Okay, so you've finally decided to start going to the gym because new year, new you, right? But when you get there, it's super intimidating. Hello, complicated workout equipment, bodybuilders and more Lululemon than you've ever seen before. It can all be a little overwhelming—which is why I'm here to help with this guide to workout machines that any beginner can try out at the gym.
Although exercises with free weights may seem a simpler choice, machine exercises are often safer at the beginning of any fitness journey. Machinery allows for specific muscle areas to be isolated, while providing appropriate amounts of resistance and support.
And don't forget: hydration is key before, during and after your workout for optimal performance and results, as is a good motivational playlist. So go fill up your water bottle, grab some headphones, and start working your way through this list of foolproof beginner equipment.
1. Leg Press Machine
This machine is basically a seated version of squats, allowing you to lift heavy weights without worrying about placing too much strain on your knees and lower back. Set the weight at a level that is slightly difficult on your first try, but not impossible. Beginners should try about 10 reps in a set. Be careful to place your legs roughly hip-width apart, while raising and lowering the plate slowly. And that's one rep closer to having crazy strong legs.
Muscles targeted: quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus (glutes)
2. Lat Pull-Down Bar
This machine facilitates pull-up motions for those who can't quite lift their entire bodyweight yet. The equipment can be adjusted to a ton of different weight settings, so that as you get stronger, the lat pull-down bar will still challenge you at the gym. Again, aim for about 10-12 reps per set for optimal results.
Muscles targeted: latissimus dorsi (lats) with bicep support
3. Ergometer (Rowing Machine)
The erg can be a scary-looking machine, but it's actually pretty easy to use and can be a great full-body workout for any experience level. The trick is to push with your legs first, then lean backwards so your shoulders pass your pelvis. Pull your arms toward your chest, right at your lower ribs.
Muscles targeted: This one works your entire body–quads, hamstrings, glutes, lats, core, shoulders, triceps, back and biceps
4. Cable Biceps Bar
Think free weight bicep curls, but more controlled and way more satisfying. A beginner should try this machine out if they don't want to feel limited by a rigid machine structure, but still want to have some extra support. Make sure to set it to a comfortable weight that you can lift and lower slowly from the start. 10-12 is your golden number–keep aiming for those double digit reps to get the most out of your workout.
Muscle targeted: biceps
5. Chest Press Machine
This motion is similar to a push-up, working upper body muscles that, as a beginner, will provide you with the strength you need to take on more intense workouts in the future. To use this equipment properly, lay back on the bench and position your arms slightly farther than shoulder-width apart, moving your arms up and down.
Muscles targeted: pectoralis major (pecs), deltoids, trapezius (traps) and triceps
6. Hanging Leg Raise
The hanging leg raise isn't technically a machine, but I couldn't help but include this one in my list. This workout is a great way to work your core muscles, while using your arms as support. Slowly lift (don't swing) your legs up and down, and feel those abs burn. A strong core leads to better balance and stability that will come in handy as you progress to more advanced workouts.
Muscles targeted: hip flexors, abs and obliques
A Stairmaster is a non-impact machine, which means you can burn major calories and build strength without putting too much stress on your joints. It mirrors the motion of walking up stairs, which we all know is a great workout, in and of itself. The Stairmaster facilitates an increase in endurance and stamina, which can be super helpful if you're trying to work up to other cardio routines, too.
Muscles targeted: glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves
A treadmill is a classic workout machine for beginners, since at the very least, you can start off by just walking at an incline to raise your heartbeat. You'll get in some cardio and a leg workout, too. To really strengthen your legs and burn calories, try running on the Treadmill at five- or ten-minute intervals.
Muscles targeted: quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes (the higher the incline, the more you're working that booty)
#SpoonTip: If you're walking on the treadmill, download Netflix onto your phone or bring a book that will keep you engaged.
The elliptical machine works your whole body, improving your balance and mobility. With a wide variety of intensity and resistance levels to choose from, your workout will always stay interesting. If the customization sounds overwhelming, try out a few different preset programs on the machine–it's like having a personal trainer right there with you.
Muscles targeted: quads, glutes, hamstrings and biceps
#SpoonTip: Keep your arms on the moving handles to make sure you're getting the full effect of the elliptical motion.
10. Arc Trainer
Saving the best for last, the arc trainer is a newbie's best friend, and my personal favorite. It's the perfect low impact machine for burning substantial calories in a short amount of time. The motion for this one basically blends what you do on an elliptical with a Stairmaster, and it's customizable with three ranges: glide, stride, and climb.
Muscles targeted: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and biceps
No matter what machines you decide to try out, it's always helpful to go into the gym with short-term goals and a good attitude. So go ahead and walk into that gym with your new machine knowledge, confident enough to fool everyone into thinking you've been a fitness expert for years.