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Shape Shift

Overwhelmed by the equipment and machines next to the treadmill? Maybe it’s time for a perception change.

Ryann Gordon
January 1, 2017

Weights drop loudly on every end of a massive, chaotic room; bands stretch across heavy racks of metal, bouncing back and forth, begging to be set free; sweaty men grunt as they pull on cords that lift unimaginable amounts of weights. People rotate on and off dozens of foreign machines as if they’ve done it their whole life — and many of them have.

Then, one of them steps aside for you to take a turn and you’re thrown into the deep end with no idea what you’re doing. Do you think you’re going back to the gym any time soon?

For those of us who aren’t well-versed at the gym, the lines of weights, fitness equipment and confusing machinery can be highly overwhelming. How are you supposed to get in your cardio when all the treadmills are taken? And how do you expect to get that Kardashian booty when you don’t know the difference between a leg and arm press? 

Don’t overcomplicate it. Take your time and learn as you go, or maybe as you meet new friends who can teach you. And know the basics. Don’t worry though — that’s what you’ve got us for.

We all know about the treadmill and the elliptical. So, it would come as no surprise that these are the machines that fill up first. However, there are a number of other machines that will give you just as much or more of the cardio you’re looking for, and they’re not as intimidating as they look. 

One great substitution for the treadmill would be to switch it up occasionally on a rowing machine or stair mill, a rotating, never-ending flight of stairs that will have your booty screaming. 

For those days when everyone and their mom seem to have taken the elliptical, try switching it up on a spin bike or air dyne. Both will provide the cardio you’re looking for on an elliptical with an added emphasis on the glutes and legs. For those who would rather focus solely on those areas of the body, check out the recumbent bike, where you do the same bicycling motion but in a more reclined seat. And don’t forget about the arc trainer, basically the lovechild of the elliptical and the stair mill.

Benches and Bars
One of the simplest ways to work out at the gym is by using equipment that doesn’t contain a machine but helps us create muscle. 

The weight racks and benches are pretty much what meets the eye — but do know your safety rules and be careful not to try something too risky without a spotter. The flat and inclined benches, and preacher bench, designed like a backward chair for lifting, are great for building muscle in your arms. Then there is the abdominal bench, where you lay backward and hook your feet for crunches. 

The squat and power racks are for your lower back and glutes. You can also do bar workouts on simple equipment like the chin up and dipping bars, great for the shoulders, biceps and forearms.

Cables and bands can be used to work out just about any part of the body.

Similar to the squat and power racks is the Smith machine that combines weight plate and barbell resistance to your squats. But if you want a leg/glute workout without the added complication of bars and weight plates, the leg press and hack squat machines have this workout already laid out for you. 

Most machines for working the arms, chest and back will be multi-stations with various machines tied into one. Popular machines in most gyms are the pec deck that involves squeezing your forearms together and the chest press, composed of two handles connected to weights that you push in front of you for pectoral perfection. The shoulder press and triceps dip, which are similar in fashion to the chest press — but angled to be pushed either up or down — are also great workouts. And don’t overlook the specific machines designed for bicep curls and more arm, chest and back workouts.

Cables and Bands
Cables can be used to work out just about any part of the body. The cable crossover machine, which involves pulling two cable cords from either side of your body, will do justice for your arms and chest. And you can also use cables to switch up your routine workouts, using the triceps cable as a balance for doing various types of squats and lunges on the ground or like a resistance band that you hook to your foot for glute reps. While many of the machines you see will have attached cables, most machines also have an area to attach resistance bands.