When it comes to the gym, exercise machines have been getting a bad rap as of late. They restrict you to a limited range of motion, don’t engage the stabilizing muscles and can cause you to favor your dominant side over your weak side.
Free weights as a result have become really popular among gym goers and for good reasons but there are some advantages to using machines over free weights that you should know if you’re serious about putting on mass.
Machines have the benefit of stabilizing the weight for you meaning that you don’t have to worry about form and that your body is under less stress when performing the exercise. This makes machines great tools for those looking to squeeze a little more out of their workout with little risk in hurting themselves or those looking to break an old weightlifting goal.
When it comes to machines, like any other exercises some are just superior to the rest. Stick to these exercises when you are looking throw on a little extra bulk.
The leg press is the ultimate machine when it comes to isolating your quads. The leg press is performed in a seated position, at a right angle. This angle is so that the four quadriceps muscles are fully engaged while the glutes and hamstrings are in a rested position.
This puts the majority of the load on the hamstrings, making it a great exercise when you are looking to isolate your quads.
Most leg press machines have a huge footpad where you can adjust the placement of your feet to where it is most comfortable. In addition, the large plate makes it so that you can strategically place your feet in positions to specifically target muscles or to isolate the quads themselves further. To do so, position your feet more towards the bottom of the pad to put more load on the quads.
The leg press is a great tool when it comes to drop sets as well. If you are unfamiliar with a drop set, it is a technique where the exercise is performed to failure. The weight is then dropped, or lowered, and the exercise is again completed until failure.
The drop set technique is very effective when you want to squeeze that last bit of energy out of your muscles before you are exhausted.
The squat machine is something everyone can incorporate in to their routine because it most closely mimics the movements of a free weighted exercise. This machine is also great for people unfamiliar with squats or those that have problems maintaining proper form like rolling their backs when performing squats.
Squat machines also have the added benefit of stabilizing the weight for you, so you can get a few more reps out of your exercise with a machine than you would with a barbell on your back.
I’m sure some people are thinking why use a squat machine when you can just use a smith? Well the smith machine is much more limiting when it comes to your movement, and all of the force of that weight is still focused on a small area of your back, where the bar is placed.
A squat machine on the other hand has elongated pads which distribute that weight more evenly over your back and arms which reduces strain as a result.
Another benefit of the squat machine is like the leg press, most machines have a large footpad that comes along with it. Positioning your feet differently allows you to target the hamstrings more or glutes if you prefer as well, making the machine pretty versatile when it comes to what areas you can work.
If you have back problems, don’t try the squat machine just stick to hack squats. However if you don’t have back problems you can still find plenty of benefits from this exercise as well.
The biggest difference between the hack squat and regular squat machine is the positioning. Hack squats are performed seated, with your knees at a 90 degree angle. This is different from the standing squat machine which puts more strain on the spine.
The hack squat is also more effective in targeting the inner thigh muscles than the squat machine as well.