No Free-weights? Don't Freak! Get the Most Out of Machines


What happens when you slide on your gloves and get pumped to lift, but there are no free benches or squat racks available in the free weight room? Take it as an opportunity to use weight machines!

The advantage to using weight machines is that you can isolate muscles. While it’s great that stabilizers kick-in to help you through difficult free weight lifts, you don’t want those assisters to steal the show. You’ll know right away on a machine if assisting muscles have been over-compensating for any weaknesses in the primary muscle group you are challenging. Also, you won’t have the same sort of momentum on weight machines that you have while using free weights. This often translates to a more intense challenge for the primary muscle you’re working.

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When you venture to the machines, keep in mind that since they tend to isolate muscle groups, you need to make sure you work opposing muscle groups equally. Try these weight machine staples below for a well-balanced workout and keep pushing toward your goals when the free weight room is a no-go. Do 15-30 reps on each machine. All movements should be slow and controlled.

Don’t Let Machines Stunt Your Workout, Use Them to Your Advantage With These Exercises!

Lower Body


Leg Press (Quads) – The seated leg press requires you to place your feet on a plate and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle before extending your legs straight in front of you.
Leg Curl (Hamstrings) – Some gyms have seated leg curl machines, though many require you to lie on your stomach. You’ll zone in on your hamstrings by placing the back of your calves on the leg pads with your legs straight. Pull the pads toward you while bending your knees.
Seated Leg Extension (Legs) – The seated leg extension is the opposite of the leg curl. The pads go on top or your shin. You’ll start with your legs bent and activate your quads to lift the load and straighten your leg.


Lat Pulldown (Back)Lat pulls can be done on any cable machine seated, kneeling or standing. Attach a wide bar. Start with the bar overhead and pull the bar to your chest.
Seated Chest Press (Pectorals )– The seated chest press allows you to focus on your pecs without your shoulders and other stabilizers hogging the action. Adjust the handles of the machine to mid-chest. It’s straightforward, literally. Push the handles forward as your straighten your arms.


Seated Bicep Curl (Bicep) – When you do a seated bicep curl you can’t use stabilizer muscles to cheat. Your elbows rest on a pad as you bend your elbows to lift the weight. It’s all bicep, Baby!
Tricep Press (Triceps) – The tricep extension machine looks similar to the Seated Bicep Curl contraption. Place your elbows on the pads. Grab the handles and push the handles down as you straighten your arms.

Once you’ve completed these basics, explore other machines knowing that any work you muscle through on the fitness floor zoning in on form will pay-off in the free weight room.


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