3 Day Workout Routine For Beginners: Weight Machines vs. Free Weights

If you’re a beginner who is starting to workout, what’s better to use: weight machines or free weights?

(And yes, at the end of the article I’ll give you a 3 day beginner workout that you start using today)

Walk into any Planet Fitness Gym (or, any big commercial gym for that matter) and you’re bound to see rows of crazy looking weight machines, and racks of endless free weights.

3 day workout routine for beginners

Kind of scary, right?

As a beginner who is just starting to workout, all these options can be downright scary. It’s hard to know where to ever start working out. Before we dive into an actual workout routine for beginners, I think it’s important to talk about the tools you’ll have at your disposal. Namely, weight machines and free weights; and if one is better than the other.

Are weight machines better?
Are free weights better?

Ahhhhh, help.

We’ll cover all that in the article below.

As a beginner should I start working out with weight machines or free weights?

If you’re brand new to working out, and looking for a beginner friendly workout routine, I suggest that you spend a couple weeks working out using weight machines.

Weight machines are great, especially for folks who are just getting started working out.

The reason that I like weight machines, in the beginning, is because they are very simple to use and are relatively safe. Usually, weight machines only move in one direction, so there is a lot less risk of twisting or bending in a funny manner and potentially hurting yourself.  

Starting with a weight machine workout routine is also a great way to increase overall confidence about simply going to the gym, and will also give you a chance to start building lean muscle tissue, burning fat, and building a base of fitness.

However,  after you feel confident about going to the gym and have  built up some baseline strength using weight machines I usually recommend that folks start to graduate to using free weights.

The reason for this is that free weights often challenge the body in ways which weight machines cannot.  

Using free weights are a great way to rock full body workouts. These type of workouts end up burning a tremendous amount of calories and help build that coveted “real world functional fitness” that everyone is after.

One drawback to using free weights though, is that there is a learning curve involved.

It’s important to take the time to learn proper form with each exercise, and this can definitely take a little bit of time. To speed up the learning curve you can hire a personal trainer, but it’s important to learn proper form first, before you dive headfirst into the world of free weights.

So, to quickly recap:

If you’re just getting into a beginner workout routine, then I highly recommend spending a few weeks building a base of strength and confidence using weight machines. After you’ve gotten a few workouts under your belt, and are feeling really good about going to the gym, then I recommend slowly starting to graduate to the world of free weights.

So, are weight machines or free weights better for circuit training?

3 day workout routine for beginners

This is a question that gets asked quite a bit. And, it’s a good question.

Honestly, the answer to this question is yes to both.

You can absolutely perform circuits on weight machines.

One of the most common ways to use weight machines for circuits is to simply select 3-5 machines, and perform 8-10 repetitions per machine before quickly transitioning to the next machine.

Do all the exercises without stopping and then take a short rest in between.

Complete a few rounds like that, and voila, weight machine circuit complete.

Using weight machines for circuits isn’t a bad idea, but I think you’ll ultimately get more bang for your buck, in terms of burning a tremendous amount of calories and building lean functional muscle tissue, by using free weights for high-intensity circuits.

Again, free weights challenge our bodies in ways that weight machines generally cannot. Using free weights for circuit training is a great way to fire up a lot of muscle tissue, really get the blood pumping, and do a lot of work in a very short workout.

It’s worth repeating though that free weight circuits could be something to work up to, but as a beginner there is nothing wrong with starting with weight machine workout circuits.

Can I build muscle using weight machines? What about with free weights?

3 day workout routine for beginners

Again, my answer here is yes to both.

For some reason people think that you can’t build muscle using weight machines. This simply isn’t true.

One nice thing about weight machines is that they make it very easy to increase the weight, and with heavy enough weight you’ll challenge your muscles in a way that encourages them to grow bigger. Yay!

If you’re interested in using weight machines to build muscle I suggest picking a heavy weight that you can only do 8-10 repetitions with. Going heavy with weight machines is absolutely a way to make your muscles stronger and bigger.

When it comes to building slabs of lean muscle tissue though, free weights definitely reign supreme to weight machines.

You can definitely build a tremendous amount of muscle using tools like dumbbells or kettlebells, but I think using a barbell for big compound exercises is the king of the muscle building kingdom

Just to recap:

Oh yes, you can build muscle tissue using both with machines and free weights. Oh yes. And, as a beginner getting started working out I recommend using weight machines for you early muscle building endeavors.

However, you’ll get the most muscle building bang for your buck using free weights, namely the barbell, which can give you something to shoot for in the future.

20 minute video on full body workout tips for beginners

Can I use both weight machines and free weights in my workout routine?

What are you crazy?!

I’m just kidding.

Of course you can.  

Combining weight machines and free weights into a workout routine is a fine approach to a workout routine. If you’re going to do this my suggestion is to use the free weights at the beginning of your workout, when you can focus on good form, and then end with the weight machines. You can end a workout with a weight machine circuit, or even just a few heavy sets on each one.

I’ve even seen people bring free weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, over to the weight machine section and do one free weight exercise followed by one weight machine exercise.

If you’re feeling adventurous or simply want to change up your workout routine, try experimenting around but doing one free weight exercise followed by one weight machine exercise. see how you feel.

Do you like it?  
Do you not like it?

One of the beautiful things about working out is that there is no “perfect” workout routine. A lot of it comes down to experimenting and seeing what resonates with you.

Can you give me a sample 3 day workout routine for beginners, which I can start using today?

Actually, yes I can my friend.

Below is a beginner friendly weight machine workout plan which you can start using today.  You can grab the workouts, which actually has a 3, 4, and 5-day per week option, simply by filling out the short form below:

Final Thoughts

You’ll likely hear people argue about weight machines vs. free weights for all eternity.

Let them argue.

We both now know that each of these are useful tools, and can each play a valuable role in the overall workout journey.

However, when you’re thinking about a workout routine for beginners and how to get started, I do recommend spending a couple weeks using weight machine workouts to build confidence, build a baseline of strength, and help get some early momentum going at the gym.

I hope this article is helpful. Thank you for reading.

Here’s that form again if you need it, and want the beginner friendly weight machine workout routine:


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