Yes, You Do Need To Use Weights Machines
Derided by many as the easy option when compared to free weights, Elite Trainer Tom Hall explains why it’s time you embraced the rise of the machines.
Admit it: you look down on weights machines.
The heavy metal contraptions taking up valuable real estate on the gym floor are just getting in the way of more benches, right? Wrong. While ego pushes you to go after big numbers with dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells – a smarter approach to training suggests you need to broaden your horizons.
Whether you’re a total training newbie or a seasoned gym veteran, neglecting weight machines is doing your health and fitness a disservice. They’re powerful tools that promise injury-free strength. Here we reveal the four major reasons you need to press reset on your preconceptions.
They’re A Beginner’s Dream
For the uninitiated, and those not working with a personal trainer, free weights can be a mystery. You only have to idly scroll Facebook to see a ‘gym fails’ video of clueless members attempting nonsensical movements. Machines protect you from this ignominy.
All have pictures demonstrating its use, with a self-explanatory guide helping you to successfully work a particular muscle group. Using this guide helps you to introduce a machine to your programme or identify other movements you may not have considered during training, easily.
They’re Risk Free
With their fixed range of motion, exercise machines — such as the leg extension or leg press — are simple and safe. Put simply, the chances of something going wrong during a machine exercise are incredibly slim.
Dropping the weight is without consequence (apart from the loud clang, that is) and there is no risk of losing balance or other muscles having to kick in to dig you out of a hole.
But don’t let the safe nature of the weights trick you into thinking they’re unable to produce significant muscle growth. All you need to do is utilise slow, eccentric (lowering) movements and isometric holds to make a light load suddenly feel very heavy.
They Hit Your Target
Every machine on the gym floor is built with a specific muscle in mind. Lat pull-down and the chest press, for example, do exactly what they say on the tin – machines are the Ronseal of muscle-building, if you will.
The benefits of being able to isolate a muscle are obvious. You can more easily target the areas you want to improve (finally, a way to get bigger calves!) You can easily even-out imbalances (one bicep stronger than the other.) You can even target weaknesses that will help with other lifts (fire up glutes to maximise your squats.)
The key here is focus. With free weights the risk is that other muscles in the move work harder to compensate for weaknesses, which can both stall progress and increase your risk of injury.
They Help You To Look Good
Every gym-goer with aesthetic goals should be using machines. Why? Because the ability to quickly drop the weight and push out extra reps, as well as to really squeeze a muscle given the level of control you have over each rep, can stimulate serious growth. Plus, you can push yourself with total confidence. There’s no chance of falling under a barbell, dropping a plate or busting your back from poor form. So go for it.
Now, try this heavy metal workout to total-body, build bionic muscle in weeks
- Leg Press: 6-8 reps, 3 sets
- Lat Pull Down: 8-10, reps, 3 sets
- Chest Press: 8-10 reps, 3 sets
- Hamstring Curl: 12 reps, 3 sets (pause at the top of each rep)
- Neutral Row: 12 reps, 3 sets (slow tempo: return over 3 seconds)
- Leg Extension: 4-6 reps, 3 sets