Are gym machines a waste of time?

gym-machines-guide
When it comes to working out, time is definitely of the essence. You can spend a lot less time toning up and burning more calories if you choose the right piece of equipment.
So whether you are a beginner or a regular gym goer, keep reading to find out which cardio and resistance machines are good for you and your fitness goals.

Let’s start with resistance machines.

There is something quite particular about them. While some people have strong opinions against them, others give them an unconditional love.

But things don’t have to be that radical. In fact, I believe a mix of functional training and machines is the best approach.

Free weights are the bedrock of strength and conditioning while selected machines can help you to strengthen any weak spot that you may have.

If you are a beginner or new to the gym, resistance equipment can help you to target certain muscle groups in a controlled and safe manner. Similarly, if you are recovering from an injury, machines can help you to go back to a fitness routine and strengthen the affected and surrounding areas safely.

However, if you only use machines, you will lack of functional fitness, which can translate into injuries outside the gym.

So which machines are worth your time?

If you are new to the gym, here are some of the machines you may want to consider:

Chest press

This machine is a great way to start off training your chest and your upper body. It simplifies the movement, allowing you to tone up your chest, triceps and deltoids with more control.

Tip: Always start with a light weight so you maintain proper form while allowing enough resistance to fatigue your muscles. Depending on your level, aim for 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions. Then as you get stronger, increase the weight little by little.

gym-machines-chest-press-guide

Cable machine

It’s one of the most versatile piece of equipment in the gym and a real-time saver. It allows you to work multiple muscles and angles on one machine. Therefore, you can move from biceps curls, to hip extensions or lat pull downs and complete your workout in less time.

cable-machine-gym-guide

Leg press

It is a great way to add volume to major lower body muscles without risking failure under the bar. You may also find it useful if you are coming back from an injury and need a safer way to strengthen your glutes, quads or hamstrings.

The leg press is fairly easy to use. All you have to do us is adjust the seat height and keep your knees and hips in line with each other.

Not all resistance equipment provides the same level support and some are better worth to be avoided.

The resistance machines to avoid

Abdominal crunch machine

 The problem with this machine is that it only isolates your abdominals so that you end up using your arms, shoulders, and legs to assist the movement, rather than developing your core strength.

Instead, you can try a variety of functional exercises such as hanging leg raises, plank variations or push ups will actually work your core and engage all your muscles more effectively.

 Abductor and adductor machines

Also known as the inner/outer thigh, they are popular among many women in the gym. However, they don’t actually reduce body fat or slim your thighs.

If you want to tone up your quadriceps and your thighs, try single leg squats instead. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 sets on each leg and you’ll feel the burn. Once you are more comfortable with the exercise, use dumbbells to increase the intensity.

Leg extension machine

Yes you may feel that quad burn but you will also end up putting a lot of stress on the knee joint, which may lead to develop or increase knee pain.

If you want to strengthen your quads, you’d better off doing functional exercises such as front squats or the Bulgarian split-squat.

What about cardio machines?

There are huge variety of them but not all provide the same level of efficiency. If you want to burn as many as calories in a short amount of time, you may want to focus on certain machines. Here are my top 3:

Treadmill

According to a study of the Journal of American Medical Association, the treadmill has the highest rate of energy expenditure compared to other indoor cardio machines.

It’s also one of the easiest equipment to use. Press the start button, adjust the speed or the incline and you are good to go!

To burn more calories, add interval training of 10 to 30 minutes into your treadmill session. You can do this by alternating rounds of walking/jogging at a moderate pace with shorter rounds of running at a much faster rate.

For instance, if you are a beginner, you can start out with 30s of moderate intensity jogging followed by 30s of recovery time and repeat again.

Make sure you always start your workout by a 5-minute walking or jogging warm up before you progress to the interval training. Then finish your session with a 5-minute walking cool down.

treadmill-gym-machine-guide

Stair mill

Your cardio and your booty will love it. The stair mill provides a low impact cardio workout while engaging very major muscle in your lower body. Therefore, it makes you work hard without being hard on you.

Tip: To make your workout as effective as possible, avoid leaning or supporting too much of your upper body on the handles.

Rowing machine

It makes a great low impact full body warm up but can be also hard as hell as a main workout. 20 to 30 minutes of intervals on the rowing machine will torch a lot of calories.

Pay particular attention to your technique to make the most of it. Sit upright, chest lifted then drive movement by using the following action: legs extend, arms bend, arms extend, legs extend and keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows at the ends of your range. If in doubt, ask a trainer.

gym-machine-rower-guide

While some cardio machines may be useful to help you lose weight, others are not just as effective. Here are 3 machines that are not worth your time.

The cardio machines to avoid

Recumbent bike

It may be great to read a book or a TV series but not if you are looking to torch major calories. The machine only engages your legs leaving your core and upper body dormant. So unless you increase the resistance substantially, you’ll burn much less calories than if using a spin bike.

Elliptical bike

Sure, it may be fun to use but it also makes your body move in an unnatural pattern. Therefore, it is not as effective at burning calories.

If you are looking for a fun alternative, why not trying the Airdyne bike? This will make you work hard in no time.

 ARC Trainer

It is low-impact and is safer to use than elliptical machines for people at risk for lower-body injury. However, its fixed pattern can be awkward and doesn’t fit all people including smaller individuals.

If your knees are so bad that you can’t run, use a spin bike instead.  You will burn more calories while putting less pressure on your joints.

Now that you are more informed, try one of these machines and see which ones is the most effective for your goals!

 

28 Comments
  1. Ajay chander says:

    Thank you for this wonderful info. I am very keen to try the cable machine!

  2. Annaleid says:

    I love this blogpost! Thank you for sharing all this knowledge about gym equipment! I really loved reading this:)
    xoxo Annaleid

    1. repnpepper says:

      Thank you Annaleid. I’m glad you found this useful!xo

  3. Wilbs says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time on machines for various reasons throughout my athletic career and I definitely agree with your recommendations and suggestions. Also, your photos are amazing, love xx

    1. repnpepper says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment Wilbs! That’s so sweet of you!xxx

  4. This article is filled with lot of useful information. The only thing that got my mind stuck is the Leg Extension. Is it really true that it is responsible for knee pain because I tend to do it and enjoy doing it during my leg days?

    1. repnpepper says:

      Thanks for your comment Sayanti. It’s best to avoid the Leg Extension if you have knee pain or a ligament injury. You can tone up your quads more effectively by doing squats or single leg squats. I hope this helps. 🙂

  5. Aurora says:

    amazing insights! really great information! thank you very much for this 🙂

    1. repnpepper says:

      No worries Aurora 🙂

  6. Manilyn says:

    Thanks for this post. Usually I’m only using the treadmill. I want a machine that can enhance the hips.

    1. repnpepper says:

      Hi Manilyn. Yes, the treadmill is great for cardio. It is best to use a combination of machine and body weight exercises that target multiple muscle groups. Deadlifts and squats for instance, are really good at strengthening your hips, glutes, quads and harmstrings. And if you really want to use a machine, the leg press would be a good one to try. I hope this helps! 🙂

  7. Ankit says:

    Good insight.. quite informative.. will take care of this from now onwards

    1. repnpepper says:

      Thanks Ankit!I’m glad you found that useful!

  8. Nichola says:

    Very informative thank you. There are so many machines in gyms it’s hard to know which is actually going to work your muscles and body.

  9. Aldina says:

    Nice post. I always feel lost in gym. This comes in handy. Thanks

    1. repnpepper says:

      No worries! Let me know if you have any further questions and I’d be happy to help 🙂

  10. Maria says:

    To be honest I really don’t like going to the gym but funny enough, whenever I go do some machine workouts always keep away from the elliptical and the only lifting machines that I like are the chest press and the ropes!
    Happy to have come across your post 😉

    1. repnpepper says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment Maria. The chest press is an excellent choice! 🙂

  11. Oh i’m bookmarking this post as i’ve just joined the gym again and this is so helpful!
    It’s good to know that my ‘back to the gym’ routine is the treadmill, step machine and the rowing machine which seem to be all good ones.

  12. Time for the treadmill. thanks for the valuable info.

  13. Thank you for sharing. I have never really taken a trip to the gym but if I do I know exactly what machines will benefit me.

  14. Some great tips and advice here for people who can use the gym.

  15. Thank You for sharing this great information.

  16. Sam says:

    Wow, I’ve really been doing this gym life all wrong lol. Great post, I definitely will be taking this into consideration when planning my workouts.

    1. repnpepper says:

      Hahaha it’s never too ate to make some changes indeed! Let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

  17. vikash says:

    Very Useful article.
    Thanks for sharing this information

  18. Lola says:

    Great tips there – I use most of the effective ones! x

    1. repnpepper says:

      Thank you Lola. I’m glad to hear this!

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