Look at this picture. How does it make you feel? Scared? Overwhelmed? If so, you’re not alone. If you’re new to exercising in a gym, these machines may seem all the same to you–rows of shiny padded chrome torture contraptions. Devices that will either kill you or allow you to look like a fool. Once you become acquainted with them, however, you’ll find that they are pretty user-friendly.
Although I am a bigger fan of strength training with free weights and body weight because they require the use of more stabilizing muscles, machines can be effective, and do have their perks. For one, they can be safer, which comes in handy if you happen to be recovering from an injury, are a senior, or are new to exercise.
Usually, gyms will offer new members a free orientation. This means they’ll show you around the place, introduce you to the equipment and maybe even help you adjust your settings on the machines. If you’re looking to add gym machines to your exercise regimen, I highly recommend that you take advantage of this service if it’s available to you–even if you think you can figure them out yourself.
If you like machines, but are pressed for time, don’t think you have to fit in every single one to get a full-body workout. Focus on the machines that target large muscle groups of the upper and lower body. These machines work the most muscles at once, giving you the most bang for your buck. Here are two of my favorite gym machines because they do just that:
This machine allows people who can’t lift their body weight (ie, most people) to recieve the benefits of the pull-up, which actively engages roughly 20 muscles. Stabilizing muscles, such as those in your core, are also engaged. I like to do a wide-grip pull-up on this machine, but you can also reverse your grip, with your palms facing toward you.
Although the squat is my favorite lower-body exercise, the leg press is very effective as far as machines go. There are two versions of this–horizontal and at 45 degree angle–and both are effective in working your quads, hamstrings and butt.
As with all machines, start on these with a comfortable weight, and don’t increase it until you are comfortable with the technique. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.