Plate Loaded Machines Vs Selectorized Weights (What’s Best?)

There's never been a better time to get in the gym and start to improve your strength, but sometimes it isn't clear what's best for you. There's a massive community of lifters out there and a lot of debate about the best gym equipment to use to maximize the benefits of exercise.

If you’re looking to set up a home gym, you need to understand what is best to make the most of the limited space you might have. One of the biggest debates for lifters is whether a plate loaded machine or selectorized machine is better.

In this guide, we'll give a full breakdown of plate loaded machines vs selectorized and help you make an informed choice about which is the best for you. 

You may well be asking yourself, what is a plate loaded machine? Well, the concept is fairly simple. You have a machine set up for a particular exercise and hooks where plates can be hung on the side.  

The machine itself helps you to control the range of movement and make sure you're doing the exercise in the right way, limiting any risk of injury. The plates hung on the machine are used to provide resistance, and you can hang as much, or as little, as you can handle. The plates themselves are the same as those you would use on barbells for free weightlifting.  

Plate loaded machines are quite easy to use, and all you need to do is load the weight and then push (exactly how you push will depend on the exercise you're carrying out). The machine itself engages and uses the plates to provide resistance to the user, engaging the appropriate muscle groups 

Plate loaded machines are commonly used for chest press, leg press, and shoulder press exercises, but really are quite versatile. You will see them in some commercial gyms, but you are probably more likely to see them in a home gym. 

Advantages  

  • Flexible
    Plate loaded machines allow you to customize the weight you're using down to very low or very high levels. 
  • Affordable
    Plate loaded machines are more affordable than other gym equipment and can sometimes be used for multiple exercises. 
  • Safe
    Plate loaded machines help you to control the lift and movement, so you limit any risk of injury while working out. 
  • Versatile 
    The plates used on a plate loaded machine can be used on a variety of gym equipment. This makes it cheaper and a better investment for your home gym. 

Disadvantages 

  • Harder to load
    It can be more difficult to lift the plates onto the machine, especially if you’re lifting heavy. 
  • Slower to use 
    It takes longer to load and unload the machine, so it isn’t as useful for commercial gyms. 
Plate Loaded Machines

Selectorized Weight Machines (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

Selectorized weight machines can be found in every major commercial gym. They are set up to target specific muscle groups and use square or rectangular weight stacks to provide resistance.

Users customize the weight they want to use by putting a key, or metal bar, at the level they want for the workout. The machine then engages with that weight and stays at that level of resistance until changed.  

Selectorized weight machines let you control your movement and make it as simple as possible to change your weight level, typically taking a few seconds to move it up or down.

This lets you quickly find out your max weight so you can make your workout count. Selectorized machines are more often found in commercial gyms and are great for beginners because they are easy to use.

The efficiency of them means that you can accommodate more users per hour and day, which is why commercial gyms favor them. They're often used for leg press, chest press, fly machines, shoulder press, and other major muscle groups.   

Advantages 

  • Easy to use
    Selectorized machines make it really simple to change the weight in just a few seconds. 
  • Efficient workout
    Selectorized machines let you find your max weight quickly without even having to move from the machine. You can quickly move up or down without interrupting your exercise. 
  • Beginner friendly
    Selectorized weight machines are great for beginners because they’re so simple and protect your body by controlling the range of movement for each exercise. 
  • Compact
    Selectorized weight machines do come in all shapes and sizes, but it is possible to find some smaller models if you have limited space. 

Disadvantages 

  • Fixed weight range
    Selectorized weight machines usually have a pretty broad weight range but won’t cater for very low or very high weight. 
  • Expensive
    Selectorized weight machines are more expensive, and the weight stacks are only for that machine, so you won’t be able to use them for any others. 
Selectorized Weight Machines

Plate Loaded Machines Vs Selectorized (Which Is Better?) 

Set Up & Machine Structure  

A selectorized machine is pretty easy to set up and only has a few different components to put together. The key thing is lining up the weight stack and making sure it works when the key is inserted.

A plate loaded machine is different but is very simple and shouldn't take long to set up. It will take up more space, though, so make sure you have room 

Strength Gains & Muscle Activation  

In terms of muscle activation, you should get similar results from both machines as the movement should be almost identical.

Many people argue that plate machines give better strength gains because you can load more weight, but selectorized machines allow you to customize your workout more effectively. This lets you work out smarter and can actually give you better gains in the long run.  

Weight Limitation/Capacities  

Plate loaded machines are often used when working out at home because you can customize the weight more specifically. You can put very low weights on when starting out, making them perfect for beginners.

You can also load them with extra weight if you're an experienced lifter. In comparison, a selectorized machine will be more limited. 

Operation 

A plate loaded machine is more challenging and time-consuming to use. You need to lift the plates up on each side every time you use it, and if you want to change it mid-workout, it interrupts your flow.

A selectorized machine is much easier to use as all you need is the key. This lets you shift weights seamlessly mid-workout and speeds up the overall use of the machine, making it well suited for a commercial gym.  

Maintenance  

Plate loaded machines are simpler by design and rely only on a few bars and the plates themselves. Selectorized machines have a few more components, and it's not always as easy to see what the problem is if something goes wrong. Both are relatively easy to maintain, but a selectorized machine may take more effort on your part.  

Cost & Warranties  

The amount you pay for your selectorized machine will vary depending on the make and model, but you should expect it to cost at least a few thousand dollars.

A plate loaded machine is a lot more affordable, and even with plates, you can get a good machine for less than $1500. You also get extra value from the plate loaded machine because the plates themselves can be used on other machines and for other exercises.  

Plate loaded machines are more affordable and are generally preferred by those with a home gym. Selectorized offer more value in a commercial gym, but you should make sure you have a solid warranty to back up your investment.  


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Which is safer: plate loaded or selectorized machines? 

Both machines are very safe to use, but a selectorized machine is safer because you don’t have to physically lift and hang weights on it.  

How do you best clean and maintain each machine? 

Your machine should be wiped down daily and inspected for any noticeable signs of damage. Conduct a full maintenance review every 6 months and make sure all the different moving parts are properly lubricated to avoid any issues.  

Can you lose weight using single station strength equipment? 

Yes, if you combine exercise using these machines with a balanced diet, then you can lose weight and start to reshape your body as you build muscle 

Where is the best place to buy plate loaded and selectorized machines? 

There's a lot of great places to find good quality gym equipment, but our advice is to find a brand you trust. You can see our list of the quality gym equipment brands here 


Conclusion

Both plate loaded machines and selectorized machines will give you a great workout if you use them correctly. If you have a home gym, then it's worth considering a plate loaded machine as you can customize the movement more effectively.

It will be bulkier and slower to use, but it offers better value for money. Hopefully, this article has helped explain the pros and cons so you can find the best machine for you.   

Paul J