A simple google search about using machines will reveal a wide range of varying opinions. Some people swear by machines’ effectiveness for packing on lean muscle. Some functional training gurus will argue against their lack of “real world application”.
Some trainers/therapists will tout them as great strengthening/rehab tools when used properly. Others will denounce them as dangerous and injurious.
I have personally found that utilizing machines as part of a well-rounded strength training program can be both safe and effective for both myself and my clients of every level. Furthermore, I am strong of the belief that if you find a mode of exercise that works for you, and that you really ENJOY – as long as you are safe – no fitness “expert” should ever tell you something to discourage or dissuade you from utilizing it.
With that said, no matter what I may think or other “experts” smarter than I may think, people are going to use machines for strength training in almost every fitness center around the globe… so here are five machine variations that I have used to stimulate the muscles a little differently than perhaps what you are accustomed to.
BANA Biceps Preacher Curl Machine
no, not hunky actor Eric Bana. BANA here stands for “Bilateral Assisted Negative Accentuated” reps. Basically, in this variation, you use 2 hands to lift the weight, and one hand to slowly lower it to overload the Biceps during the negative phase of the rep.
Calf Raise Machine 21’s
a lot of my male clients (and myself) bemoan their ability to develop their calves. Some people know about 21’s for their biceps, but this variation creates a lot of time under tension for the durable calf muscles through various ranges of motions and may be just the shock your calves need to see some growth. Here you’ll perform 7 reps at the bottom half of the range of motion, 7 reps at the top half of the range of motion, then burn the muscles out with 7 full range of motion reps. This one will leave your calves feeling like veal chops.
Heels Touching Toes Apart Seated Leg Curl Machine
I love this variation to really stimulate the hamstrings and for athletes who may suffer from IT Band Syndrome or weakness. Simply by squeezing the heels together while flaring the toes out slightly during this movement, we can effectively remove compensatory activation of the hip flexors/gastrocnemius while also more precise targeting, stretching, and strengthening the lateral head of the hamstring. Give this one a shot. The seated leg curl machine has never felt so intense.
Single Arm Pec Dec/ Pec Fly Machine
this is a great variation to take the pecs through a full range of motion in this movement. The pecs respond well to pulling the upper arm segment fully across the chest. The 2 handed variations of this movement forces you stop at mid-chest because you hit your other hand. This variation will provide a great stretch and contraction for the working side. I also find that it allows clients to more easily maintain better alignment to keep the shoulders safe and keep the biceps out of the movement as much as possible.
Triceps Kickbacks on the Seated Row Pulley
this variation is great because it puts constant tension on the triceps because the cable runs parallel to the upper arm segment. It also allows you to utilize the bench of the seated row for stability, so you can really isolate the back of the arm. Keep the spine neutral and elbow tight to the body and feel those triceps squeeze!
For more information on fitness programs at Dedham Health & Athletic Complex, visit our website.
-Jason L., Exercise Physiologist at Dedham Health & Athletic Complex