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Many people ask which is better, free weights or machines. Like anything else, it all depends on what you want. If you want to challenge your body in many ways and develop a balance in strength, muscle size, coordination, etc., then free weights are what you should use. This is particulary important as a beginner in order to develop muscle control and a base of size and strength. Machines, on the other hand, provide more isolation work, which really is not something necessary for most beginners. They also put the body at awkward angles which are not natural. My advice is to stick with free weight exercises as much as possible, and add in machines for variety.