Assisted Pull-up from Machines You’re Afraid to Use at the Gym (And How to Use Them Correctly)

Machines You’re Afraid to Use at the Gym (And How to Use Them Correctly)

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Assisted Pull-up

This machine can be used in a number of ways, but for its main purpose—pull ups—there are usually two different grip options: wide and close. The wider grip mimics a traditional pull up where your palms face forward and your hands are a little wider than shoulder width distance apart, while the closer grip is performed with palms facing inward and arms about shoulder width apart.

The machine is for assisting with pull-ups (as its name implies), and it does this by displacing some of your body weight. To use it, first set up the weight stack by placing the pin at the appropriate level. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds and set the pin to 90 pounds you'll be working against 50 pounds instead of all 140. You'll probably have to go through a few rounds of trial and error until you find the appropriate weight for your abilities.

After setting the weight, climb onto the machine using the provided steps. One hand at a time, reach up to grab the handlebars overhead and then very slowly place your knees or feet on the middle platform making sure to grip the handles tightly because the platform will start to lower as you place more weight on it. Once you’ve found a comfortable starting position, while keeping your body in a straight line and your core tight, use your upper body muscles to pull yourself up until your head comes just past the top of the handlebars. Use extreme control to lower yourself back down, letting the weights continue to hover before your start your next rep. If you lower yourself down too quickly the weights will release fast and crash. Also make sure to step off the platform slowly, going one leg at a time and making sure the weights return to the base before completely stepping off.


Functional Cable Trainer

Because the cable trainer isn’t limited to one specific exercise, it might seem like one of the most confusing pieces of equipment at the gym. But it’s extremely beneficial because there are a number of different exercises that you can use it for, and once you know which exercise you want to perform setting up is usually not very difficult. Just like the assisted pull up machine, you’ll first need to set up your weight by placing a pin a in the weight stack. (Again, it might take a few rounds of trial and error to find an appropriate weight and it will also depend on what exercise you’re performing.) Next, you’ll need to adjust the pulley height by pulling the lever and slowly moving it up or down. Make sure you keep a strong grip because once you pull the lever out it will fall quickly if there’s nothing to support it. The last step is to attach the appropriate handle piece. This can be anything from a bar to a rowing handle, it all depends on what exercise you’re performing. Below you can view how to do three of the best cable trainer exercises.

Standing Cable Chest Press

Standing Cable Triceps Pull-down

Standing Cable  Wood Chop


Smith Machine

Although it’s primarily used for squats, the Smith Machine is another piece of equipment that can be used to perform multiple exercises. To use it for squatting, you’ll first need to set the bar so it sits a little below your neck level. To move it up or down, twist the bar in order to release it from the safety catches and then move it to the desired height. Next, twist it in the other direction to place it in the appropriate catch. Once the bar is set, you’ll need to add plates to each side. (Beginners are advised to first perform the exercise without adding weight.) After adding an even amount of weight to each side you can set yourself up to begin squatting by squatting down slightly and placing your shoulders underneath the bar. Twist the bar again to release it from the catch, then proceed to squat up and down, making sure to keep the motion slow and controlled.


Leg Press Hack Squat

This machine replicates the squat exercise, and while it might look particularly intimidating it’s fairly easy to use. Before seating yourself in the chair, add the desired amount of weight to each rack on either side. (Again, beginners are advised to first perform the exercise without adding weight.) Slide into the seat and place your feet on the platform, about hip width distance apart. Once you're comfortably seated and your feet are planted firmly on the platform, turn the handles at your side to release the safety latches. When you're ready, extend your legs forward, keeping your knees slightly bent at the end of the movement and returning them to the starting position to complete one rep. When you're finished with your set, return your legs to the starting position and then turn the handles at your side to re-lock the safety latches.


Lat Pull-down

Once you know how to perform a lat (short for latissimus dorsi) pull-down, this machine is simple to use. To set it up, start by placing the pin at an appropriate level in the weight stack. Next, attach the long bar handle to the clip on the overhead pulley. If there is a lap bar near the seat, pull the lever to adjust its height so that your thighs fit comfortably underneath. While still standing, reach your hands above your head to grab the handlebar, gripping close to the edge at each side. Use your body weight to pull the bar as you slowly sit down on the chair. With your feet planted firmly on the ground and your knees bent at about 90 degrees, lean back slightly while making sure to keep your core tight before pulling your shoulder blades back and down in order to draw the bar straight to your chest. Return to the starting position with the bar just above your head and elbows bent to complete one rep. When you’re finished with your set, stand up slowly and continue to hold the bar until the weight plates are safely returned to the base.


Seated Row

The seated cable row looks similar to the lat pull down machine and it might even be placed nearby in your gym. The only difference is that it has a slanted platform at the base where you place your feet and the pulley is placed down low instead of overhead. As with most of the cable machines, the first step in setting it up is to place the pin in the appropriate weight slot. Next, find the row handle attachment and clip it to the pulley. Take a seat at the edge of the bench and place your feet firmly on the slanted block, about hip width distance apart. Reach forward to grab the handle, holding it so that your palms are facing inward. While sitting up tall and keeping your core tight, contract your back muscles (think about squeezing your shoulder blades) to pull the cable back in a rowing like motion. Slowly return to the starting position to complete one rep. When you’re finished with your set, lean forward slowly to release the weight stack back to the base.


Roman Chair

It’s not easy to tell what this piece of equipment might be used for just by looking at it, but it’s meant to assist a simple exercise. Chances are you’ve seen other members at your gym using it, but maybe you’re hesitant to give it a try because you’re not exactly sure of its purpose. Although you can use the roman chair several different ways, the main exercise you can use it for is the back extension, which strengthens the muscles of your core, lower back, and glutes.

To perform the exercise, first adjust the height of the upper pads so that they stop just at your hips when you position yourself on the machine. Plant your feet firmly at the top of the slanted base and then press your quads onto the padded area. Cross your arms over your shoulders and make sure to keep your spine in a straight line and your core tight as you slowly fold forward at your hips and lower your entire torso towards the floor. Using strength from your lower back and glutes, very slowly raise your torso back to the starting position, making sure not overextend at the top.


Foam Roller

Ok, so this piece of equipment isn’t that scary or intimidating, but many gym-goers either have no idea that it even exists or are completely unsure of what it’s used for. The foam roller’s main purpose is for assisting with self myofacial release, which is really just a fancy term for self-massage. You can use it to relieve tension in almost any muscle by rolling your limbs over it. If while rolling you feel an area with extra tension, hold yourself over the spot for 5-10 seconds. Below you can learn how to do five different foam roller exercises.

5 of the Best Foam Roller Exercises

Machines You’re Afraid to Use at the Gym (And How to Use Them Correctly)