They’re the perfect tools for gym newbies
Nicole Palacios, BSc
Newcomer in a gym full of machines? No problem! Discover why using resistance machines is so helpful, while learning exercises for the total body. You’ll feel ready to hit the weights in no time.
Newcomer to the gym? The machines, noise, and smells can be overwhelming, but there’s no need to fear. Once you get used to all the metal and chrome, pulleys and pins, you’ll realize that weight machines can be a useful tool on your road to health and fitness. Different brands may have a slightly altered look or feel, but similar machines target the same muscles in the same ways. Learn the movement patterns you should be engaging in, and everything falls into place.
You’ll see stacks of free weights and bars with plates to load on them in the gym, as well as a variety of static machines. Why choose the machine over the free weight when first starting out?
If you’ve never exercised in a gym before, your body awareness will be less than that of a veteran exerciser. Your stability and balance may be shakier, and your accessory muscles probably aren’t as strong. All of these factors push toward using machines.
The learning curve is steep when you start out, so why have more things to remember than you need to? Most machines have labels with their name (which you can write down for future reference), as well as some tips on form in case you forget.
If you have joint injuries, machines can be safer by keeping you within a limited range of motion. There is less risk of dropping a weight on your foot, and you won’t have to put weights down between sets.
Most machines have seats that you can quickly adjust according to your height or limb length. Changing the weight is easy—just move the pin! No need to add plates to bars; this is much more time efficient.
Just because you’re using machines doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about your form. Using proper posture and alignment will make you do the exercise correctly and prevent injuries down the road. Consider going through a program with a personal trainer to improve your form.
Some of the top ways to keep your form include
If you’re worried about starting a machine program at the gym because you’re suffering from an ailment like arthritis, tendonitis, or another -itis, speak with your health care practitioner. You may be surprised at the number of machines that could benefit you.
Of course, you will want to avoid certain movements (such as leg curls and extensions if you have severe arthritis or an injury in your knees), but you can likely do a variety of other exercises to work the rest of your body. Ask gym personnel if you’re unsure about an exercise machine.
Top tip: Make sure to keep your elbows at 90 degrees when you flex your arms to prevent strain on the shoulder joints.
Top tip: Make sure your head doesn’t bob back and forth when you pull the bar down—keep your spine long and your head neutral.
Top tip: Keep your posture perfect: arched or rounded backs will lead to pain later on.
Top tip: Keep your knees slightly bent at the end of the leg press. Never lock your joints.
Top tip: Don’t arch your back when you bend your legs.