Don't know how to use the gym equipment? Too shy to ask a trainer? I'll guide you on how to use some basic gym machines! Here are few a quick tips, all machines have diagrapms stating the major and minor muscles being worked on. The first thing to look out for is the adjustment levers, which usually are bright coloured so that they stand out.
How heavy should you lift? The weights should be heavy enough to fatigue your muscles within 8 – 15 repetitions, but not too heavy that you struggle to complete a full range of motion.
Beginners, if you are new to the movements, you can always start slightly lighter and slowly increase the weight as you get more comfortable with the machines.
So let’s begin!
1) Seated Row
This is the Seated Row machine, which basically works on your back muscles. So the first adjustment point is the seat. Move the seat up or down, so that the support pad is directly in front of your chest.
Grip the handles with your palms facing each other. Keep your back flat, chest open and feet flat.
As you exhale, pull the handles and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your elbows bent, point back. Hold for 2 seconds, inhale and slowly release to the starting position.
Avoid spreading your elbows to your sides. Don’t let your chest or torso lift away from the pad in front of you. Your chest should always be in contact with the pad and the only movement should be from your arms.
2) Seated Chest Press
Let’s move on to the Seated Chest Press Machine. The major muscle worked on is your chest muscle, and the secondary muscles are your shoulders and triceps. Adjust the seat height up or down so that the handles are inline with your chest level, not above or below it.
Sit with your back fully against the chair, chest up and keep your abs tight. Hold the handles with your palms facing down, and elbows bent at a 90 degree angle.
Use the foot pedal to help you initially lift the weight stack. After it’s lifted, place your feet flat on the floor.
As you exhale, extend your arms and push the handles forward. Do not lock your elbows, always keep it slightly bent. Squeeze your chest muscles and hold for 2 counts. Inhale and slowly release your arms to chest level in a 90 degree angle and repeat. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed and focus on engaging your chest muscles, instead of your shoulders.
3) Leg Extension
This is the Leg Extension machine, which works primarily on your Quads. There are 3 main adjustment points for this machine. Let’s start by adjusting the seat.
Adjust the seat forward or back until your back is fully supported. There shouldn’t be any gap when you’re seated. Next, adjust the footpad so that it’s rested on the lowest part of the shin, just above your feet. Then bring the leg support all the way back until your legs are in a 90 degree angle.
Hold on to the handles on the side of the machine. This is your starting position.
As you exhale, extend your legs upwards until your knees are straight, but not locked. Engage your quad muscles, hold and squeeze for one count.
Inhale and slowly lower the weights back down to starting position, ensuring that the stacked weights do not slam but should come close to touching. Repeat. Avoid, slamming the stacked weights. Always control your movements throughout the exercise.
4) Seated Leg Curl
The Seated Leg Curl machine works the opposite muscle, which is the hamstrings. This machine also has 3 main adjustment points. Again, start by adjusting the seat forward or back until your back is fully supported, with no gap.
Seat and place the back of your lower legs on the padded foot rest. You want to adjust it so that it’s rested securely on your ankles. Then lift the lap pad up so that your legs are extended in front of you with your feet facing forward. Hold the handles by your side and keep both feet shoulder width apart. This is your starting position.
As you exhale, slowly bend at the knees to curl your heels down towards the back of your thighs. Engage your hamstrings, hold the contracted position for a second, inhale and slowly release to the starting position.
Again, ensuring that the stacked weights do not slam but should come close to touching. Repeat. Avoid, slamming the stacked weights. Always control your movement throughout the exercise.
5) Shoulder Press
This is the shoulder press machine, which works primarily on your shoulders and the secondary muscles worked on are your triceps.
Adjust the seat height up or down so that the handles are inline with your shoulder level. Again always check that you’re seated with your back fully against the chair, chest up and keep your abs tight.
Hold the handles with your palms facing forward, and elbows bent at a 90 degree angle.
As you exhale, extend your arms straight up until your arms are fully extended but do not lock your elbows at the top. Hold the contracted position for 2 counts and slowly release to staring position and repeat.
6) Pec Fly Machine
The Pec Fly machine is another machine which works on your major chest muscles. The minor muscles worked on are your shoulders, biceps and also triceps.
There are 2 adjustment points for this machine. First, adjust the seat height so that your back is firmly rested against the pad and the handles are at chest height. Next adjust the handles so that they are directly by your sides. Hold onto the handles, with your palms facing forward and extend your arms straight out to the sides, keeping your elbows slightly bent.
As you exhale, bring the handles together directly in front of you, making sure that both arms are still extended and elbows slightly bent. Squeeze your chest muscles and hold for one count. Inhale, and slowly return to starting position and repeat. You should feel a mild stretch in your chest and shoulders.
7) Rear Delt
This machine also doubles up to work on your Rear Delts or the back shoulder muscles. The minor muscles targeted are the lat, mid back and also your triceps.
To work on your rear delt, adjust the handles and bring them close together. Reverse your sitting position, with the support pad directly in front of your chest. Grip the handles with your palms facing each other, at shoulder height. Keep your back flat, chest up and feet flat.
As you exhale, open your arms to the side and backwards, and focus on squeezing the back of your shoulders together. Keep your elbows straight but not locked. Hold and squeeze for 2 counts, inhale and slowly release to the starting position.
Again, don’t let your chest or torso lift away from the pad in front of you. Your chest should always be in contact with the pad and the only movement should be from your arms.
8) Assist Pull-up
This is an Assisted Pull Up machine with is a great exercise to do to progress you in doing a full pull-up. The main muscle engaged is the Lat.
This machine uses counterbalance weights, which mean the heavier the weight you set, the easier the exercise becomes. When the weight you choose is lighter, you’re lifting more of your body weight and the exercise is harder. Start by setting the weight about 25 – 50% less than your own weight.
Carefully climb onto the machine, with your feet firmly on the step. Hold onto the outer handles, with your palms facing forward and place your knees on the padded knee rest. Keeping your abs engaged, back neutral and chest open, slowly lower yourself down with your arms fully extended, but keeping the elbows bent.
Exhale, engage your lat muscles and pull yourself until your chin is above the height of your hands. Inhale and slowly lower yourself back down and repeat. Make sure to keep your abs engaged, and avoid swinging your body or legs. The movements should only be from your arms.
9) Assisted Tricep Dip
This machine also doubles up as a Assisted Tricep Dip. The major muscle will of course be your triceps and the minor muscles are the chest and also shoulders.
For this exercise, grip the lower bar handles with your palms facing each other. Then slowly lower yourself down, until your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle.
As you exhale, use your triceps, to push yourself up. Extending your arms straight, but still keeping a slight bent at the elbows and pointed back. Avoid spreading your elbows out to the side, always keep them pointed back, close to your body. Again, make sure to keep your abs engaged, and avoid swinging your body or legs. The movements should only be from your arms.
10) Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
One of my favourite machines to work on the abs is the Captain’s Chair Leg Raise. It’s a great machine to hit every part of the core. The secondary muscles worked on are the hip flexors and also quads.
So get onto the machine, rest your forearms and elbows on the support pads and hold the bars firmly. Your back should be pressed against the back rest and your feet on the lower supports.
Once in position, lift your feet and letting them hang straight down. Keeping your legs straight and together, lift them in front of you, parallel to the floor. Then slowly lower them down and repeat. Tighten and engage your core throughout the exercises. For an easier version, you can start by bending your knees and bringing them close to your chest. As you progress, then straight your legs.
Start by perform each of the exercise for 8 – 15 reps, and aim for 2 – 3 sets with a 30 – 60 secs rest in between. Keep track of your workout and you can slowly progress by
- increasing the weight
- reducing the rest time
- or increasing each exercise it to 3 – 4 sets
Remember proper form is extremely important so always check that you’re performing the exercise in the correct manner.