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List of the Main Types of Exercise to Do on a Home Gym

by 
author image Jody Braverman
Jody Braverman is a professional writer and editor based in Atlanta. She studied creative writing at the American University of Paris and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland. She also received personal trainer certification from NASM and her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from YogaWorks.
List of the Main Types of Exercise to Do on a Home Gym
List of the Main Types of Exercise to Do on a Home Gym Photo Credit: NanoStockk/iStock/GettyImages

Purchasing a home gym is a big investment, but it's a worthwhile one if you know how to use it and use it regularly. While multi-gym equipment varies, you'll be able to target all your major muscle groups with variations of common exercises. Once you learn the exercises, you can experiment with your particular piece of equipment. Then, all you have to do is to be sure to use it regularly.

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1. Exercises for the Arms

Your arm muscles include your biceps on the fronts of your upper arms and your triceps along the backs of your upper arms. To work the biceps, you do an exercise in which you pull the weight towards you. To work the triceps, you do an exercise that involves pushing the weight away from you.

Biceps Curl

Many home gyms include a cable-pulley system, with either a weight stack or a tension rod system. Either of these work to create the resistance needed for biceps curls. Attach a straight bar or the appropriate handles to the tension rod or cable.

HOW TO DO IT: Grasp the handles with an underhand grip and tuck your elbows to your sides with your arms extended. Pull the weight up to your shoulders, keeping your elbows pinned to your sides. Slowly return to the starting position.

Triceps Push Down

With a bar or handles attached to a high pulley you can do triceps push downs. You can also do single-arm push downs with a single handle.

HOW TO DO IT: Grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and tuck them into your sides. Press the bar down to straighten your arms, keeping the elbows tucked. Slowly allow the bar to come back up to the starting position, with your elbows at 90 degrees.

2. Exercises for the Shoulders

Many muscles make up the shoulders, some of which run down the upper back and are also targeted by back exercises. The main movers of the shoulders can be worked by pressing weight overhead or lifting it out in front of you or to the sides.

Front lift

This exercise works the fronts of the shoulders. Using your cable or tension rod system, attach a bar or handles.

HOW TO DO IT: Grasp the bar or handles with an overhand grip and your arms extended down by your thighs. Lift the bar out in front of you to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight, then slowly release to your starting position.

Lateral Raise

Work the sides of your shoulders by lifting the weight out to the sides. Use one or two handles attached to the cable or tension rod.

HOW TO DO IT: Hold the handles and extend your arms at your sides. Keeping your arms straight, lift the handles out to your sides to shoulder height. Return to the starting position with control.

Cable pulley machines with a weight stack are very versatile.
Cable pulley machines with a weight stack are very versatile. Photo Credit: h4ckermodify/iStock/GettyImages

3. Exercises for the Chest

Two main types of exercises you can do in your home gym to work your chest muscles include chest presses and flyes. You can do both with your machine's cable or tension rod system.

Chest press

In a chest press, you press the weight out in front of you. This exercise also works the triceps. If your gym has a bench with a bar or properly oriented cables you can do a bench press. Otherwise, you can do a standing or seated chest press.

HOW TO DO IT: Grasp the handles and start with your hands at chest height, elbows bent. Press the weight away from you until your arms are straight. Bring it back in to the starting position with control.

Flye

The chest muscles squeeze together in this exercise to target different areas of the chest than a pressing exercise. You can do this on a bench with cables or standing with cables.

HOW TO DO IT: Hold a handle in either hand and extend your arms out to your sides at chest height. Take a slight bend in your elbows and maintain the arm position throughout the exercise. Slowly bring your hands together, palms facing in, in front of your chest. Open out to your starting position with control.

Read more: Multi-Gym Workout Guide

4. Exercises for the Back

Exercises that work the back are typically "pull" exercises, in which you're pulling the weight in towards you. You can do both of these exercises with handles or a bar attached to a cable or tension rod.

Rows

Rows work the all the muscles of the back, as well as the biceps. To do them you'll typically be seated or standing facing the machine, depending on your gym. You can use a bar or two handles.

HOW TO DO IT: Grasp the handles or bar about shoulder-width with your arms extended at chest height. Pull the weight in towards you, tucking your elbows into your sides. Release back to the starting position with control.

Lat Pulldowns

As the name suggests, this exercise primarily targets the latissmus dorsi, the large muscles along either side of the back. It also works your biceps. If your machine has a high, stable bar, you could do pull-ups, which would work the same muscles. Otherwise, you can do seated or standing pulldowns with a bar or two handles.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit or stand underneath a bar or two handles attached to a high cable. Take an overhanded grip with your hands wider than your shoulders. Pull the bar down to your chest, with your elbows aligned underneath. Slowly return to the starting position.

5. Lower Body exercises

Lower body exercises on multi-gyms are less numerous, but still effective for targeting all the major muscles of the lower body — the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves.

Leg Extension

This exercise works the quadriceps muscles on the fronts of your thighs. If your multi-gym has a seat, it may have a lower lever behind on which you can place your shins and lift the weight up. Or, you can attach an ankle strap to a low pulley and sit in the seat.

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your knees bent. Slowly extend your legs at the knee until they are straight out in front of you. Return to the starting position with control.

Leg Curl

Using the same lever that you used for quadriceps extensions, if your gym has one, you can do hamstring curls, which work the muscles on the backs of your thighs. You can also use an ankle strap and cable from a standing position.

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your legs extended. Pull your feet in toward your buttocks as far as you can, then slowly release back to the starting position.

Leg Press

Leg press exercises work all the muscles of the legs. Some home gyms will have a platform that slides and is attached to the weight stack or tension rod. If not, you can substitute squats.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit in the seat and place your feet on the platform hip-distance apart. Bend your knees and allow your knees to come in toward your chest — this is your starting position. Push the platform away from you until your legs are almost straight, then slowly come back to the starting position.

Squat

The squat is an adaptable exercise that many home gyms will allow you to perform with resistance. It works all the muscles of the lower body. You'll hold the weight in your hands, connected to a low pulley so that the resistance is on the ascending phase of the movement.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend at the knees and hips, sending your butt down and back. Come down until your thighs are parallel, then slowly rise up to standing.

Read more: The Best Compact Home Gyms

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