Gym Equipment Guide for Gym Newbies
OR
Brushing Up On Form for the Not-So-Newbie

Gym equipment brands and types of machines will vary from gym to gym; however, the info below is meant to give a general idea of the typical machines found in most fitness facilities. These happen to be Nautilus machines. For specific instructions on the equipment found in your facility, be sure and read the instructions that will most likely be posted somewhere strategically on the machine.

You should be able to recognize the respective machine in your fitness facility by comparison to the pics below, even though they may not look exactly the same. The reason for this is that there are basic movements that work specific muscle groups; therefore, machines designed to do this tend to resemble each other though manufacturers vary.

In other words, a chest press machine, no matter who the manufacturer is, looks like a chest press machine and a shoulder press machine, no matter the manufacturer, looks like a shoulder press machine and so on.

Most gyms have at least one compound and one isolation machine for every major muscle group. For that reason, I will name the machine and the muscle/s it works, specify if it is compound or isolation, and give a start and finish photo, as well as description for how to properly perform the exercise. Am I the cat's meow, or what? And they say you can't get anything for free anymore. Enjoy!

Please be sure and check with your doctor and read the strength training guidelines before beginning this or any exercise program.

To see many of these gym equipment exercises in action, be sure and check out strength training routines. Just give the page a sec to load and click the play arrow on the respective workout. You can also go to my YouTube channel and view till your heart's content.

Following is an index of the exercises shown below:

  • CHEST PRESS MACHINE
  • PEC FLY MACHINE
  • SHOULDER PRESS MACHINE
  • SIDE LATERAL RAISE MACHINE
  • FRONT LAT PULLDOWN
  • CABLE ROW
  • BICEPS CURL MACHINE
  • TRICEPS EXTENSION MACHINE
  • LEG PRESS
  • LEG EXTENSION MACHINE
  • SEATED LEG CURL MACHINE
  • ADDUCTOR OR INNER THIGH MACHINE
  • ABDUCTOR OR OUTER THIGH MACHINE
  • ABDOMINAL CRUNCH MACHINE
  • BACK EXTENSION MACHINE


    CHEST PRESS MACHINE - COMPOUND EXERCISE

    chest press gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Chest.
    Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps.

    Preparation: Adjust seat height so that the grip is at chest height. Adjust seat forward to provide the fullest range of motion possible without the weight stack touching in the start position.

    Execution: Exhale as you slowly press the handles out until your arms are extended almost straight (with a very slight bend or soft lock). Pause and squeeze the chest muscles and inhale as you slowly return the handles to the start position and repeat for the desired number of reps. TIP: Be sure to focus on your chest muscles, feeling the stretch across your chest in the start position and turning that stretch into a contraction while pressing the weight out.
    Back to the top.


    PEC FLY MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    Pec fly gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Chest.

    Preparation: Adjust the pads (using pin above head) at a distance that allows for a good stretch across the chest, being careful not to strain, without the weight stack touching between reps. Sit with good posture and your feet flat on the floor or against the foot stand, whichever is more comfortable for you. Allow your head and neck to rest upon the bench for support. Wrap your arms around the pads at about chest height with your palms facing the floor.

    Execution: Exhale as you slowly squeeze pads together, pausing and squeezing for a second as the pads touch. Inhale as you slowly return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of reps.
    Back to the top.


    SHOULDER PRESS MACHINE - COMPOUND EXERCISE

    shoulder press gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Shoulders.
    Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Triceps.

    Preparation: Position body so handles are in front and sit in good body alignment (abs tight, chest up, back straight). Grip handles are between shoulder and ear level.

    Execution: Press handles over head, with elbows slightly bent and upper arms vertical. In a controlled motion, lower handles back to between shoulder and ear level, bending elbows as far as possible without compromising form . Do not allow muscles to relax before next repetition. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
    Back to the top.


    SIDE LATERAL RAISE MACHINE MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    machine side raise gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Shoulders.

    Preparation: Adjust seat height with shoulders in alignment with axis of machine. Squeeze together (retract) shoulder blades. Hold grips, with elbows bent at 90 degrees and upper arms perpendicular to the floor.

    Execution: In a controlled motion, raise arms out to the sides until upper arms are parallel to the floor. While maintaining the controlled motion, return to starting position. Do not allow muscles to relax before next repetition. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
    Back to the top.


    FRONT LAT PULLDOWN - COMPOUND EXERCISE
    *These should be done pulling only to the front since the back pull-down has been proven to be dangerous for your shoulders and neck.
    **For variety you may switch handle attachments.

    lat pulldown gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Lats, Upper/mid Back.
    Muscles Worked: Lats, biceps, middle back.

    Preparation: Grasp the bar just past the bend on each side with thumbs up and over the bar. Allow upper body to feel a good stretch and keep a slight natural arch in the lower back throughout the move.

    Execution: Slightly lean back as you pull the bar down to the upper chest. Pause and slowly return to the start position while bringing body back up completely straight for the stretch in the lats (upper back). Repeat for the desired number of reps. TIPS: Envision bringing the chest up to meet the bar and keep chin slightly tilted up throughout.
    Back to the top.


    CABLE ROW - COMPOUND EXERCISE
    *For variety you may switch handle attachments.

    cable row gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Upper/mid Back.
    Muscles Worked: Lats, biceps, middle back, lower back.

    Preparation: Grasp handles, vertical grips. Sit in good body alignment (abs tight, chest up, back straight). Place feet firmly on foot plates with knees bent.

    Execution: Squeeze together (retract) shoulder blades while, in a controlled motion, pull handles toward you bringing elbows back as far as possible while keeping forearms in line with resistance (cable/belt). Contract lat muscles fully without compromising form. While maintaining the controlled motion, return bar to starting position. Do not allow muscles to relax before next repetition. Repeat for desired amount of reps. TIPS: When using a narrow grip, as shown, keep elbows as close to the body as possible as you pull handle to ribcage. When using wide grip, flare elbows.
    Back to the top.


    BICEPS CURL MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    biceps curl gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Biceps

    Preparation: Adjust seat so that it is not so low that the shoulders are elevated nor so high that you are hunched over the pad. Position seat height so that slant of arms matches slant of pad comfortably. Position elbows on pad, and grasp bar with an underhand grip.

    Execution: Exhale as you slowly raise bar towards chin. Pause and squeeze biceps at the top and return slowly to the start for desired amount of reps. TIP: Be sure and keep arms in contact with pad throughout move.
    Back to the top.


    TRICEPS EXTENSION MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    triceps extension gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Triceps

    Preparation: Sit on seat in good body alignment (abs tight, chest up, back straight). Grasp handles and place back of upper arm on padding so that elbow is in line with the lever's fulcrum or axis.

    Execution: Push lever down until arm is fully extended. Do not allow muscles to relax before next repetition. Inhale and slowly return to start position and repeat for desired amount of reps.
    Back to the top.


    LEG PRESS - COMPOUND EXERCISE

    leg press gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Groups: Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves.

    Preparation: Adjust back rest as low as it will go (or to comfort) and adjust sled setting underneath hips so that you can achieve a 90 degree angle with the knees without the weight stack touching as shown in picture. Place feet in desired position (close together, wide apart, etc.) with toes slightly pointed out.

    Execution:
    Exhale as you slowly straighten legs until knees are in a soft lock (slightly bent) position, being careful not to hyper-extend or lock out the knees. Inhale and slowly return to start position and repeat for desired number of reps. TIPS: Do these in a slow, fluid or pumping motion throughout the set; do not break for a rest or pause between reps.
    Back to the top.


    LEG EXTENSION MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    leg extension gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Quadriceps.

    Preparation: Set the back rest in a position that puts your knees in alignment with the axis or red dot on the machine and set the lower leg pad at just above the top of the shoe on the lower ankle. Your knees should be bent at a 90 degree angle.

    Execution: Exhale as you slowly straighten your legs to a soft lock position. Pause and squeeze the quadriceps. Inhale and slowly return to the start position. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
    Back to the top.


    SEATED LEG CURL MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    leg curl gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Hamstrings.

    Preparation: Adjust the back rest so that the knees align with the axis or red dot and the pad rests on the back of the lower leg or calf.

    Execution: Exhale as you slowly press the pad down by bending the knees and pretend you are going to try and touch your butt with the pad. Slowly return to the start for desired amount of reps.
    Back to the top.


    ADDUCTOR OR INNER THIGH MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    inner thigh machine gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Inner thigh.

    Preparation: Adjust the back of the seat so that it is as upright as possible for back support, yet still allows the fullest range of motion possible. Set the pads far enough apart for good range of motion, being careful not to stretch too far. This is about muscle contraction, not how far apart you can stretch your legs. Place your feet in the stirrups.

    Execution: Squeeze the pads together, pausing when they touch and return to start. Repeat for desired amount of reps. TIPS: Use slow, controlled form. Dont let weight stack touch between reps and squeeze with the knees, not the feet.
    Back to the top.


    ABDUCTOR OR OUTER THIGH MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    outer thigh machine gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Outer thigh.

    Preparation: Adjust the back of the seat so that it is as upright as possible for back support, yet still allows the fullest range of motion possible. Set the pads as close together as possible and turn the pads around so that you can place your legs inside the pads. Place your feet in the stirrups.

    Execution: Push the pads apart, pausing when they are separated as far as possible. Repeat for desired amount of reps. TIPS: Use slow, controlled form. Dont let weight stack touch between reps and push out with the upper legs, not the feet.
    Back to the top.


    ABDOMINAL CRUNCH MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    ab machine gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Abs or abdominal muscles.

    Preparation: Set the seat so that your waist is about at axis level. Grasp the handles and place elbows against pads, keeping head and neck neutral throughout.

    Execution: Exhale as you slowly bend or crunch forward trying to use your abdominal muscles to do this work. Pause and squeeze at the bottom of the move while completely emptying your lungs. Envision performing an accordion-type crunch with your stomach muscles. You may do higher reps for your core muscles, beginning with as many as possible and working to failure.
    Back to the top.


    BACK EXTENSION MACHINE - ISOLATION EXERCISE

    back extension machine gym equipment start and finish picture


    Primary Muscle Group: Lower back muscles.

    Preparation: While seated, place both feet on the foot plates and your back against the pad. Extend the legs until the posterior thighs are against the seat. Adjust the foot plate for 90 degree angle of knees while maintaining contact of the thigh against the seat. Stabilize this position with the belt if there is one.

    Execution: Press against the back pad and slowly extend the hips while keeping your back straight. Control the return forward without resting. TIPS: Be sure and read setup instructions on your particular machine. These can vary. Be very careful and do not use too heavy weights, especially if you have lower back issues.
    Back to the top.



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