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What Does That Do? A Guide to the Different Types of Gym Machines

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Entering a gym for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for any individual. It’s like entering a car dealership but having no idea about cars. Being surrounded by so many machines and so much metal, and coming up with an exercise program can seem daunting.

This guide aims to give you an overview of the major types of gym machines and tips for an effective and safe workout. Equipped with this information, you will have a better idea of which equipment to use to get the results you want while avoiding injury. Moreover, if you plan on building your own personal gym, you’ll know what home gym equipment to buy.

Cardio equipment

Using the name as a hint, cardio equipment includes machines that get your heart and breathing rates up quickly. Cardio machines can be motorized or non-motorized. As with other types, there are heavy-duty cardio equipment for sale designed for gym and fitness centers, or private ones at home.

Cardio equipment is easy to identify. When you enter a gym, these machines try to simulate some types of sports or more physically-strenuous activities. Think of walking, jogging, running, rowing, climbing the stairs, or riding a bike. 

Treadmills, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes are some of the more well-known examples of equipment that can give you a good cardio workout. The design may differ slightly between machines manufactured for normal or heavy-duty use.

What is the benefit of using these types of machines? Although cardio machines are specifically designed to raise your breathing and heart rates, they do give you a whole-body workout, too. In the process, you burn calories and fat after a good workout.

Strength equipment

Exercises and machines under this category utilize the user’s body weight, gravity, tension, or other external sources to provide resistance. The resistance is what makes the machine user’s body stronger. Similar to cardio equipment, there are cheaper models designed for the home and more expensive heavy-duty models for gyms.

For beginners, or if you have a limited budget, exercising using your own body weight is recommended. With an exercise mat, some tubing or resistance bands, you can already design a workout without spending a bundle. Once you have reached a point where you need a bigger challenge, you can get some dumbbells, ankle, or hand weights to provide additional resistance.

Resistance machines come in many forms. As mentioned earlier, most, if not all, cardio equipment can give you a full-body workout. When it comes to strength training machines, however, each component is designed to target a specific range of muscles.

One example is a leg press machine. The design and size may vary, but the main objective is the same. Leg press machines allow you to safely exercise, train, or strengthen your legs and the lower parts of the body without causing pain in your joints.

Depending on your stance, you can target specific parts of your legs using a leg press machine. This means you can strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, calves, thighs, and other areas of your lower body by just changing the position of your legs.

There are many other examples of resistance training machines. For the lower parts of your body, you can use hack squats, leg extenders, seated calf machines, and abductors, among others. On the other hand, if you want to develop arm muscles or build your abdominal muscles, you can go for pulldowns, pec decks, ab crunches, or chest press machines, among others.

Tips for using gym equipment

Whether you are starting out with dumbells or using some of the bigger machines at the gym, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to prevent injury while working out. Remember the following tips to maximize your workout sessions:

1. Make a list of your exercise goals

Your condition and objectives will help determine what types of exercises you can and should do. For instance, if you want to lose weight but have weak knees, avoid treadmills and other high-impact machines. Rowing machines make for a better workout as they allow you to work out your arms, legs, and back without placing a massive strain on your knees.

You can also go for resistance training even with weak knees. For instance, leg curl machines allow you to work your hamstrings while on your stomach. 

2. Start with lower weights

Reserve the first few sessions to getting to know your body better. When you use any machine that involves setting the weights, use the lightest weight possible first. It may not seem cool, but it’s one way of avoiding injury. 

3. Follow proper form 

Before you start using any equipment, get a good grasp of how to use it. Look for the instructions on the machine. Machine guides include information such as the muscles targeted by the equipment, how to use the machine and how to adjust resistance.

If you need time to analyze the instructions, you can take a picture and walk away. Return to the machine once you are ready. 

Alternatively, you can also ask for help from the trainers inside the gym. They can give you advice and tips on proper form and recommended exercises for you to achieve your objectives. 

Keep in mind that light weights combined with proper form can achieve better results than heavier weights. So, always try to exercise with the proper form in mind to avoid injury.

4. Adjust for your body

When it comes to the weights, you may also need to adjust the machine to suit your body type. Keep in mind that each person is unique. You could be shorter but have longer arms, for instance, than the person who last used the machine.

Your body type can affect your range of motion, too. As such, you may need to make additional adjustments to the machine before you actually use it. Besides the weight, consider the height or the angle of the seat and back to ensure that you exercise comfortably.

Exercising using any weight or machine requires focus and determination. Keep these details and tips in mind to get the best results for your workout.


Kelvin Garner is the founder of Garner General Trading, a one-stop solution for all fitness needs in the UAE. The Garner team have put many years into sourcing a high-quality and affordable range of home and commercial gym equipment. From selecting the right equipment for your personal needs and space available, to the professional setup in your home, Garner General Trading is there each step of the way.