An introduction to commonly used gym machines

An introduction to commonly used gym machines

August 16th, 2018 by


The gym is a great place to break a sweat, up your fitness, and get to know like-minded people. But, if it's your first time to a professional gym and you don't have the guidance of a personal trainer, using the gym equipment can be confusing and a little overwhelming. Some equipment can be complex so it's important that you learn how to use them properly to avoid injuring yourself and to ensure you achieve your goals.

Before You Begin: The Pre Workout

Before starting your routine, make sure that you do a 5-minute warm-up by stretching, walking or using an elliptical machine, stationary bike or Stairmaster. And in between machines, add some cardio by doing jumping jacks, butt kicks or high knees.

To ensure you get the maximum benefits of your workout, start with a weight where you think you can only manage 10 to 12 repetitions, then lower the weight and go on to finish 20 reps total. Since you're doing just one set of 20 reps it's important to keep them consistent, but make sure to stop if you're feeling discomfort.

Machine 1: Vertical Chest Press

The vertical chest press is a machine that works your upper body. It has two long handles coming from above the seat that move forwards and backwards. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you are in the right position. You'll want to adjust the seat and weight so that:

  • The machine's handles come up to the middle of your chest
  • Your feet are flat on the floor, with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle
  • You can reach up and align your forearms with the handles
  • You can do 10-12 reps 

In order to begin:

  1. Sit down with your back against the support and your feet flat against the floor. 
  2. Then, using an overhand grip, align your forearms with the handles and press out for two seconds, exhaling as you do. 
  3. Inhale as you release or go back to the starting point for two seconds. 
  4. When doing this, make sure you do not lock your elbows.

Some vertical chest press machines will allow you to make small modifications to adjust your workout. This can include:

  • The ability to work one arm at a time
  • The ability to adjust the handle width (wider apart handles target your outer pecs while handles that are closer together target your inner pecs)
  • The ability to adjust seat height (raising the seat forces your lower pecs to work harder whilst lowering it forces the upper pecs to work)
  • Different grips that let you work on different muscles in the chest 

Machine 2: Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown machine has a wide bar that's attached to a pulley at the top and is designed to work your back muscles.  To use this machine, first set the weight appropriate for you. Then sit down and adjust the leg/knee pad so that it is comfortable but stops your legs from moving.

  1. Sit facing towards the machine with your legs clamped under the pads, reach up and hold the bar handles with your chest upwards and out. Retract your scapula and arch your back then take hold of the bar with a wide grip. Exhale as you slowly pull the bar down to your chest. Make sure to pull through your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  2. Raise arms back up to release but keep elbows slightly bent. Keep your chest up and back arched. Do not swing the weights back down, instead hold them for two seconds each rep and release steadily for two seconds. 
  3. Repeat until you reach fatigue, lower the weights and go on to 20 reps.

Machine 3: Leg Press

The leg press machine is one of the most commonly used gym machines for legs and has a seat with a square plate right in front of it that you push in order to develop your leg muscles. Again, before using the machine set the appropriate weight and adjust the seat (move it backwards if you're taller and forwards if you're shorter), then sit facing the plate. 

Place your feet on the footplate about hip-width apart with your heels resting firmly against the pate. Your legs should form a 90 degree angle at the knees. Reach down and grab the assist handles to either side. While exhaling, extend your legs and push the plate forward in a slow and controlled movement. Hold for two seconds.

While inhaling, slowly bend your knees and return the footplate to the starting position, again in a slow and controlled manner. 

You may also adjust your stance if you are doing multiple sets. 

  • A wide stance will work your inner thigh
  • A narrow stance will work the outer thighs
  • Placing your feet higher on the platform will work your hamstrings
  • Placing your feet lower on the platform will work your quads

Machine 4: Abdominal Crunch

The ab crunch machine is a standard gym machine for abs with pads and handles on either side of the seat near your head. Before you begin, adjust the height of the seat so that the front of your shoulders rest against the padded lever. Then choose the appropriate weight by inserting the pin into your chosen weight stack.

Sit on the seat and place your triceps or the back of your upper arms on the pads, with your hands just touching the handles above you at a 90 degree angle.

Slowly exhale as you crunch your upper torso and slowly lift your legs up. Try not to hold on to the handles too much or focus on pulling them when doing this exercise. Instead, focus on pushing the pads with the back of your arms to push your elbows down to your hips and squeeze your stomach. 

Hold the curl and then release, inhaling as you do. When you release, don't let the weights clap down; curl back down before they do. 

Repeat until you reach fatigue, lower the weights and continue to 20 reps.

While it's good to have the basic knowledge of how to use these machines, it's always best to have an expert guide you through. Personal Trainers can help you choose the machines best suited for your fitness goals, keep you consistent, and help you avoid injury too. Talk to your nearest Plus Fitness gym today about Personal Training to help you get started on the right track from day one.        

AuthorKaitlin Harrison