If the thought of joining a gym seems intimidating, don’t worry, you’re not the only one thinking that.
Don’t push yourself to the point of injury by beginning with too much weight or going too fast. If you’re using momentum to lift something, then it’s too heavy and you risk getting hurt.
Not wanting to make a fool of yourself by trying out a machine you’ve never seen before, you might spend your time sticking to those two cardio machines.
That’s totally fine if cardio is all you want to do, but for those who want to add full-body strength training to their routine, iTHINK suggests six gym machines that aren’t nearly as scary or complicated as they might seem.
Reps and Sets
Before we get into the machines, it’s important to know these two key terms: reps and sets.
A rep is one “repetition” of a specific exercise. For example, if you’re using a barbell, lifting it upwards above your head and lowering it again is one rep.
A set is a series of reps done without a break. So, if you do 10 reps with a barbell and then set it down, that’s one set of 10 reps.
For a beginner, doing one set of 12 reps for each exercise outlined below is plenty. After each exercise, take a one to two-minute break before beginning the next one.
As you get stronger and more used to working out, you can do multiple sets with a 30-second rest between each, and increase the amount of reps per set.
The first thing to do when using a leg press is to decide how much weight you’d like to use. Remove the pin from the stack of weights and put it back in at the weight you want to lift for your workout.
Next, adjust the height of the seat. The shorter your legs are, the closer to the footplate the seat should be, and vice versa. You can usually adjust the seat using a lever on the side of the chair.
Then just sit in the chair, press your feet flat against the footplate and push the plate slowly upwards and downwards.
This machine works out your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Continued use of the leg press should help you to be able to do squats while standing.
Leg Extension Machine
To use the leg extension machine, adjust how far back in the seat you’ll sit by moving the back of the chair forwards. The shorter you are, the further forwards you’ll sit so your legs can reach the padded bar.
Then, adjust the padded bar so that it will rest on your shins when you sit in the chair. You can decide where on your shins the bar will rest, depending on what’s most comfortable for you. Select your weight by moving the pin to the desired hole.
Sit down and slowly raise and lower the bar with your shins. This will work out your quadriceps.
Cables can be used to work out your arm muscles. Depending on how you use them, you can strengthen your biceps or your triceps.
To work out your biceps, adjust the height of the pulley so that it is near the ground (you will be pulling upwards). Then use the pin to choose your desired weight.
You may have a choice of attachments (where you’ll hold it), which will change based on what kind of exercise you want to do and what’s easiest for you. But you can begin by using a cable bar, which is a short, straight bar with grips on either side.
Set your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the cable bar with your palms facing upwards. Pull the bar to just above your chest and lower it slowly.
To work out your triceps, adjust the height of the pulley so it’s above your head (you will be pulling downwards), and hold the cable bar with your palms facing downwards.
Pull the bar down to the tops of your thighs and raise it back to chest height slowly.
Using cables builds up strength in your arms and will help you be able to do pushups and pullups.
Lat Pulldown Machine
For the lat pulldown machine, begin by adjusting the cushioned bar so that it will rest on your thighs when you are seated.
Then select your desired weight by using the pin. Like the cables, the lat pulldown machine has an attachment that you may be able to change. Begin with the lat bar, which is a long bar (about 90cm) shaped like a bridge.
Hold the bar with an under-grasp (with your palms facing you) to begin with. Pull the bar down towards your chest and then raise it slowly.
Once you get used to the lat pulldown machine, you can grasp the bar with your palms facing away from you for a more challenging workout. You can also move your hands further away from the middle of the bar for a challenge.
This machine works out your latissimus dorsi (back muscle) and your rhomboids (shoulder muscles) among other back and arm muscles.
With continuous use of this machine, you should eventually be able to do a pullup.
When using the chest press, the handles should be just under your shoulders (so at chest height) when you’re sitting in it. Adjust the seat upwards or downwards so that this is the case. Then choose your desired weight using the pin in the weights.
Push the foot-height panel forwards with your feet and grip the handles with your palms facing downwards.
Then pull the handles towards your chest until your elbows are bent 90°. Don’t pull too far back or you might strain your shoulders. Push the handles forward to complete the rep.
The chest press works out your chest muscles, your biceps, and your triceps, and is similar to a pushup.
If you want to try a new cardio workout, try the rowing machine. Not only does it increase your cardiovascular endurance, but it also works out your lats, shoulders, abs, arms, and legs!
To begin, choose the weight you want to be pulling using the pin and the weights attached to the machine.
Then, strap your feet into the footplates and tighten them. Grasp the handle with your palms facing downwards.
To begin your reps, push against the footplates with your legs to move your body backwards. Make sure to keep your back straight.
Next, lean back about 45° using your core strength. Finally, pull your elbows back to pull the handle towards your chest.
When moving back into your starting position, straighten your arms first, then your body, and finally your legs.
In addition to working out a lot of your muscles, the rowing machine is also useful for your posture. It helps to reduce damage you may have from sitting hunched at a desk or computer for long periods of time.
Before working out or attempting to use any of the above equipment, check with your personal trainer as not all equipment are suitable for individuals with medical conditions.
As you start working out, remember to take it slow. Don’t push yourself to the point of injury by beginning with too much weight or going too fast. If you’re using momentum to lift something, then it’s too heavy and you risk getting hurt.
Begin with less weight than you think you’ll need and increase it by 5% at a time. Only increase the weight if you can do 30 reps in your set.
Make sure you’re using slow, controlled movements to lift and lower the weight and don’t just drop it; the lowering movement is important to your workout too.
But don’t take it too easy, or you’ll miss out on the whole point of going to the gym: to get stronger and fitter. You should start with a weight that makes your muscles significantly tired after 12 reps. If that’s not the case, then try increasing it slightly.
Finally, don’t forget to stretch after your workout so that you’ll feel less sore the next day.
Now that you know the basics of using these gym machines, it’s time for your fitness journey to begin!
Hi! My name is Nethmi and I’m an English and Creative Writing student at the University of Birmingham. I write about Literature and Women’s Health here at iThink. When I’m not writing or curled up with a good novel and a cup of tea, I spend my time binge-watching cartoons and trying to keep my succulents and cacti alive.
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