Walk into any gym and you will run into more machines than you can fit in a single workout. By learning which machines are the most effective for each of your body's major muscles, you will be able to better organize your workouts. Using machines exclusively is recommended if you are a beginner, so you can develop your motor skills. Machines are much safer than free weights in most cases, because the movements are more stable through the range of motion.
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Chest and Shoulders
Your chest and shoulders are similar in terms of the type of motion they produce: pushing. The two most effective machines for these muscles are the bench press and the shoulder press. You lie flat on your back during the bench press and vertically upright during the shoulder press. You do not want to incorporate these two machine exercises during the same workout, because they are similar movements. Alternate between the two every other upper-body workout.
Biceps and Triceps
Your biceps and triceps make up most of the muscle mass in your arms. The seated machine preacher curl and seated machine triceps extension are two effective exercises for building your arms. You should perform both movements during the same workout and could even do them in superset fashion to save time. To do this, go from one set of preacher curls right into one set of triceps extensions, with no rest in between sets.
Lats and Traps
Your back houses some of the largest and strongest muscles in your body, such as your latissimus dorsi and trapezius, or lats and traps for short. The seated lat pulldown and seated cable row are the most effective exercises for your lats, while the standing machine shrugs are best for your lats. Do either the lat pulldown or row during each upper-body workout, switching between the two exercises from workout to workout, and include the shrugs during each upper-body routine.
Your lower body workouts, or leg workouts, should consist of seated leg presses, lying leg curls and standing calf raises. The machines on which you do these exercises are the most effective machines for your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, respectively. These three exercises alone can make up your entire leg-training routine because they target all the major leg muscles. It is best to do leg presses first and calf raises last, because leg presses are the most demanding in terms of energy costs, while calf raises are the least demanding out of these three exercises.
Set and Rep Recommendations
For all upper-body machine exercises, do four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions using moderate to heavy weights. Rest two minutes between each set. For your lower body, also do four sets per exercise, but do higher reps in the range of 12 to 15. Use as much weight as your legs can handle and take a three-minute rest between each set to maximize muscle recovery.