Should You Use Machines At The Gym?

Almost no personal trainer would recommend that you use those gym weight machines as the basis for your workout unless you are going through physical therapy or some kind of rehab. I've only met one certified trainer who incorporated machines into her clients workouts as a matter of course and she is an idiot. 

Specifically, she got a lame certification a long time ago and hasn't kept up with current standards. 


Now here's the thing, I am going to recommend those weight machines for some specific populations and then I will tell you how to go about it. If you are not one of these people, don't use them.

People that should use those weight machines are:
1) Afraid of dumbbells/barbells (free weights) and have no experience with them
2) Do not have access to a trainer or an experienced friend who can teach them free weight technique
3) Have a specific injury/condition that requires machines for recovery


That's it.


Now, if you have an injury, use the machines to heal up and then move on to free weights. If you are afraid of free weights and don't know how to use them, start with the machines while working toward learning about free weights.

Why are those machines God Damn lame?
Weight machines are designed to keep you from injuring yourself. They lock you in place limiting rage of motion and (mostly) work one muscle at a time. If you did a similar exercise with a dumbbell, you would work that same muscle AND ALSO work a bunch of other secondary/supporting muscles as well having the ability to move through a full range of motion making it significantly more effective to use free weights.

Okay there? Right? But let's say that you are going to be sticking with machines for a while. How should you approach designing your workout?

1) Understand the God Damn goal.
If you're doing this a couple times a week, your initial goal is not to get a sweet sexy ass. The first series of results will be to recruit (wake up) existing muscle fibers. If you don't do strength training regularly, somewhere between 1/4-1/3 of your muscle fibers become inactive and you won't have access to them on a daily basis. Beginning strength workouts will not significantly build or increase your quantity of muscle fibers, but it will wake up what you have, effectively making you stronger.

Plus, you're building new neural pathways. Your brain is like, "what the fuck are you doing? I don't understand! Let's build a new communication system to figure it out!" And it will. Just give it a while to build.

2) Use every God Damn machine.
Even the weird ones. Because machines isolate a specific muscle, if you only do the sweet sexy ones, like biceps/triceps and legs, you will be creating a muscle imbalance. Only strengthening part of your body = weakening another part. Doing all of them will give you a full body strength and stamina improvement.

3) Take your God Damn time.
Sit down at that stupid ass machine and read the instructions. Go through the motions without adding weight. Recognize how it feels and how you move. And if a douche-bag is all like, "Hurry up so I can work on my left trap," throw some shit at them.

4) Start God Damn moderate.
Pick a moderate weight. When you're getting started you don't want to find your 1 rep max. You don't want to put all the weight on your butt just to see what happens. You want to do 15-20 reps on each machine and this means that you start with a weight that is easyish when you get started. You should get to 15-18 reps before you fatigue and feel about done. If you fatigue earlier, it's too heavy. If you get to 20 and can do 20 more, it's too light. Stay around this weight for the first couple weeks with only small adjustments.

5) Move God Damn on.
Do 1 set of 15-20 and then move on to the next machine. At the correct weight, your muscles need around 3 minutes to recover. Use that time by going to the next machine and messing with the next set of unsuspecting muscles. 

6) Don't over God Damn do it.
Do no more than 3 full sets that include every machine in your dumb gym. Use the first set through to determine the right amount of weight. On the second set, own it like a boss! Like a boss! The first time you do this, it will take a long ass time. You're trying to figure your shit out. Go back to #3 and take your God Damn time.

In God Damn summary:
Include every machine
15-20 reps per machine
2-3 sets of the entire circuit
Weight to fatigue around 15 to 18 reps

This is the best case scenario for the average person who only wants to use machines. In the long run, almost everyone will fine greater benefit and results by moving to free weights, but hey. Got to start somewhere, right?

Get started.