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Bearing the Weight of Equipment Use When You Join the Gym

By Martha Michael

Exercise Machines

There are plenty of memes circulating about post-holiday newcomers at the gym who have no idea how to use the weight machines. Though they’re funny and entertaining to watch, the actual misuse of weightlifting equipment can be serious. If you’re new to the practice, be sure to learn proper techniques before launching your fitness program.

Best Machines for Beginners

Most people struggle with confidence when they approach the sea of gym equipment for the first time. But rather than heading for the treadmill to hide out in the cardio section, add weightlifting to your fitness routine because your muscles need strength training.

An article by PopSugar.com says that beginners should start with weight machines, not free weights, because they offer more stability and there’s a lower risk of injury -- but only if you use them properly.

The best weight machines for beginners are those with adjustable seat heights and handle positioning, as well as a set range of motion. Called selectorized resistance machines, they use push, pull, and squat movements. There are many advantages to using selectorized machines.

You can use them independently - If you’ve joined the gym without a buddy, machines are a good choice because they’re perfectly suited for solo lifting.

You don’t need maximum joint function - They’re designed to exert force on your muscles, not your joints, so there’s less chance of injury.

You save time - It’s easy to fly through your solo circuit training because you don’t have to pick up and load individual weights like you do with equipment such as barbells.

You are less likely to get injured - There are no loose weights to drop on your foot and no guesswork about weight loading with machines.

How to Use the Machines

While many new gym members drop out because they lose interest, there’s another category of newcomers who have their fitness resolutions cut short: those who incur injuries. Before starting your weightlifting practice, learn to use the equipment.

An article by VeryWellFit.com talks about the proper use of weight machines.

Read the instructions - Many machines include posted instructions for use, often with a graphic demonstrating proper form. They also tell you which muscles are targeted and how to adjust the machine for your body size.

Adjust the machine - Because people have unique builds, weight machines have adjustment features and if a machine doesn’t fit your personal size, there’s a greater chance of injury. Before you begin, move the seat, chair back, or any other adjustable part, to optimum placement for your height. Adjustment points typically have colorful handles so you can find them easily.

Start small - There’s a reason we use the term “lightweight” to describe a beginner. By keeping the weight level light when you start lifting, you can test your range of motion. You need time to become familiar with the machine before determining the maximum resistance you can handle.

Best Machines for Beginners

If you’re a newbie to working out, either at the gym or adding to your home fitness regimen, here are some of the best machines for you.

Leg Press

Sit and position your feet on the foot plate, a little bit wider than your shoulders. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle so you can press through your heels, not the balls of your feet. Extend your leg until it’s completely straight, then bend your legs to return to the original position.

Lat Pull-Down Machine

Face the machine and place your hands on the bar, slightly further apart than your shoulders. Sit down and place your knees under the thigh pad leaving your arms extended above you. As you lean back, bend your elbows and pull the handle in toward your chest, working your upper back, then extend your arms above you and repeat.

Chest Press

Be seated and grasp the handles at your sides with your elbows bent and angled toward the back. Adjust the machine so the handles are slightly in front of your body and your elbows aren’t too far back to avoid injuring your shoulder joints by overextending them. Push your hands forward until your arms are fully extended in front of you. Return to the first position slowly.

Rowing Machine

Adjust the machine so you can sit up straight with your feet on the floor when you grasp the handles. Your chest should be pressed against the pads. Engage your core and work your back muscles as you bend your elbows, pulling the handles toward your body. Slowly return your arms to the original position.

Joining the gym is a great way to start the year and, like anything new, there’s always something to learn. It takes time to discover your range of motion and achieve balance and full strength, but it begins with proper use of equipment. You’re less likely to get sidelined by injury or find yourself front-and-center in a YouTube video about how not to use weight machines; if that ever happens, the click button is going to get a real workout.

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