Conquering Your Fear of Gym Equipment
Do you have a tendency to walk into the gym and go right to the treadmill? Do you do it because you really want to run, or are you just wary of some of the other gym equipment? I know I've walked away from a machine or two simply because I didn't know exactly how to use it, but was too embarrassed to admit it! Here are five pieces of equipment that I now know how to use properly!
1. Squat Machine
While this may seem harmless enough, the squat machine was one that I was extremely wary of. Not only was I a little unsure of what I was doing, but I was terrified of getting stuck in that squat position and not being physically able to push it back up, only to crawl out of it on my hands and knees crying. While I'm not going to rule out the possibility of my being feeble, there are a couple of tips to get going on this machine.
First, proper form is KEY! You never want your knees over your toes. Be sure to line your ankles and your knees up to have the proper form. When you are using the machine for the first time, you'll want someone to spot you. You have to unlock the weights, and if you are unsure of what level of weight to use, you'll need to be sure you can lift it unassisted back to the latch position so you don't end up like I feared–crawling out from underneath a “too heavy” weight!
2. Hammer Strength
This machine totally intimidated me. One, because I had no idea how to use it, and two, because I never saw anyone else on it, either! I walked around it a few times thinking I was probably smart enough to figure it out, but I was always questioning myself. I didn't want to use it wrong. Luckily, this machine is pretty fool proof. The reason I couldn't figure out which way to use it was because there is more than one correct way. There is a row feature (pictured first) or a press feature (pictured second). You can add weights or simply use the weight of the machine. While it's not the most popular piece of equipment in the gym, I've never had to wait to use one! (Unlike the treadmill!)
3. Weight-Assisted Chin Up/Dip Machine
Just looking at this machine scared me. I didn't know how I was supposed to get on it, and once I was on it, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. It seemed like I should know where the weight adjustment was, but I promise you, I walked around the machine twice and still didn't see it until it was pointed out to me. Even then, someone had to explain to me that when I put it on 70 pounds, I was not lifting 70 pounds. I was subtracting 70 pounds from my body weight.
With weight-assisted machines, they are taking some of your body weight away to help you be successful. No wonder the more weight I “added,” the easier it was! While there isn't a “wrong” way to pull up/dip, you do need to be careful you don't lock your elbows, and when you are mounting/dismounting the machine, remember their is a bit of resistance and recoil.
4. Rope Pull Down
Yes. I am this dramatic. I honestly had no idea why these machines had ropes! Was this different from a bar? Why? How am I supposed to stand? Am I supposed to pull over my head? Down? Away from my body? Definitely didn't want to do it wrong, definitely didn't do it at all because of it. Great news! The answer is, all of the above!
You really can't do this rope-pull thing wrong. The only thing you can do is do it unsafely. You're trying to work your muscles by keeping resistance on the rope with weights. If you're using your body weight as leverage, the machine's not doing its job. Pull using only the muscle group you are trying to target, not leveraging your body weight.
This was one machine I felt totally confident I could do. Then I tried it. Fail. Fail again. What the heck? I looked around for a better description of what I should be doing, but I couldn't find anything! I finally just broke down and had to ask. I learned that the trick is shoulder placement. Your shoulders need to be at or below the break in the padding to be able to lift the bars. Also, you want to look at the ceiling and not your feet. This ensures that you are using your stomach muscles and not straining your neck.
So there you have it: Five pieces of gym equipment conquered! I challenge you to get off the treadmill this week and give some of these a try!
What machine do you avoid? Do you steer clear of the weight-lifting equipment and stick to cardio? Is there a clear estrogen/testosterone division in your gym? Tell us in the comments!