Cardio is one of the most easily accessible forms of exercise. All you need to do is lace up a pair of shoes, put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.
But if you want to balance your fitness and gain muscle in addition to cardiovascular training, you need to hit the weights. For those who seek this balance, questions may enter their heads as soon as they walk inside a local gym.
Should they make their way to the free weights section or the area with the machines? Which one is best? Should you be doing chest press on a bench or on a machine?
The case can be made for both.
Personal trainers often prefer free weights. Fitness writer and trainer Jen Sinkler is of the majority.
"Free weights allow our bodies to move in the planes they wish to move in, whereas machines hold the body in one plane, and that plane might not be the best one for you," Sinkler says.
Emily Schromm, a personal trainer, CrossFit coach and Corporate Wellness specialist, echoes the sentiment. Schromm says that dumbbells, for example, work with any body type and force you to engage more muscles than you would on a machine.
Most free-weight exercises force you to engage your core and back much more than you would with a machine. This is especially important for those who train to improve functionality as opposed to seeking a desired appearance.
While free weights allow you to utilize more muscle groups, they aren't optimal for those with injuries who need to focus on isolated movements. This is where, with the approval of your trainer or physical therapist, you may choose to utilize machines in your workouts.