Should You Use Free Weights or Machines?

If you walk into most gyms, you’re most likely to see shelves filled with free weights or kettle bells lined up against a large mirror, and the rest of the space taken up by larger weight machines. More likely than not, both will be in heavy use. If you’re newer to weight training, you may be wondering whether to start with those free weights or to wait for your turn on a machine. More experienced gym goers, likewise, may be wondering which method of weight training is more effective towards their goals.

The answer isn’t always cut-and-dry, and the methods you focus on will depend on your weight training goals. Below we’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of free weights vs. weight machines; read on to see where each technique shines as well as their shortcomings.

Ease of Use

Machines win out in this category, as the diagrams they provide and the fact that they strictly limit your movement make it easy to intuitively figure out how to safely use them. Free weight techniques, on the other hand, require practice to nail the form, and improper technique could easily lead to injury.


When it comes to building strength for practical purposes, free weights are what you should choose. Machines target large muscle groups but neglect smaller, stabilizing muscles required for most real-life activities. Training these stabilizing muscles are especially important for athletes to avoid injury.

Muscle Isolation

Machines make it easier to target specific large muscle groups, which can be ideal for rehabilitating injuries or building size in stronger muscle groups. Although this also means that you can only target a single group per machine, whereas most free weight techniques target a wide range of muscles at once.


Once again, there’s no clear winner here. Free weights are portable and can be used anywhere and, as their name suggests, they allow for more freedom in workout variation due to their versatility. High-resistance free weight workouts like squats or bench press require a trainer or at least a spotter, however, whereas most machines can be used by yourself.


Finally, if you’re thinking of buying your own equipment, free weights will be much easier on your wallet. Even a broad range of weights won’t run you nearly as much as some of the more expensive machines.

As you can see, a combination of both free weights and machines is ideal for most people, which is why most gyms come equipped with both. But based on your individual needs, you may benefit from one technique over the other. More importantly, if you’re unsure which training techniques are best for you, the best piece of advice is always to ask a personal trainer to avoid injury!

Choosing the Right Cardio for You

There are certain kinds of exercise that will lead to more muscle gain, fat loss, or dexterity than others, no contest about that. But just because not all exercises have the same results, doesn’t mean there is one that everyone should do. But a great philosophy to have when you are choosing your activity is to choose the one you enjoy the most. Why is that? Because doing the most intense exercise once is not any better than doing an exercise you like that you will do several times a week. Some people like to be inside, some like to constantly see new sights outdoors, it all depends what you enjoy.

Cardio can be broken down into high-intensity and high-volume exercises. It can be very helpful, whichever you choose, to pick an exercise that you really enjoy. High-intensity like sprinting leads to exponentially more muscle gain and even fat burning, but low-intensity can be more relaxing, and with enough time, does indeed equal out to intense training. In fact, sprinting is almost as effective as squatting when it comes to building leg muscle. Swimming can be done either way, as can biking. Biking on a mountain or racing leads to great gains, as does swimming sprints. But if you are going to do sprints, you will need to take breaks between them. Jogging can be helpful, but it is more helpful when you run in an environment that has differences. Meaning hills, different types of running surfaces.

There’s a wide variety sports that you should consider choosing, but one drawback is that you need to actually to know a group of people to play with. Soccer or baseball/softball generally requires large teams, and it is recommended that you join an intramural or pickup team to find an active group. Basketball and tennis, for example, can be done 1v1 or in larger groups. Sand volleyball is a great one to play when you do not have a team prepared in advance as most courts in public areas have steady participation. But sports have that competitive angle that leads to increased interest. The more interested you are, the more likely you will keep going back, week after week.

Some good non-sport activities include swimming, biking, longboarding, kayaking, hiking and more. These all can take you to the great outdoors, something that may be what makes you enjoy your chosen activity more. Biking can be done on the road or mountains or trails. Swimming can be done against river currents, or in a pool. Longboarding can be done up hills, and builds leg strength and core stability. Kayaking is unique among cardio in that it actually lets you build up upper body strength. Kayaking is best in rivers, against currents, but will always be done in a natural body of water. For more advanced kayakers, you can choose somewhere with whitewater rapids or fast moving water. Hiking is essentially a long-walk, with additional stabilizer muscles used. Hiking will always take you to new sights. As well, it leads to an incentive to visit new towns and areas.

Of course, you can get some great cardio training in at STR8 Training. Whether you’re looking for classes or simply want to work out on your own, we have trainers available for questions from 8am-8pm, air conditioning, showers, workout lists and ideas, and more. Be sure to visit us or contact us if you’re looking to work on your fitness, we’d love to help you on your journey!

Choosing a Workout Plan: Strength Training

In the 1800’s-early 1900’s there was the rise of the strongman, the training was not specific, and sometimes training was simply tossing hay bales or carrying large rocks around a field. The late 1900’s was the first time that the scene had started boiling it down to a science that could be studied and fine-tuned for the best results, but it was still very crude. Today, we have a huge wealth of knowledge, and many topics have been settled to some extent. But with the amount of studies that have been done, there is so many conflicting views on the best ways to achieve the results. This has led to some experts defending yoga, cardio, outdoor sports (biking, swimming, kayaking, etc.), low-rep weight training and everything in between over any other method. But, there is no one correct way to work out. The reality is that for the most part, these all have a method to the madness, and the success depends on what you define it as. This will be a two-parter, with part one covering weight lifting, and part two covering cardio exercises, with both going over finding one that gives results and personal enjoyment.

Many of the high-intensity workout programs that have become popular recently, when done safely with proper form, can definitely help one become toned and in great shape for sports performance, but will likely not lead to a bulky strength like Arnold’s. The main criticism is that certain gyms do not focus enough on correct form. Form is crucial to not hurting yourself and gaining muscles. There is a lot of great, practical strength routines one can gain from doing these types of workouts. You’ll stretch, you’ll do cardio, you’ll do some weightlifting, truly it is an all around program. Any exercise routine based on using a lot of muscle groups quickly to push yourself to exhaustion (when done properly) can have amazing effects fairly quickly.

Then there are no nonsense, barebones weightlifting plans that are great for beginners through intermediate. It’s important to focus on safety while gaining building strength, covering all muscle groups, and laying out a path for success. There are several guides on correct form for lifting, going in detail over correct posture, supporting muscles and all in between.  You may want to add in some extra core work and some dips, and cardio on off days.

Of course, if you want professional training at an affordable price, be sure to visit our San Marcos gym. We would love to consult with you to discuss your desires and current abilities to help craft a plan that is safe and effective to help you reach your ultimate potential. We also offer a variety of classes at various times, so be sure to check the schedule and come in for one that sounds like a good fit for you–we welcome those who have only started on their fitness journey all the way to those who are advanced.

Our 1st Summer Weight Loss Challenge has ended

Results are in from our 1st Weight Loss Challenge. $500+ worth of prizes ready to go home! Thank you to everyone who participated.

Top 3:

Duration of Challenge: 1 Month
Pounds + Inches = Points

1. David McCarthy = 22.25 points
2. Carol Rocha = 17.25 points
3. Crystal Salinas = 15.5 points



Saturday Fit Camp is BACK!

Join us at 10am this Saturday for 1hr of Str8 Training. Whether your beginner or advanced, we will accommodate to your needs.
Current Fit Campers, use this as one of your weekly sessions or add it for only $5! If you’ve never been to STR8, come and try it for free! Any non-member who have tried us out and just want to attend on Saturdays the rate is $7.




Check out this #tbt. Muhammad during his high school football days with his Uncle Ronnie. Who thinks he should bring back the frosted tips?? Lol


Teacher Special – EXTENDED

EXTENDED SPECIAL! Just for our TEACHERS, we appreciate all that you do and we know that the school year can be stressful. We want to extend our summer special, YEAR ROUND.

Only $8 per Fit Camp, a price you can’t beat. Classes range from 3-10 people and you are always supervised by a Fitness Pro. Nutritional Guidance is included, classes are 1 full hour, and you get support from you fellow fit campers each time you walk in the door. Don’t wait until next summer, join today!



Weight Loss in Exchange for $$$

One more weigh in today and we will have the results for our weight loss challenge! We are giving away $500 worth of prizes to the 8 participants who stuck with it! Who’s ready for our next one??




Big Shoutout to client, Kristen Gray! She lost 5lbs and 6.5inches in just 3 weeks of personal training with Muhammad. We are excited to a part of her journey, keep it up!



September Special

Bring 1 – bring them all. We want to invite your co-workers to come and visit us this month. Please share with any co-workers you may think are interested, you never know this may be what they need to get started!


Push-Up Contest

Trainer meeting ended with push-up contest. Can you guess who won?


Full lot!

That’s what I like to see! Full house tonight at fitcamp. #str8training #sanmarcostx #fitcamp



Chicken breast, zucchini, and mushrooms sautéed in worcestershire sauce and topped with blackberries.


Testimonial – David McCartney

Todays #ADD1 Testimonial is from one of our newest members David McCartney. He has been here almost 4 weeks, has lost 12 lbs by attending our Fit Camps, and he’s not done yet! He is also currently in the lead of our weight loss challenge. He ran his 1st 10k last weekend and thanks STR8 for building his endurance.

David had lost a total of 110 lbs on his own before joining us, how awesome is that?! He is a huge inspiration to many, way to go David! We are glad to have you.

Dinner is served!

Lemon pepper tilapia, asparagus sprayed with olive oil, and cilantro lime brown rice.