I haven't used machines regularly in a long time since they never gave me anywhere near the gains that a bar and some plates did. When I used to use machines at my old gym it was pretty well only the Hammer Strength plate loaded ones, and I maxed or near-maxed all of them, making it kind of pointless to go on. That, and nothing felt worse than a Hammer Strength decline machine - if anything will rip your shoulder out the socket on a short 8" ROM that'll be the one!
There's something I found pretty silly about being able to knock out 360 for 6-8 reps on a Hammer Strength incline and 450+ on the decline and yet could only manage 4-5 reps with 220 on a real incline bench and 275 for a triple on a decline at the same time. Sure, the added weight was an ego booster, but the carryover to other lifts really sucked when I dumped the machines. Once I gave them up I've progressed ten times faster. Some people really do well with machines, but I don't count myself in that group.
Honestly, the only Hammer Strength macines I would still touch are the incline for a secondary exercise after freeweight stuff and the Hammer bilateral pulldown. The pulldown one is still kind of fun to use as a finisher on back day, but all their other stuff I could live without!
Very good point. There are a few factors regarding that:
1. The cable or rope that connects to the machine
2. The condition of the weights
3. The stabilization of the muscles
Theres a big difference in machine chest press and real bench press. Machine stabilizes all the muscles while with the bar, you are focusing on more muscles.
If your goal is to get more definition and or to isolate a body part, machines would be the definite way to go.
Knowing a big guy like you, machines aint got nothin' on ya