7 gym machines: you’re not using and why you should start now
Stuck in a gym rut? Chances are, like most women, you’ve been doing the same workout for ages–and you walk right past the machines that aren’t part of your daily regimen. It’s understandable that you’d gravitate toward what’s easy and familiar, but the trade-off is often boredom and less-than-stellar results (we know, we’ve been there). That’s why this routine highlights the in-gym toning tools most women ignore or don’t take full advantage of. Experiment with one or more of them and you’ll challenge your muscles and blast more calories. “Machines make it safer to work with progressively heavier resistance, something women often don’t do but should, to reshape their body,” says Jan Griscom, an elite trainer at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City, who developed the following workout. Griscom showed us how trying something new can help firm up those high-visibility spots (arms, abs, butt and legs)–and boost your confidence in and out of the gym.
1 ASSISTED PULL-UP MACHINE
MOVE TO TRY: PULL-UP
WORKS UPPER AND MIDDLE BACK, SHOULDERS AND BICEPS
Why you need it Working your large back muscles–with enough weight to make a difference–is hard to do without a machine, and regular (unassisted) pull-ups are difficult for many women.
How it works Select a weight that’s equal to at least 50 percent of your body weight (the more you add, the easier the move), stand on the top step and grasp the narrow handles so palms are facing each other. Step onto the foot bar and slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight but not locked [A]. Contract your abs and pull your shoulder blades down. Focus on using your back muscles to help you draw your elbows toward your sides, bringing your chest toward the handles [B]. Slowly return to start position and repeat.
Look like a pro Make sure you’re gripping the bars when you step onto the foot bar or you’ll sink like a rock.
2 SMITH MACHINE
MOVE TO TRY: PLIE SQUAT
WORKS BUTT, HAMSTRINGS, INNER THIGHS AND QUADRICEPS
Why you need it The Smith machine’s secure, weighted bar allows you to lift heavier amounts with better alignment.
How it works Put up to 25 pounds on each side of the bar. Stand in the center with your heels just in front of the bar, feet wide and knees and toes turned out. Release the locks and hold bar across your upper back, hands slightly wider than shoulders, palms facing forward [A]. Lower into a squat, knees aligned with ankles [B], then return to start; repeat.
Look like a pro Do one squat without any plates first so you can gauge how much weight you need to add (if any).
3 CABLE MACHINE
MOVE TO TRY: CABLE CURL AND KICKBACK
WORKS BICEPS AND TRICEPS
Why you need it Cables let you lift from a variety of angles, so you can mimic real-life moves (like throwing a ball or picking up your child).
How it works Attach a single handle to each pulley, and set the resistance to 10-20 pounds on each. Facing machine, grasp the low handle with left hand, palm facing forward and arm extended slightly in front. Grasp high handle with your right hand; tuck bent right arm to your side and slightly behind you. Step back until cables are taut [A]. Straighten right arm behind you as you curl left hand toward shoulder [B]. Slowly return to start position and repeat. Switch sides to complete set.
Look like a pro Keeping each arm parallel to the cables maximizes your range of motion.
4 SEATED CALF RAISE MACHINE
MOVE TO TRY: SEATED CALF RAISE
Why you need it Strong calves not only give shape to your legs, they improve your muscle endurance during walking and running. The machine shown here also forces you to use the stabilizing muscles around your ankles to keep your feet straight (most machines don’t have this feature, but they’re still effective).
How it works Set the resistance to 50 pounds or more and sit with the balls of your feet on the foot plates or platform, feet parallel and heels slightly below the platform edge. (If there’s a knee pad, it should rest just above your knees.) Grasp handles lightly and pull your abs in [A]. Press against the platform, rising onto the balls of your feet [B]. Slowly lower your heels to start position and repeat.
Look like a pro Let your heels drop below the level of your toes with each rep. It increases the range of motion and stretches your calf muscles.
ROUTINE TO TRY: 20-MINUTE BURNER (AT RIGHT)
WORKS ARMS, BACK, CORE, LEGS AND BUTT
Why you need it Minute for minute, this tall contraption with foot pedals and handles but no seat packs a calorie-torching whallop (up to 1,000 per hour, the same as a very fast run). The arm handles move independently of the foot pedals so you have to use your upper and lower body as well as your core to climb on it.
How it works Do this routine before or after your strength session or on a different day. It’s short but oh-so-effective.
Look like a pro Keep your body straight; don’t stick your butt out.
6 REAR DELT/FLY MACHINE
MOVE TO TRY: REVERSE FLY
WORKS REAR SHOULDERS AND UPPER BACK
Why you need it Many people don’t realize you can use this machine in a couple of different ways, so if you usually do it facing forward, turn around! Strengthening the oft-neglected rear part of your shoulder helps prevent injuries and creates sexy arms. Working the muscles between your shoulder blades improves your posture. Finally, doing the move while holding a squat, versus being seated, adds a lower-body and core challenge.
How it works Set the resistance to 15-30 pounds and, facing the back pad, straddle the seat with feet wide, knees and toes rotated out (just sit down if you prefer not to squat). Lower into a wide squat and grasp the handles at shoulder height (lower hips, if necessary, so arms are parallel to the floor), palms facing in and elbows slightly bent [A]. Holding the squat, open arms out to each side, squeezing the muscles between your shoulder blades, until your elbows are slightly behind you [B]. Pause, then return to the start position and repeat, maintaining the squat.
Look like a pro Even if you do the move seated, don’t rest your chest against the pad. You’ll use your core more and have better arm positioning if you hold yourself upright instead of leaning forward.
7 AB BENCH
MOVE TO TRY: OBLIQUE CURL
WORKS RECTUS ABDOMINIS AND OBLIQUES
Why you need it While you may be a fan of the ab bench already, you’ve probably never done this move. It’s an excellent way to focus on your obliques, those waist-slimming ab muscles.
How it works Lie on the ab bench, chest even with the arm handles, and raise your legs, knees bent and hip-width apart, so your feet aren’t touching the machine. Grasp the back of the head pad with your right hand, place your left hand across your midsection and lower your knees to the left. Extend right leg, keeping knees hip-width apart and thighs parallel [A] (or just keep knees bent, if you can’t keep your right leg straight). With legs in this position, crunch up [B], then lower and repeat. Switch sides to complete set.
Look like a pro Keep your head against the headrest, looking straight up, so you don’t strain your neck and you fully utilize your abs to help you crunch.
You’ll need an assisted pull-up (or Gravitron) machine, a Smith machine, a cable machine with a high and low cable pulley on the same side or the FreeMotion Dual Cable Cross, a seated calf-raise machine, the VersaClimber, a rear delt/fly machine and an ab bench.
HOW TO DO IT
Warm up with 5 minutes of cardio. Perform 2 or 3 sets of 12-15 reps of each move (except #5), resting 30-60 seconds between sets. Do this workout 2 or 3 times a week.
TO MAKE IT HARDER
Increase the weight by 10 percent and do 3 or 4 sets. (Reduce the reps if necessary.)
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DARRYL ESTRINE
MINUTES RPE *
* SEE PAGE 231 FOR RPE CHART.
What Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Means
The Rate of Perceived Exertion is used to gauge your intensity in
cardio workouts. Here’s what the numbers in our fitness stories mean:
RPE 1-2: Very easy; you can
converse with no effort.
RPE 3: Easy; you can converse
with almost no effort.
RPE 4: Moderately easy; you can
converse comfortably with
RPE 5: Moderate; conversation
requires some effort.
RPE 6: Moderately hard;
quite a bit of effort.
RPE 7: Difficult; conversation
requires a lot of
RPE 8: Very difficult;
RPE 9-10: Peak effort; no-talking
COPYRIGHT 2006 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group