As much as I love bodyweight movements and at-home workouts, using machines at the gym is a good option if you know what you’re doing. The gym is filled with intimidating equipment, and it usually takes a few tries to figure out how to use some of it. In fact, even some of the most simple machines are confusing, and you end up using them wrong, which ruins your workout and could cause you an injury down the line. Here are the workout mistakes you’re making on six basic machines and how to fix your form.
The treadmill seems super intuitive, but people still screw up their form all the time, and it can sabotage your workout and lead to serious injuries. For example, a lot of people look down when they’re on the treadmill, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Not only can you lose your balance and eat shit on the Equinox floor, but you can also strain the back of your neck and misalign the rest of your body. To run on the treadmill properly, keep your gaze straight and your chest open. You’ll be able to run for a longer amount of time and you’ll probably be less sore the next day.
Elliptical & StairMaster
The Elliptical and the StairMaster are both go-to cardio machines, but they’re only effective if you’re positioned in the right way. Instead of hunching over and holding onto the side handlebars like your life depends on it, keep your hands to yourself and keep your posture straight the entire time. You’re supposed to feel a burning sensation in your legs on these machines, so if you’re death-gripping the rails to take the pressure off your legs, you’re not doing yourself any favors. The machine is just there to support you, so you don’t have to clutch the handles like you’re gonna fall over. Plus, when you’re hunched over, you’re taking the exercise away from your legs, so you just end up burning less calories than you could have if your form was right.
The rowing machine is an even better workout than the electronic cardio machines, because you literally have to use your entire body to operate it. This includes your legs, arms, back, and abs. So, if you feel like you’re just pulling in the bar with your arms, you’re not using the machine correctly. Instead, think about pressing down with your heels and pushing outward, like you’re standing up from a deadlift. The idea is to use momentum from your legs to generate the pull, and then use your back and arms on the second part to finish the pull. And again, if your posture sucks here, you’ll probably injure yourself, so remember to keep your core engaged and your shoulders pulled back.
Lat Pulldown Bar
The lat pulldown bar can be difficult to use because it’s hard to engage your lats. In fact, most people don’t even know what their lats are, so that’s problem number one. The lat muscle, aka the latissimus dorsi, is the huge muscle on your back that goes all the way behind your arms. If you strengthen this muscle, your back will look toned and tight, and your waist will end up looking more narrow in result. So, in order to pull down this bar using only your lats and not your shoulders, you need to really think about squeezing your back and engaging the muscle before you pull down. If you’re leaning back too far or bringing the bar to your waist, you’re overextending. Focus on bringing the bar to chest height and on keeping tension away from your neck and shoulders.
Hanging Leg Raise
This is a great piece of equipment for ab exercises, and it’s super effective for leg raises, knee-tucks, and holds. It’s also a tricky one because people tend to start doing leg raises before their core is engaged, so only the hip flexors are being worked. Instead, prop yourself up and get comfortable first. Engage your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine, and then start the exercise. Another mistake people make is by keeping their shoulders too close to their ears. Instead, draw your shoulders down and think about pulling them away from your neck. This will help prevent tightness and injuries that are caused by locking out your shoulder and neck muscles.
Leg Press Machine
The leg press machine is basically a squat variation in a different position, so you need to make sure you’re not just bouncing up and down and screwing up your back. A lot of people accidentally do partial reps on this machine, so they’re not getting the full range of motion that they would in a standing squat. Position the seat so that when your knees come in, they come close to your chest, so you can target your glute muscles. Also, avoid locking your knees when you straighten out your legs. It’s bad for your knees and you could really hurt yourself, so remember to keep a slight bend even while extending. There’s no need to get injured at the gym if you just take your time to make sure you’re not zooming through every movement.
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Even though spring is technically here, it’s still cold AF and the thought of going outside to get to the gym is painful enough to put any human in bed for the night with two bottles of wine and enough takeout to feed a large family.
As much as you don’t want to work out right now, warm weather will show up when you’re least expecting it and you’ll be completely unprepared. Like, you never know when the universe may call upon you to wear shorts again. Maybe today, and maybe the day after it will blizzard. Are you prepared? Luckily, we’ve compiled five moves that will work your whole body without any gym equipment required, meaning you can do them all while standing next to the heater in your room, and all your wine will be nearby for an immediate post-workout reward. Do each move for 45 seconds each with a 15 second break in between each one, then repeat the whole circuit 3-5 times in total. Stop making excuses and get to work.
1. Push-Up To Mountain Climber
Push-ups are mainly meant to build upper-body strength, but adding in a mountain climber will give you a cardio boost while getting your legs and core involved too. Start by doing one push-up. In a plank position, (or on your knees for newbies), place your hands under your shoulders and lower your body until your chest is about to touch the floor, and push back up. Then, run your knees into your chest for 6 reps, keeping your hands still over your shoulders. Keep this pattern going until time is up.
2. Star Jumps
Star jumps sound relatively easy, but you’ll feel the burn within seconds if you’re doing them right. The idea is to get your heart rate up while working your hip abductors, which is a fancy way of referring to your inner thighs. You’ll also work your arms by making a star shape with your body as you jump. Start in a narrow squat with your feet together and hands in front of you. Then, explode up into a high star-shaped jump, separating your legs and arms in the air and then bringing them back together as you land in that same narrow squat. Keep jumping until your downstairs neighbors complain.
3. Plank Shoulder Taps
After all those jumps, you probably hate us, so let’s channel that energy into getting super toned shoulders and a six-pack. The plank shoulder tap is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s a great move to work your core and your shoulders at the same time. Start in a high plank with your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. Make sure your core is tight and you’re not channeling too much weight into your legs or feet (tip: squeeze your butt.) Pick up your right hand and tap your left shoulder, then repeat on the other side. Alternate for the full 45 seconds. If you find yourself swaying your hips or wobbling from side to side, separate your feet for more stability.
4. Lunge Squat Lunge
This move is all about the lower body, so the goal is to burn out your legs and butt. You should feel this tomorrow. You’ll be alternating between lunges and squats, so you’ll start by lunging toward your right side, then squatting facing frontwards, then lunging toward your left side. The key to an effective lunge is to keep your upper body straight with your shoulders back and relaxed. Step forward with your leg and lower your hips until both knees are bent. The goal is to touch your knee to the floor, or get it about an inch above. Then, squat down, keeping your butt behind your knees, like you’re sitting down on a chair. If you’re feeling energized and you know the movements well, you can add a hop in between in each one to make it harder.
If you’ve ever done a high-intensity cardio class or read any one of our fucking exercise articles, you’ve probably done burpees, and you know the struggle. Burpees are so torturous because they work your entire body and burn more calories than any cardio machine out there, so let’s get ‘em done. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Then, lower your body into a squat and place your hands on the floor in front of you, jumping your feet back so that you’re in a plank position. Once your body is in a straight line, lower your chest to the floor and then bring it back up as quickly as you can. Then, jump your feet forward, outside of your hands, and jump up with your arms in the air. You’ll def feel these tomorrow, but keep it up and you’ll look unreal by the time it’s actually nice enough to be that girl who shows up to the gym in a sports bra.