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Gym Machines Explained – Give Them the Old College Try

Gym machines–our best friend and our worst enemy.  When you find the one that works best for you, it’s like winning the lottery. 

But what if you are new to the gym?  You walk in and see tons of gym equipment, and you have no idea where to start.  That’s where we come in to help. 

We will teach you all about the different gym machines, how they work, and which ones are best for your fitness goals. 

Want to lose that belly fat?  No problem.  Want to build muscle and lose fat?  We got you covered.  Want glutes like JLo?  Goals, right? 

Gym Machine Me

The annual revenue for gyms in 2019 was $96.7 billion.  Um, that is a lot of money.  There is a reason why gyms are so successful. 

They promote good health and bring people a sense of camaraderie that motivates them during workouts.  More often than not, they also have gym machines that can help you reach your fitness goals.  But which one should you use?

To start, you need to decide what your fitness goals are.  In other words, you don’t want to work on a leg press if you want to get great shoulders or vice versa.  Decide what your goals are, and then start working on those goals with the gym machine that is specific to that muscle group. 

Some gym machines work a variety of muscle groups for compound exercises.  An example of that would be a pulldown machine.  When you use that, you get shoulder, upper back, chest, and bicep work all at the same time. 

A leg press machine is similar as it works the hamstrings, calves, glutes, and quads.  Talk about a full leg day right there.  In comparison, a chest fly machine focuses mainly on your chest or pectoral muscles. 

Chances are before you know it, you will have a favorite gym machine, and your body will be getting stronger for it.

Great, but do Gym Machines work?

Like anything else, you get out of your workout what you put into it. 

A gym machine can help you by increasing the intensity, but you need to ensure you are doing the right number of repetitions to achieve success. 

Remember, you need to choose a machine that will reach the goals you have set.  If you want terrific shoulders, grab that pulldown machine and get to work.

One of the most critical factors is intensity.  Like we said, a gym machine can help you increase or decrease your intensity.  If you are not working out with enough power, the workout will suffer.  You won’t see the results you hope to achieve. 

Try increasing the intensity and see how your muscles cope.  If it feels too intense back off a bit.  If it feels challenging but doable, you are at the right level.

How many times a week you are training is also essential.  No matter what kind of training you are doing, the results won’t come if you’re not training enough. 

Make sure your workout program has an adequate amount of training sessions a week.  A good idea for a beginner is 3-4 times a week and then work your way up to more.  

Everyone loves a good treadmill, and it shows by how many people use them.  The benefit of a treadmill is that it helps get that cardio done. 

If you are putting together a training program, always include cardio and strength.  Cardio brings that heart rate up and promotes fat loss, but so does strength training.  Combining them is the key. 

Help!  I’m a Beginner.  Which Gym Machine is Best?

Don’t even worry about it.  We are all beginners at some point.  We can’t all be The Rock straight out of the gate.  Wouldn’t that be cool, though?

Whether you are a girl or a guy, have no fear.  The trusty treadmill and cycles are easy to use and great for all beginners.  They are also two of the most popular gym machines, so be ready to duke it out for one at the gym. 

Once your cardio is complete, it’s time to hit the strength portion of our program.  Don’t be intimidated by these machines.  Most of them have written instructions on how to use them.  If you are still unsure, ask for help. 

It’s better to know than to risk injury because you didn’t know the proper technique or intensity to use. 

Some of the best strength training machines for beginners are the bench press machine, leg press machine, smith machine, cable machine, and lat pull-down machine.  We’ll go through what these machines do later, so hang tight.

Remember that you don’t want to push yourself too hard if you are brand new to the gym.  Take time to get to know the machines and how they work. 

The intensity needs to be set at an achievable range and not too hard for your first time.  Start with shoulder presses, leg curls, leg presses, chest presses, crunches, and back rows. 

Those are all excellent beginner exercises that you will master in no time.   Try three sets, with ten reps in each set.  Before you know it, you’ll be a pro, but take your time getting there.  Injuries are no fun, and they kill our motivation.

Fancy Some Muscles?  Yes, Please!

We all want some lean muscle mass, right? 

Strength training improves our muscle mass and, in turn, increases our functional fitness, range of motion, flexibility, stability and promotes greater bone density. Hell to the yeah! 

The even better news is that gym machines help you to build that muscle.  Depending on what muscles you want to develop will depend on what device you use. 

Some machines that promote muscle growth are the preacher bench (great for bicep work), pec dec (chest workout), hammer strength (full-body workout), cable (upper body workout), leg extension, and pulleys machine. 

While each of these machines drives a different area of your body harder, they all work to give you the muscle growth and lean physique you want.  Try them all out to see which one meets your needs.

Get rid of that belly fat

Belly fat–it’s our archnemesis that just won’t go away. 

It’s essential to try to kick it to the curb because visceral fat, fat stored deep within the abdomen that wraps around our organs, is dangerous.  It brings more significant health issues as we age.  Gym machines to the rescue! 

Some gym machines promote fat loss in the abdomen.  One of the best is the treadmill.  This is fun for several reasons. 

For one, treadmills are easy to use and great for beginners.  Also, you can buy a treadmill for your home.  If you can’t get to the gym because you know 2020, simply grab yourself an excellent treadmill and get to training at home.  

We talked about how combining strength training, and cardio was important.  The reason is to build muscle mass even as you lose the fat. 

Treadmills are great for losing belly fat because excess calories are expended, which burns fat.  Now add in strength training to build the lean muscle mass. 

What this does is increase the number of calories you burn in the long run.  Why?  Because the more lean muscle mass you have, the more your metabolic rate increases at rest, meaning the more your body will burn calories when you are doing nothing at all. 

You increase your metabolism, and then your workouts are more successful.  We can feel your excitement!

Cycling machines help reduce belly fat, but it’s best to combine this gym machine workout with others to get the most significant results. 

You will often see that cycling is a complementary exercise.  Get your workout going on the treadmill, and then jump on the bike for a bit.  The results you see will be astounding.

Free Weight Training vs. Machine Training

There are probably a lot of you that do free weight training and see effective results. 

While we are working out in our home gyms, free weights are flying off the shelves.  There are almost none to be had on Amazon.  We checked.  So which is better, or are they both beneficial?  Let’s take a look.

A study performed on males with an average age of 23 tried either free weight training or machines.  The men conducted these strength training exercises over eight weeks. 

The researchers noted a significant increase in jump performance from the free weight group who performed barbell squats.  Those who performed leg presses with a machine saw a more substantial increase in their leg strength at the end of the eight weeks.  The results proved that both pieces of training are beneficial, just in different ways.

Another study showed weight loss effects based on heavier weight loads through free weights or a machine.  The results showed that with a heavier load, the fat loss was significant. 

The average fat mass lost was 4%.  Those who utilized the lower weight load achieved less significant fat mass loss.  They also saw a reduction in fat-free mass (mass in the body that is anything except fat like organs, muscles, tissues, etc.). 

This study proved that higher weight training done either with free weights or with machines reduces fat mass and increases lean muscle mass.

Gym Equipment – Try These for Great Results

We’ve looked at all of the benefits of gym machines, so now let’s look at some specific devices. 

We’ll discuss what each machine does and which muscles are targeted.

Chest Fly Machine

No, this machine doesn’t allow you to fly.  Good try, though.  Instead, it works the chest muscles or pectorals. 

It will target both your pectoralis major (major chest muscle that extends across the chest) and the pectoralis minor (small, triangular muscle situated on the chest near your shoulder).  This particular machine is so effective that it was rated one of the best ways to improve your chest muscles.  

It’s easy to use as well.  Set your weight to the proper intensity.  Sit on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and extend your arms out and grip the handles. 

Exhale as you bring your arms together and then inhale as you take them back to the starting position.  Stay in control of your movement at all times.  Make sure you don’t rattle the weights at the end of the action.  That might mean you are using too much weight or not enough.  Adjust and repeat.

Chest Press Machine

More chest press exercises.  Woot woot!! 

In addition to your chest, this machine targets your shoulders and triceps—compound exercise for the win.  By pressing the handles out away from you, the triceps and shoulders work.  Then, pulling the handles back towards you gets the pectorals working.

Begin by adjusting the seat, handles, and weights to your specifications.  Sit on the bench and grab the handles.  You should bend your arms about 90 degrees. 

Press your arms straight out, hold for a moment, and then pull your arms back into your chest.  Make sure to exhale on the exertion, and don’t lock your elbows.  Try for three sets of ten reps. 

Low Pulley Cable Bench

Get those lats working with some seated rows.  This machine’s beauty is that there are several different exercises that you can do to exercise those back muscles. 

The most significant benefit is the excellent work of the lattismus dorsi (middle back), rhomboids (muscles between the shoulder blades), and trapezius (upper back and neck).  Since this apparatus uses a cable, you will feel the resistance the entire time.

Sit on the bench with your feet on the footrests.  Make sure your back is tall, and your shoulders are back and down.  Hold the cable handles and pull your elbows towards your rib cage to engage your back. 

Hold that position for a few seconds, and then push the cable to the starting position.  Again, you have resistance the entire time, so you will feel this workout.  Cable machines are so versatile.  It’s a great addition to your workout routine.

Leg Extension Machine

We have looked at a lot of compound muscle machines.  Let’s take a look at the leg extension machine that explicitly works the quadriceps. 

Whether you want to tone your quads or build them up, this is the machine for you.  Before using it, ensure the seatback is positioned correctly.  Your legs should hang off the bench with the knees, hips, and feet at a 90-degree angle.  

Once you are seated, grab the handles next to your hips for support.  Your ankles should be right behind the bar. 

Lift the bar by extending your legs straight out in front of you.  Hold at the top for a second and then lower back down.  Feel those quads burn people!

Leg Press Machine

Back to compound devices, target your entire lower body with this machine–hamstrings, calves, glutes, and quads.  Depending on your stance, you can target a specific muscle with this device. 

These machines are designed to work your muscles while protecting your joints.  We like safety.  This machine is one of the most effective for getting you a bigger butt.  Look out, JLo.  We are coming for you!

Start by sitting on the bench and put your feet on the platform in front of you.  Make sure you are at a 90-degree angle with your feet, hips, and knees.  Hold the handles down by your hips and slowly push your feet into the platform. 

You will extend your body until your legs are straight.  Don’t lock your knees at the top of the movement.  Slowly, lower back down by bending your knees.  Keep going.  You got this.

Lat Pulldown Machine

Does anyone want to try a pull-up?  If so, this machine could help you do it. 

Engaging your lats, shoulders, and biceps, this machine will give you the back strength that you need to make those pull-ups a reality.  Can you say beast mode?

Sit on your bench and reach up and grab the bar above you.  Pull the bar down towards your chest and feel those back muscles engage. 

Press the bar back up slowly and repeat.  Like every exercise we have shown, make sure you are controlling the movement.  

Calf Raise Machine

We’ve discussed how to work most of your leg muscles, but what about your calves?  Have no fear. 

There’s a machine for that as well, and you will feel it.  It’s that machine that has the pads that sit on your shoulders.  Did you always wonder how that machine works?  Well, you are going to find out.

Adjust the shoulder pads to the right height.  Your knees should be bent as you position yourself underneath the shoulder pads. 

Place the balls of your feet on the stand with your heels hanging off of the end.  Straighten your legs and push up onto your toes. 

Lower back down and let your heels go below the bar.  You should feel this in the gastrocnemius (larger calf muscle).  Watch that bulge of muscle become more pronounced the more you do these exercises.

Seated Leg Curl Machine

Just when you thought we were done with the legs, there’s more work to be done. 

The seated leg curl machine is the opposite of the leg extension machine.  Instead of focusing on your quads, it’s time to focus on your hamstrings.  You will also get some work with your glutes as well.

Ensure that the seat is situated correctly to get the maximum support for your lower back. 

The top bar should be resting right above your knees on your quads.  Place your feet on the other bar, legs straight with your toes pointed up, and the bar under your ankles. 

Slowly sweep your legs underneath you and feel the contraction in your hamstrings and glutes.  Pause at the bottom with your hips, knees, and feet at 90 degrees, and then lift the bar back up.  Like always, lather, rinse and repeat.  

Gym Machines Information Galore

Hopefully, this has been beneficial to you for the next time you are at the gym or if you are thinking about purchasing some gym equipment at home. 

Either way, you know what you need to get based on your current goals.  No more feeling intimidated by the gym when you go. 

Walk in there like you own the place, grab a machine, and get to work.

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Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.

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