While men might gravitate toward the weight machines at the fitness center, a multi-gym shouldn’t intimidate women who might think it’s only for bodybuilding. You can tone, trim and train on a multi-exercise resistance machine by changing the amount of resistance you use. Add this versatile piece of equipment to your fitness program no matter what your goals.
Multi-gyms, also referred to as universal machines or home gyms, provide a variety of resistance exercises, allowing the user to change the weight or resistance setting based on her goals. Some come with a seat or bench, some use a system of cables or weight stacks and some have proprietary systems for creating resistance, letting you dial the resistance setting up or down, based on what type of exercise you want to perform.
If your goal is muscle building, either for bodybuilding or as part of a toning program, use higher resistance settings or more weight and perform your exercises slowly. For example, after you lift a weight, don’t let it drop back down -- resist the machine on the way down to create more muscle use. Don’t worry about bulking up if you use heavier weights. Once you notice your muscles getting to the size you want them, begin reducing the frequency of your resistance workouts and/or decrease the amount of resistance or weight you use. Start out using about 60 percent of the maximum resistance you can use for each exercise and perform eight to 12 reps. Your muscles should be sore by the time you finish your reps. If they’re not, add more resistance.
If you want an aerobic workout and don’t have access to a cardio machine, a multi-gym will help you burn calories and fat. Create low-resistance, high-rep workouts that get your heart beating fast and keep it there. Experiment with resistance levels and find one that lets you perform repeated, 30-second exercises during the course of 30 minutes or more without making you so sore you have to stop. After every 30-second exercise, take a quick break, then start a new one. Target the backs of your arms with cable kickbacks and triceps extensions. Stand next to the machine and attach cables to your legs, moving them outward and back to work your thighs. Work your shoulders by pulling a bar down behind your head. If the bench moves, create a steady-state rowing workout either sitting or kneeling on the bench.
Toning requires that you reduce body fat through cardio exercise and target specific muscles for size increases. You can perform separate bodybuilding and cardio workouts to achieve these goals, or combine the two with moderate resistance and high reps. The key is finding a resistance level that lets you build muscle without fatiguing you to failure. Similar to a very low-resistance cardio workout, a toning workout will work best if you use moderate resistance and move from exercise to exercise quickly. The 30-second circuit-training pattern is an effective option, but you should repeat each exercise three times during your workout to target specific areas, such as under your arms or around your thighs, for extra work. If it inclines, take advantage of the bench to target your tummy with a variety of ab exercises.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.