While bodyweight and free weight workouts are ideal to build endurance and strength, but if you want to isolate certain muscle groups then bodyweight exercises just don’t fit the bill. Here’s when exercise machines become essential if you want to go full on strength and balance. Despite the cons that surround gym equipment, exercise machines are totally fine to use and they might be especially helping if you are new to working out.

For those who have been on a gym hiatus or are gaining back strength post-injury, weight machines are an easy way to get back in the game without the risk of dropping anything heavy on your foot. And the best part of weight machines is that they usually have helpful how-to cards right on the machine which removes the guesswork that goes into deciphering the technique.

Keeping this in mind, there are some machines that trainers believe are crucial for an effective workout. Each one of these machines will help you build strength and train your body to use the right muscles without any injuries.

1. Horizontal Seated Leg Press

The leg press machine acts as a guide to proper leg and back positioning as you work your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. They provide a rather effective alternative to the traditional squat by bringing the weight to you. This machine features either a 45-degree tilted sled that features a platform and a moving weight rack that moves horizontally from a seated position

Muscles involved: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

2. Lat PullDown

Lat pulldowns are a popular exercise performed for strengthening the back, shoulder and arm muscles.The main muscle target of pulldowns are the latissimus dorsi muscles, which generate movement at your shoulder joint.This is a great exercise to build your back muscles and activate your posterior chain muscles.

The muscles involved: Latissimus dorsi and shoulder girdle.

3. Cable Biceps Bar

Exercises performed on the Cable Biceps Bar target the biceps through the elbow flexion and does not involve any other joint movements. They are great to avoid the swinging that happens when using dumbbells for bicep curls and it’s a great machine to start on if you are a beginner because it compels your body to take on the movement required for an effective bicep curl.

The muscles involved: Biceps

4. Cable Triceps Bar (or Triceps Pushdown)

Triceps pushdowns strengthen the three muscles on the backs of your upper arms while also working on your shoulders, abdominal muscles and upper back. When performed as part of your regular strength-training routine, this exercise will help you build stronger and more toned triceps. Since this is an isolation exercise, it chiefly works and strengthens the triceps and specifically addresses muscle weakness or imbalance in the triceps.

Muscles Involved: Triceps

5. Chest Press

The chest press is the best exercise to work the primary muscle of the chest, the pectoralis major. The chest press is essential since along with working on the chest, it also brings into play the triceps, the back of your upper arm, and the deltoid.

Muscles Involved: Chest, biceps, and triceps.

6. Hanging Leg Raise

The hanging leg raise is a core strength training exercise that involves the abdominal and oblique muscle groups.The hanging leg raise, when done correctly, is extremely effective at developing both your rectus abdominis, which is the largest muscle of the abdominals, and the obliques. This is easy to operate and a great way to work on your abs by propping up on your forearms and simply lifting yourself.

Muscles Involved: Core, and hip flexors.

7. Cardio: Rowing Machine

Rowing is a full-body exercise that recruits your shoulder, back, chest, arm, core, hip and leg muscles to work against provided resistance. A rowing workout provides more muscle-building benefit than running and is claimed to help burn 210 calories every 30 minutes, and 255 calories by rowing at a vigorous pace. Why it trumps running on a treadmill is because it’s got the upper and lower body resistance training and helps balance out the posture.

Muscles Involved: Total body, particularly the posterior chain muscles, and building cardio endurance.

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