Proper Use of Weight Machines

The lat pulldown builds upper-body strength.

The lat pulldown builds upper-body strength.

Any credible health club will give you an appointment with a fitness specialist to learn how to use its weight machines, often set up in circuits of 10 or so machines for basic, intermediate and advanced strength training. It’s a lot of new information for a Nestie to absorb, so you may want to bone up on the basics a bit on your own.

Set Up the Machine

Follow the instructions typically printed on the side of the machine to set it up, or make notes and drawings based on your orientation with the fitness staff. Weight machines such as the leg extension, for example, may require adjustments of the back pad, tibia pad and range-of-motion lever to fit your torso and lower leg. “Make sure you set it up to your body composition,” says Brandon Franklin, a certified personal trainer at the Mac Harbor East health club in Baltimore, Maryland. “If you're tall, set the seat up at the proper level. If you’re unsure, ask a trainer or the fitness staff.” Double-check that the pin holding your selected weight is pushed home against the weight plate. If you only push it in halfway, it may get caught or make noise as you move against the pads.

Design Your Program

To maximize your benefit from working on the weight machines, you need to figure out weights, reps and sets -- and when to change them. “Once you determine what your goals are -- then you'll know what your rep range is, and once you figure that out, you work your way up find the best weight,” Franklin notes. For example, if you want to increase your strength, you want to go for three sets of eight to 12 reps. “Find a weight where its a struggle to get to 12 and where you don't always complete to 12 by third set.” After a few weeks, when you get to completing three sets of 12 reps with good form, “it’s time to increase the weight,” Franklin adds. “Start light and work your weight up. Don't overload past where you can do the form correctly.”

Challenge Yourself

Don’t be afraid of pushing yourself -- you won’t bulk up. You don’t want to be “That Woman” who’s whipping through 15 to 20 reps without any strain because of working too light. “Women don't have much testosterone, and it's very hard for them to bulk up without following a strict strength regimen and diet to have them bulk up -- including protein and supplements. And genetics has to be on their side too,” Franklin notes. “It’s a lot harder for them to bulk up than men. A lot of women think, ‘If I lift a lot, I'm going to get big and heavy like the Incredible Hulk,’ but that's not the case.”

Observe Gym Etiquette

Etiquette goes a long way in terms of proper use of the weight machines. Set your workout towel on the seat and backrest before working out, and wipe off the handles and seat afterward with the towel or an antiseptic wipe. “If the weights machine area is somewhat crowded, or people are waiting, try not to rest on equipment between sets,” Franklin counsels. “If someone wants to work in, allow her to work in with you.” Try to avoid grunting as well -- too much noise can be distracting to others and unintentionally funny.

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About the Author

An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.

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