Let’s face it, getting to the gym is a battle alone. So when you do get there, you want to make sure you’re making the most of your 12… I mean, 45 minutes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help to be at the gym if you don’t know how the eff to use any of the machines. Looks like another day of the elliptical, huh? WRONG! It’s 2018, ladies, and we’re better than the elliptical. We shouldn’t have to feel intimidated by the five million Transformer-like machines cluttered around the gym. So here are the six most intimidating machines and how to maximize your workout on each of them.
1. Squat Rack
Ugh, the squat rack. This is often the most intimidating of all because it’s constantly hogged by juiced-up frat stars trying to get “swole.” But, if you’re able to actually score it for a mere 15 minutes, there’s a lot of great and effective exercises you can do. First things first, make sure the weight on the bar is the appropriate amount for your level. We’ll start with the OG move, a squat. Begin by placing the bar on the rack below shoulder level. Next, step under the bar and place it on the back of your shoulders, just below your neck. Lift the bar off the rack by pushing it a little bit towards the ceiling. Then, step back from the rack and get in traditional squat position. Lower the bar by bending at your knees and hips. Then, raise up from your squat by pushing up from the floor through your heels.
Another great exercise you can do at the squat rack is a deadlift. Start with the bar at the lowest position available on the rack. Start with your knees bent, feet hip width apart, and back flat. Then lift the bar driving the weight through your heels. As the bar passes your knees, lean back slightly, squeezing your glutes and pulling your shoulder blades together.
Lastly, try a bent over row. Start in the same bent over position as the deadlift with your knees bent, hips bent at the waist, and back parallel to the floor. Lift the barbell towards your waist, with your elbows tucked close to your body as you squeeze your back together.
2. Leg Curl
This one is cool cause you can like, lay down and it’s actually part of the exercise. When utilized correctly, this machine will work your hamstrings. Lie on the machine with the calf pad positioned just above your ankles. Bend your knees and draw your heels as close to your glutes as you can. Make sure the pad is positioned properly so you don’t feel like your knees are hyperextending, and be sure to keep the movements slow and steady.
Here’s the thing: you probably think you know how to use the rower, but you probably don’t know how to properly use the rower. The rower provides an effective total body workout. When using this machine, the majority of the power should come from your legs, not your arms. Start by making sure your feet are placed securely in the straps. Now, push back with your legs and then lean backward from your hips so that your shoulders pass your pelvis. Pull the handle bar up to your chest, holding the handle right below your breasts, with your elbows pointing down against your side. Then return to your original position by doing the reverse, moving back towards the monitor’s first legs, then upper body, then arms. Rowing should be a three step movement, not one full swift one. Make sure you sit tall so that you’re really using your abdominal muscles. This should be a controlled movement and there shouldn’t be any “jerking” of your body.
4. Cable Bar
Personally, this is the one that always intimidates me the most. You can use this machine for a lot, but I’m going to focus here on the biceps and triceps. For biceps, make sure the handle is attached to a low pulley and pull the handles so that they’re shoulder width apart. Keep the elbows close to your torso, with the palms of your hands facing up. Make sure your upper arms remain stationary as you slowly curl your forearms in towards your shoulders. Hold the position as you contract your muscles.
For triceps, try an overhead tricep extension. With the cable still at the lowest pulley, grasp the pulley with both hands. The pulley should be behind you as you pull it above your head, with your elbows in close to your head. Then, slowly lower the cable behind your head while keeping the upper arms stationary.
5. Captain Chair
For the Captain Chair, you’ll want to do a hanging leg raise. It’s important with this exercise to make sure you’re lifting your legs and not swinging them. Stand in the chair frame with arms resting on the chair arms and your feet on the ground. I’d start with lifting your legs with your knees bent so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Concentrate the power of the motion in your abs and your hip flexors. If you want more of a challenge, lift your legs straight. Control is the most important factor in this exercise, so summon that willpower you used in college during your #springbreakdiet when the only thing you’d allow yourself to drunk eat was popcorn and cucumbers.
6. Chest Press
If you’re done doing “girl push-ups,” then this is the machine for you. This exercise will help you to eventually do a legit push-up… well, someday. Sit on the machine and make sure the handles are positioned at your shoulders, with your elbows angled back slightly. Once you’re all set, press the handles away from your body. Then, slowly reverse the motion and bring your arms back towards your body.
Pro Tip: I recommend you utilize the magical powers of YouTube to remind you exactly how to use each of these machines properly before you get started. Don’t be intimidated by the post-grad d-bags who still wear their letters to the gym. It’s time to make the squat rack yours, betches.
Images: @victorfreitas / Unsplash;