Make The Most Of Machine Exercise

If you train by yourself, or just prefer machines over free weights, here are some pointers for maximizing the effectiveness of your workout. They were published in the NSCA's Performance Training Journal.

1) Warm up for each exercise by performing 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio or calisthenics beforehand.
2) Make each rep extend through the full range of motion.
3) Keep the tension slow and controlled in both the concentric (raising) and eccentric (lowering) phase. Each should take about 2 seconds, meaning that a full repetition should take 4 seconds to complete.
4) Once you start a set, don't let the weight plates make contact until all reps have been completed. This keeps constant resistance on your muscles.
5) Contract the target muscle at the end of each movement to stay focused on the muscle(s) being trained.

The Bigger Picture: Most exercise machines have a sign attached in plain view that provides basic instruction while highlighting which muscles will be worked. Try to perform the exercise exactly as illustrated on that sign, making sure whatever body parts are touching pads at the beginning keep in contact with the same pads throughout each set. This will prevent you from generating momentum, which makes the effort easier and less effective.

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Aug 23, 2009
big muscle exercise