New gym members see new fancy machines and get lured into using them.
Gym owners give more space to machines than free weights because members are less likely to get injured by falling weights.
However, the good old free weight is still better than the latest fancy machine, especially for beginners.
With free weight, your body is able to move the weight in a natural path. Machines, on the other hand, dictate the direction. You are not in the position of greatest strength; worse, you could be susceptible to injury, although unlikely. Let’s face it, one machine can’t fit a giant and a dwarf. They have been designed for the average guy. Just make sure you adjust the machine’s seat, straps, levers, etc to suit you.
Free weights forces you to balance the weight and in this way develop secondary stabiliser muscles as well as core muscles – think abs and lower back.
Free weight costs less – you only need a bar and some weights and you’re ready to do a vast number of exercises. The leg extension machine, on the other hand, is only suitable for the quads.
Machines still have their place
All this is not to say that machines are not useful. I particularly like some back exercises as they help expand the variety of exercises available for the back and target the muscles from a different angle. If you’re unable to do pull-ups, then the pulldown machine is certainly better than nothing.
If you’re a beginner, give priority to free weights. The harder you find them, the more beneficial they will be for you. There’s no need to completely exclude machines. Get the balance right and you’ll see success.