Some of the biggest misconceptions about exercise machines are that they are not effective or safe compared to free weights and compound movements. While this may be true for a few pieces of equipment, most are incredibly beneficial, especially for new gym members or for building strength and balance after an injury.

Gym machines are perfect for those without access to free weights or who need more assistance with balance. They are also excellent for targeting specific muscles for isolation training and intensity techniques such as drop sets. They can also be quicker and easier to use than free weights.  For instance, you don't need to load heavy plates on a bar. You simply change the pin position to change the resistance.

Weight machines may also reduce joint strain and allow us to practice proper form. Weight machines also prevent using momentum and help us build up to more challenging exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups.

However, this is not to say we should never work with free weights. Dumbbells, barbells, and other equipment can all be very effective if used properly.  A combination of free weights and machine weights can provide an excellent workout.

Most fitness centers offer training on the equipment, so if you are unfamiliar, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Here are four machines worthy of adding to your next gym session.

  • Amol Sonar/Unsplash
    Amol Sonar/Unsplash

    Leg Press Machine

    Most commercial gyms have either the 45 Degree Leg Press, the Horizontal leg press, or the Vertical leg press. Each machine works the same leg muscles with the only difference in the direction that the weight is being pushed. The leg press does not require balance, so it works best to help move toward squats off the machine and build leg strength.

  • Finish Media/Unsplash
    Finish Media/Unsplash

    Lat Pulldown Machine

    The lat pulldown machine is one of the best ways to build back muscles, activate the entire posterior chain, and ease into pull-ups.

  • Daniel Apodaca/Unsplash
    Daniel Apodaca/Unsplash

    Cable Machine

    The cable machine is one of the most versatile machines and targets multiple muscle groups. Bicep curls and tricep pushdowns are fantastic exercises on this machine because it prevents swinging that occurs with dumbbells.

  • Rohit Reddy/Unsplash
    Rohit Reddy/Unsplash

    Chest Press Machine

    The chest press machine mimics the motion of a push-up and builds chest muscles without wrist strain. This machine is perfect for beginners to ease into push-ups or when returning from a shoulder injury. It is also safer than a bench press and does not require a spotter.

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