Free weights are the best. Machines allow you to train specific muscles in specific ranges of motion. That is not functional. IN other words in life those are not the movements you need to be fit and strong. Squats, deadlifts, bench press are all functional movements. Your body has to balance and lift all at the same time. Just like real life. ANy good gym should have someone who can show you how to use the wieghts properly. I would highly recommend a personal trainer for a time until you feel comfortable. It was the best money I ever spent. I'd still be with her if I hadn't moved.