One of the reasons that people are hesitant to go the gym is just because they’re not sure how to use gym equipment and they’re overwhelmed by the fear of looking silly. Well there’s no reason to worry so much, everyone has to start somewhere and it’s easy to learn as you go. The basic principles to remember are always warm up, start slow and don’t overexert yourself, keep the machines clean, and ask for help if you need it!
For all machines, you must first check that they are positioned properly for you. There are usually knobs on the machine that will allow you to adjust the position of the seat, and there will sometimes be other controls that allow you to adjust the angle of the seat’s back or the position of the handles. Getting the most out of your workout relies largely on having proper form.
For resistance machines, be sure to check the resistance so that it is not too light or too heavy for you. Start small if you are not sure where you’re at when it comes to strength. You can always add more weight if you feel you aren’t pushing yourself, but trying to move too much weight to start with could lead to a serious muscle strain. Here are some guidelines to using a few popular machines.
Sit on the seat and press your feet against the flat part of the machine directly in front of you. Bend your knees and place your feet about shoulder width apart, keeping them flat on the machine throughout your exercise so you are not pushing forward with your toes. Stay seated completely, and using your legs and core muscles, push on the platform until your legs are just short of being completely extended. Return by pulling your legs back into the starting position, and repeat. Your movements should be precise and controlled. Don’t just kick forward wildly or allow the platform to fall back because of its own weight.
Position the seat so that when you grab the handles, your elbows are at shoulder level and your feet are planted firmly. Allow your core muscles to keep you steady as you are doing the exercise and keep your back straight throughout. It can be tempting to arch your back as you’re pushing, but that puts the strain on your back instead of your arms. Keep your wrists straight and grab the handles, pushing up until your arms are just short of being completely extended. Lower the handles back to the starting position and repeat.
This is my personal favorite because it works out so many different muscle groups at the same time. While a rowing machine is technically a cardio machine, you are able to apply resistance to your movements for a more intense workout. The movements are a little more complicated than other machines, but once you get the hang of it should be easy. Start slowly and with low resistance so that you can practice the proper form, then ramp it up when you’re ready.
First, make sure you can sit comfortably with your feet planted firmly on the pads. Bend your knees and bring yourself to the front of the machine so that you can grab the handle. Keep your arms stretched out and extend your legs until there is only a slightly bend left so that you can push yourself to the back of the machine.
At this point, lean back slightly and use your shoulders to pull your arms back until the handle is just in front of your stomach. Keep your elbows pointed down and near your sides, and extended your legs to push the seat back completely. To return, straighten your arms first and lean forward slightly. Bend your knees to slide the seat up, and repeat.
Hopefully this information encourages you to try out some of the machines at the gym if you’ve never done it before. Many machines have diagrams with instructions on them, and if you’re still confused you can always ask someone there for help. Check with your gym to see if there are any options to you get started. They might offer a personal trainer who can show you how to use the machines, or they might even have group training classes. Getting started is really the hardest part so once you get over that hurdle, these machines can definitely add a good change to your routine.