing rack pulls). Helps build confidence too, since you know you won't die if you fail at the bottom alone.