Total Gym Strength Training

young male bodybuilder doing heavy weight exercise
A man is training on an exercise machine. (Image: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images)

Instead of a stack of weights like most home gym units, the Total Gym workout machine system uses your own body weight as resistance. The unit features two pulleys and a sliding bench that can be adjusted for incline to make an exercise more or less challenging. Using the Total Gym, you can target and develop strength in all the major muscle groups, including the chest muscles, shoulder muscles, back muscles, triceps, biceps, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominals.

Training Schedule and Routine

The stress that the Total Gym workouts place on your muscles should overload and break down your fibers, which in turn will stimulate your muscles to get stronger and develop tone. In order for this adaptation to occur, your muscles need 48 hours to fully recover. Therefore, schedule three Total Gym workouts into your weekly routine so that sessions land on nonconsecutive days. If you want to focus on building strength, select one exercise per muscle group and do three to five sets of six or fewer reps of each exercise. For muscle size, select two exercises per muscle group and do three to six sets of six to 12 reps. Be sure to adjust the incline on the Total Gym so that each set is challenging with respect to the assigned reps. Always warm up your muscles with five to 10 minutes of light cardio before working out.

Hitting the Upper Body

To work your chest on the Total Gym, sit forward on the bench so that you can perform chest presses, close-grip chest presses and chest flyes or lie on the bench so you can do pullovers. For your shoulders, sit forward on the bench and lift the pulley handles up in front of you for front raises or sit facing the pulleys and row them to your shoulders for upright rows. Work your back with seated rows by sitting and facing the pulleys and rowing the handles to your torso; you can also lie on the bench with your head near the pulleys and pull the handles down toward the sides of your hips. For your biceps, sit facing the pulleys and curl the handles up to your shoulders for biceps curls. Hit your triceps by lying on your back with your head near the pulleys so that you can do lying triceps extensions.

Developing the Lower Body

The platform at the end of the Total Gym allows you to lie on your back and perform squats and lunges, which target your glutes, quadriceps and calves. You can also use the platform to isolate your calves with calf raises. Work the hamstrings at the back of your upper thighs with leg curls, which you can do by attaching the pulley handles, lying face-down on the bench and then bending your knees to bring your feet toward your glutes.

For the Core

To work your abdominals and obliques, use the Total Gym to incorporate crunches, which can be done alone on the bench or while holding the handles of the pulleys for even greater resistance. Trunk rotations target the obliques and can be done by sitting perpendicular on the bench and twisting your torso to pull the pulley handles across your body.

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