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Gym Machines Explained: How to Use Them and What they Are

Want to step foot in the gym for the first time but not sure what equipment to use? If you’re wondering how to use gym machines, then you’ve come to the right place. 

Here at Fitkit UK, we are renowned in the industry for supplying home and commercial gyms with all the equipment they need. We offer a range of new and used gym supplies that are perfect for those looking to get in shape.

Due to the vast number of gym machine types available on the market, we’re here to explain their benefits and how they can be used.

So, no matter your current abilities, our practical guides will help you to understand the different machines in the gym.

What does each gym machine do?

Fully understanding the equipment you’re working out with allows you to remain safe in the gym. 

Whether you’re looking to get into strength training or cardio practice, there are several exercise machine types that can help you to achieve your goals. The key is knowing how each machine works, what part of the body it focuses on and how it can benefit you.

Unlike free weights, exercising with gym machines allows you to target individual parts of your body. In most cases, you should see a small set of instructions outlined somewhere on the machine. Thanks to this, it makes it easy to understand what each machine does. 

Some machines are named after the body parts they work. For example, when pushing through your heels on a leg press, this works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips and calves. Unsurprisingly, all of these are found in the legs!

Similarly, a chest press machine focuses on muscles found within the chest area - pretty obvious right?

You can find out the specifics of each gym machine in the blog posts found on this page.

Which machines should I use at the gym?

Knowing what gym machines to use based on your targets will help you to start working out with confidence. However, your gym routine will often depend on your personal goals. 

Want to improve your stamina? Then the cardio section is the place to be. 

Want to tone and develop your muscles? Then head over to the weight machines.

If your fitness journey is just starting and you’d class yourself as a beginner in the gym, there are a range of machines that you should head for. We recommend starting light, not focussing on one muscle group and making sure that your form is as strong as possible.

Here’s a list of machines to use for a basic, full-body workout:

1. Rowing machine
2. Stairclimber
3. Cross trainer
4. Leg press
5. Chest press
6. Lat pulldown

What equipment do most gyms have?

In most commercial gyms, you’ll find that they have a vast range of equipment.

It can feel a little daunting walking in and seeing everything for the first time. But, once you get to grips with what is there, you’ll feel much more confident. 

Commercial gyms typically have large, open-plan floor spaces. This allows them to kit themselves out with all the pieces of equipment needed for anyone who walks through their doors. 

The equipment itself will also come from top industry brands, such as Life Fitness, Hammer Strength, Precor or Technogym.  

In most gyms, you’ll find:

1. Treadmills
2. Upright, recumbent and studio bikes
3. Rowing machines
4. Cross trainers
5. Stepper machines
6. Strength machines
7. Functional fitness equipment

Tip: If you’re looking to replicate a commercial gym at home, you’re best off opting for equipment that you know you’ll use and will suit your available space.

Are gym machines good for beginners?

In simple terms, yes - weight machines are great for beginners!

As a newbie, hitting the machines is a good place to start. It allows you to isolate muscles during training and with different weight options available, it also means you can work your way up. 

To make the experience as easy as possible, we’ve rounded up the top 5 gym machines to use as a beginner.

1. Cable machine
2. Chest press
3. Leg press
4. Leg extension
5. Shoulder press

Do machines at the gym actually work?

Some people may ask the question ‘how effective are gym machines?’. The short answer is, as long as you’re using them correctly then yes, they are highly effective.

Exercise machines will take your body through a range of motions. With each and every repetition your muscles contract and relax. The machine helps you to follow the same line each time, assisting with your overall form.

Compared to free weights, machines typically require less technique. Once you’ve got to grips with how it works and where your positioning should be, you can keep using the machine until you’re ready to move on to the next one.

How long should you stay on a machine at the gym?

The recommended length of time spent in the gym and across each machine varies depending on your end goal. Whether you’re looking to bulk or shred, or you’re wanting to improve endurance or strength will often determine your workout. 

Your focus will help determine how many sets/reps you do. This, in turn, will affect the length of time on the machine itself.

Let’s say you work out for the recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. Depending on how many days you visit the gym, you may be there for an average of 30-60 minutes. When you factor in a warmup and a cooldown and how many machines you’re looking to get through, you may find that this doesn’t leave you with much time on each one. 

We recommend not worrying about time and instead focussing on repetitions. During each set you should concentrate on form, completing each move safely.

However, if you want a set number, try 15 minutes of cardio and then 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each strength training machine.

Can weight machines build muscle?

Building muscle mass is often a goal for avid gym-goers. If you’re looking to develop muscle definition, training with strength machines can help. 

Beginners may start with machines before moving on to free weights. Strength machines are a great place to start, but PTs explain that they can only help you to achieve so much. And that’s why you’ll see bodybuilders working out exclusively with free weights.

Read our blog that explains what free weights are and the difference in benefits between them and machines.

Are machines safer than free weights?

In most cases, personal trainers will explain that machines are safer to use in comparison to free weights. There are a few reasons for this:

1. You will start and finish each move in a safe and supported position
2. Machines help you to maintain your body alignment
3. You can work safely with heavy weights without the need of a spotter
4. Your body’s range of motion is restricted which means reduced stress on joints