Nautilus is a brand of weight-training machines developed by Arthur Jones in the 1970s. Jones' idea behind the Nautilus machines was to improve on what he saw as shortcomings in traditional machines and free weights -- the fact that these tools overwork muscles in weaker positions, but don't hit them hard enough in their strongest positions. The weight provided by Nautilus machines varies throughout each movement, thus providing a constant level of resistance. While this technique sounds complex, it's perfectly feasible to base a beginner routine around Nautilus equipment.
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The Nautilus Principles
Jones was reported to be a big believer in quality and intensity over quantity. The principles behind Nautilus training include progressing every workout and working in the eight-to-12-repetitions-per-set range. This doesn't change regardless of whether you're at a beginner or advanced level. You only need to perform one set for each exercise, but this should be taken close to muscular failure. For advanced trainees, it's recommended that you push as hard as you can until you can't physically perform another rep and then perform slow negative reps. Although beginners should avoid this and stick to one set of eight to 12 reps, stopping a rep or two short of muscular failure.
In "The New Rules of Lifting," trainer Alwyn Cosgrove writes that a full-body approach, where you hit every major muscle group in each session, is the best method for beginners. Each session should include at least one exercise for your quadriceps and hamstrings and muscles of the chest, back, shoulders and arms. Start with two full-body sessions each week with two to three days rest in between, then increase to three sessions each week once you're accustomed to the routine.
The Magic Eight
As a sample beginner's workout, personal trainer Drew Baye suggests performing eight Nautilus machine exercises -- leg presses or squats on a machine, calf raises, chest presses or dips, pull-downs, shoulder presses, rows, back extensions and trunk curls. If your gym doesn't have any of these Nautilus machines, you could use another resistance machine or substitute in free-weight variations, such as bench presses for chest presses, pull-ups for pull-downs or barbell squats for the machine squats or leg presses.
Build your reps up gradually and increase the weight by around 5 percent when you can perform 12 reps with good form, advises Dr. Wayne Westcott of Cedarville University, Ohio. Ideally, you should take two seconds to lift the weight and four to lower it, so pick a weight that allows you to maintain this slow, steady tempo. If you've never used Nautilus machines before or haven't trained in a while, seek advice from a qualified instructor before partaking in your routine.