Four Weight Machines that Are Essential to Your Workouts

There are many reasons why you need to get better acquainted with the exercise machines at the gym. These machines can bump up your metabolism by nearly 20% for at least two hours after your workout, leading to better weight loss. These machines also provide heart health benefits, as studies show that circuit training twice a week may lower your blood pressure. Plus, weight machines are good for your emotional wellbeing, with one recent study finding that women who regularly lifted weights felt healthier and had a more positive body image. We spoke to health and wellness expert Liz Neporent for her advice on the best gym machines.

Neporent instructs, ‘Begin by doing one set on each machine, using a weight you can lift between eight and 15 times. If you can breeze through all the repetitions, go slightly heavier; if you’re shaking after the first few reps, lower the amount of weight. Take a 30-second break (no more!) between each exercise to give your body adequate time to recover. Aim to do the workout two or three times a week. After two weeks, do two sets on each machine; after one month, challenge yourself.’ So which gym machines should you use?

1. Cable Tower: According to Neporent, ‘If you had to choose just one machine to use at the gym, this is it. That’s because the cable tower – which features several weight stacks, adjustable cables, and a whole bunch of attachments – offers dozens of exercises to target all of your major muscles. With a mere flick of a clip, you can easily go from doing curls to kickbacks to rows. To work your arms, stand facing one of the low weight stacks and clip a short, mustache-shaped bar onto the end. Grip the bar, placing hands near ends, palms up, arms extended, with hands in front of thighs. Curl the bar toward shoulders, keeping elbows close to sides. Lower slowly back to starting position and repeat.’

2. Lat Pull-Down: ‘A strong back will help you stand taller, reduce injury risk, and look seriously sexy in a strapless dress,’ Neporent asserts. ‘Clip the long bar onto the cable attachment and grip the bar with your hands 1 or 2 inches from the centre on either side, palms facing forward. Lean back slightly, keeping your arms straight, abs engaged and chest lifted, then pull the bar to the chest. Hold for 1 count; slowly return to starting position.’

3. Leg Press: Neporent explains, ‘Because [the leg press] keeps your body in a stable position while targeting your butt and thighs, you get an amazing workout. Adjust the seat so the thighs are parallel to the foot plate when you recline; keep the feet hip-width apart. Pressing the feet into plate, straighten the legs; don’t lock the knees at the top. Bend the knees and lower until the weight hovers just above the stack; repeat.’

4. Smith Machine: ‘The chest press is an incredibly effective way to work several muscles at once,’ says Neporent. ‘It looks a little scary at first, but the Smith has a safety net – if the weight should suddenly feel too heavy, you can plant the bar in the nearest set of holes on the frame. You can also use the Smith for standing moves like squats or lunges with weights. Place five-pound weight plates on both ends of bar. Lie on the bench with the chest directly beneath bar, feet flat on the floor. Grip the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, palms forward, and unhook the bar; straighten arms. Bend the elbows until they’re just below shoulder height, then press back up. On the last rep, bend wrists to set bar back on hooks.’

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