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Can You Build Muscle Using Machines?

author image Nick Ng
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.
Can You Build Muscle Using Machines?
Exercise machines help builds muscles, but they do little to prevent injuries or improve movement. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Resistance training machines are prevalent in almost every gym in the United States. Many of these machines put you in a seated position and isolate one muscle group for you to work on. Although these machines can help you build big muscles, they can cause problems in your body, according to Coach Vern Gambetta, author of "Athletic Development."


Isolated machines work on one muscle group at a time, such as your chest, back and thighs. With your body fixed in one position you move a body part against a resistance that has an adjustable weight. This allows you to encounter more resistance without considering other body parts.

Cable column machines are made up of a system of pulleys, weight stacks and cables that you can adjust the height and angle of the handles. This type of machine requires you to use the entire body to perform strength-training exercises unlike isolation machines.


When you lift weights, the stress from the resistance causes microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, tendons and ligaments. This stimulates your body to synthesize protein from food to create denser tissues to adapt to the stress. Although the number of muscle fibers do not increase, the number of motor units increases, which are the nerves that stimulate muscle actions, and the muscle size increases. This allows you to lift more weight after your body has adapted to the exercise stress.


Resistance training machines provide the best environment to build large muscles, and many bodybuilders use this equipment to develop muscle size. They can be easier to use than free weights for some people. Cable column machines allow you to perform multiple exercises at one station without having to move from machine to machine.


Resistance training machines do not train real-life or sports movement patterns, such as squatting, lunging, rolling, jumping and other movements. Isolation machines do not improve your stabilizing muscles that support your body and maintain your posture and do not move your body in three dimensions. They do not address poor posture, spine and hip disorders like spinal stenosis or sciatica and are expensive to maintain.


Utilize a combination of machines with other training modalities, such as kettlebells, dumbbells, jump ropes, medicine balls, stability balls and elastic rubber tubing. All of these methods help you build muscles as well as other aspects of human performance, such as agility, mobility, core strength and power.

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