If you had asked me in high school, I never would have thought I would have willingly set foot in a gym outside of P.E. When we had to go to the school fitness center in gym class, I would strategically go to the bathroom and hang out in the locker room for 10 minutes or do “sit-ups” – a.k.a. lie on the mats until a teacher came around and then fake a sweat. I was never a physically active kid and I especially hated gyms: sweaty people cramped into one room grunting, flexing, and watching you try (and fail) to do one pull-up. Well in college, something changed. I think I realized that I couldn’t continue to eat Ellio’s pizza and corndogs (a frequent after school snack of mine) and not blow up like a balloon eventually. Also, the NYU gym was one of less intimidating places to work out – it was either empty or I was bigger and stronger than half of the guys there. Since then, I’ve tried all sorts of different fitness classes, paid for personal trainers, and now with Kevin by my side I have a life-long workout partner, so I no longer feel the need to fake my sit-ups. Still though, navigating a busy gym floor can be intimidating and overwhelming. But when armed with the know-how of a few essentials, you can go in there looking like a pro. Here are my 5 go-to gym machines that are effective, efficient, and can get you out of the gym in about 30 minutes if you blast through them!
Incline Leg Press: This machine ups the intensity from the standard leg press. Start with no weight on the machine just to get the feel for it. Keep your feet about hip-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward. Press up through your heels and hamstrings (the back of your thighs) and use the handles on the sides to unlock the press. Now continue the same motion you would on a regular leg press, continuing to engage your hamstrings and glutes. When you’re ready to add weight, I use 45 lbs on each side and do 3 sets of 12.
Lat Pull-Down: This machine replicates the motion of doing a pull-up, but obviously is less intense. Adjust the seat as needed, sit up straight, and pull straight down using your core and back to help you. This will work your biceps and triceps, but your back and core are what really power this movement. For more of a challenge, try the assisted pull-up machine (or go for full-on pull-ups) – our Planet Fitness just doesn’t have one. For weight, I usually do 50-65 lbs, 3 sets of 12.
Smith Machine Squat: Start out with no weight to get the feel for this machine because it can feel a little awkward at first. Set the bar to a height where you can comfortably rest it across the back of your shoulders without having to get on your tip-toes. Keep legs hip-widith apart, toes pointing slightly outward. Unhook the bar and start to squat – you’ll feel the bar is assisted so its full weight is not resting on you. Be sure to keep your butt back and use your glutes to power you back up to standing position. Make sure your knees don’t cave in either – I struggle with this when my legs are tired. When you’re ready for weight, I add 25 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.
Smith Machine Deadlift: Again start without any weight. Keep your legs hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing outwards. Come towards the bar so that it’s almost touching your shins. Bend down, keeping your back straight and sticking your butt out (your thighs should be parallel to the ground) and grip the bar just wider than shoulder-width. Use your glutes, hamstrings, and core to stand up straight still holding the bar. It may feel like a small movement, but trust me, your hamstrings WILL be sore the next day. When ready to add weight, I do 25-35 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.
Smith Machine Chest Press: Place a bench under the bar. Lower the bar so you can comfortably unlock it without having to reach. You want to position yourself so the bar is directly over your chest. With hands wider than your shoulders, push up to unhook the bar and slowly lower until it’s just a few inches above your chest. Your arms should be on the same plane as your torso, not lower than the rest of your body. Use your chest, biceps, and core to push up the bar to starting position. For weight, I use 10-15 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.