Which Weight Machines to Use at the Gym

man with power rack smith machine

People sometimes find themselves intimidated by the sheer number of exercise options that they have at the gym. First, it's important to know the difference between cardio and strength or weight training exercise. Cardio is sustained, steady-state movement that continuously works the heart, like running and biking. Strength training consists of shorter movements with weights which helps to build muscles. Sample exercises include squats and bicep curls.

Weight machines are generally good strength training equipment for beginners, because the machines guide the user through proper form, resulting in a safer and more effective workout. Advanced weight lifters also use machines to isolate specific muscles and/or lift heavier weights than can be achieved through exercises with free weights.

Popular Among Weightlifters

The most efficient exercises with weight machines are the ones that work the most muscles, called compound exercises. Smith machines (a weight bar attached to a vertical track) and cable machines (cables attached to weights that can be pulled in different directions) are the most versatile weight machines in the gym. They can be used for a variety of exercises and work multiple muscles.

For those who want to work out their chest specifically, there are several machines that are variations of chest presses. Most larger gyms have a standard seated chest press machine, in which the user pushes the weight outward, and a pec deck or fly machine, in which one pulls their arms toward the chest area.

For leg workouts, most gyms will have a leg press, which mainly works the quadriceps and hamstrings. A variety of squat machines may also be available, including a hack squat machine. For more quad and hamstring work, leg extension and hamstring curl machines are effective. To work the lower half of the legs, one can use a calf raise machine.

Weight machines that work the back are typically the same machines that work the abdominal muscles, such as ab crunch or ab twist machines. A lat pull machine, which simulates the effects of a pull-up, also works the back.

For arms and shoulders, there are bicep curl and tricep extension machines that isolate the arm muscles. Shoulder presses, where one pushes the weight directly above one's head, are an effective type of shoulder work. Many of these exercises can also be done on cable machines.

The most effective to way to find which machine delivers the best results is to actually use them. Most have instructions printed right on the side that can help users operate them safely and efficiently. Gym staff or personal trainers can also provide valuable guidance in using weight machines properly to maximize efficiency while ensuring safety.

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