There is a wealth of gym equipment out there for anyone looking to get into shape that you can use at the gym or that you can rent or buy for your own home. While you can train the entire body with just your own weight and some dumbbells, using machines like the chest press, the flies, the treadmill etc., makes this process a lot easier, more fun and safer. Rather than having to build the motivation to set up your weights, bring them into the living room, and then start swinging them around – using gym equipment allows you to just sit down on something that’s already in place and start pressing or curling through the pre-defined movement.
This is the good part, but the bad news when it comes to training equipment is that it can be restrictive – and while there are about a million different things you can do with dumbbells, a chest press has but one exercise you can do on it… the chest press.
Except that’s not entirely true, and while the chest press might indeed be designed for that movement, and while the cable curl may indeed be designed for curls, actually both these machines can be used in other ways too that are more interesting and exciting and that will help you to diversify your workouts. This way you get the comfort and convenience of a piece of gym equipment, but can bring to it the flexibility and the freedom of training using ‘free weights’. Here we’ll go through some examples…
The Chest Press
I was using chest press as an example so this seems like a fitting place to start. If you want to do something different with the chest press then, try standing in front of it and holding the handles from the other side. Now with the weight on high, lean back as though you’re sitting in an invisible chair and then pull the handles towards you pivoting at the shoulders and elbows so that you keep your body still. That’s right – you’re doing rows – and rows that will train your core too.
Likewise you can try mixing it up on the chest press by just using intensity techniques. For instance you can try using something called ‘partial reps’ which means you do only part of the movement – pressing from the flat position to just halfway, or from halfway to full. This forces you to use more muscle control, and you then switch halfway through the other part of the exercise. Then there are one armed chest presses or ‘negatives’ – look them up.
The lat pull down of course can be used in a million ways. On the heaviest setting it becomes a swinging pull up bar, while you can also stand up and row it, or use it for a tricep extension or pull over. Then there’s the machine curls – stand over them with them in the bottom position, hold them with your arms out straight (you may need to stand on a book) and then shrug to work your deltois.
The sky is the limit – so get creative!