How to Learn Each Gym Machine for Effectiveness

Machines like this can be confusing if you don't know how to use them properly.

Machines like this can be confusing if you don't know how to use them properly.

Going to a new gym or fitness center for the first time can be intimidating. Using a gym machine with improper form may not only reduce the effectiveness of the exercise you're performing, but increase your risk of injury as well. By learning the correct techniques, you'll increase the efficiency and safety of each exercise you perform and intensely work the muscle groups that the exercise is designed to target.

Study a reputable online exercise guide written by experts who understand the proper form needed for each gym machine and are capable of clearly explaining how to perform the exercise step by step. One good example is the exercise guide located at This exercise guide is broken down by muscle groups, and includes both instructional videos and step-by-step instructions for hundreds of exercises, including those involving machines and free weights.

Print out step-by-step guides to the exercises you plan to perform in a given workout session and bring them along to the gym. Having an easy reference guide that you can look at immediately before performing each exercise will allow you to quickly refresh your memory and ensure precise form.

Read the instructions printed on the exercise machine to get a better idea of how to use it with proper form. If there are no instructions provided and you don't understand the function of the machine, don't experiment with it to figure it out. You could hurt yourself.

Talk to a personal trainer or other staff member at your gym if you have any questions about how to use a given exercise machine with the proper form. A major part of their job is to help gym patrons utilize the equipment correctly. Feel free to ask anything, even if the question seems silly or basic, and have the staff member watch you perform the exercise to make sure you're doing it correctly.

Listen to your body as you perform each exercise. If you feel a slow, dull ache in your muscles after performing an exercise, this is probably an example of "good" pain that signals the desired fatiguing of muscle tissue, which is necessary for making gains in muscular mass, density, strength and definition. If you feel a sharp, intense pain in your joints, bones or soft tissue during the exercise, this is probably a sign of "bad" pain and could result in an injury if you continue performing the exercise that way. Review the directions for the exercise to ensure your form is correct.


  • Use lighter weights when learning the proper form for an unfamiliar exercise.

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About the Author

Kevin Richards has been a writer and editor since 2009, specializing in fitness, health and nutrition, as well as technology, finance and legal issues. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan.

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