When you first walk into a gym it can be an intimidating place, there are lots of people there who at first glance all seem to know what they are doing. You witness people performing pull ups, or lifting huge barbells off the floor, and decide that maybe you’ll jump onto the least intimidating piece of equipment that you see.
This is not a bad idea at all, new gym goers tend to have poor coordination, and can benefit from building strength using machines. This is because the weights are fixed and can only travel in simple, smooth movements. A chest press is a lot safer than a barbell bench press while you are first exercising. But eventually you will find that the machines are a little limited, you might also find that they are always busy!
At this point you will decide that you should venture out of the resistance machines area and try your hand at some of the alternatives around. In this article we are going to choose some excellent alternatives to some of the most common gym machines.
We are going to look at 3 common gym machines that work your upper and lower body, and for each one we are going to find a simple exercise to replace it. If you have been training in the gym for a few weeks and are starting to feel a little more confident then this is the article for you.
The seated chest press is probably the easiest machine to learn, which probably explains its popularity with new trainees. It works the pectoral (chest) muscles, as well as the triceps (back of your arms), and deltoids (shoulders).
Exercise Alternative = The Dumbbell Bench Press
Grab a dumbbell in each hand and sit on the end of a bench. Lift the dumbbells up so that they are in line with your shoulders and then lie backwards onto the bench. If you have a workout partner then you can ask them to pass the weights to you instead. Push your chest out and pull your shoulders back, and then pull your elbows out until they are a 45 degree angle away from your sides.
The dumbbells should be in line with your chest. Take a deep breath and then push the dumbbells upwards, arcing them towards each other so that they meet directly above your chest. Breathe out as you do this. Pause at the top and then return the dumbbells to their starting position.
The leg press comes in many forms, some are angled while others are flat. Some involve a fixed plate and movable seat, while others utilize a fixed seat and move-able plate. But what all leg presses do is imitate the squat. They work the quadriceps (thighs) and glutes in particular while also hitting the hamstrings (back of the thighs) and calves.
Exercise Alternative = The Goblet Squat
Stand upright holding a dumbbell between two hands so that it is in line with the chest, your elbows should be flared out at a 45 degree angle. Place your feet shoulder width apart and turn your toes out slightly. To squat you should keep your heels flat on the floor and lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Imagine you are trying to sit on a small chair, this will help you to squat down properly. Pause at the bottom and then stand back upright. Keep your chest pushed out and your shoulders pulled back throughout the movement, this will help you squat better and will prevent the dumbbell from dropping forward.
A great exercise for the upper back, working the trapezius muscles and the latissimus dorsi. The exercise also targets the biceps.
Exercise Alternative = Dumbbell Bent Over Row
Grab a set of dumbbells and stand with feet shoulder width apart and chest pushed out. Pull your shoulder blades back to create a nice, flat back. Lower your chest until it is almost directly over the ground, pushing your glutes backwards and bending your knees slightly. Take a deep breath and then pull the dumbbells up to your chest keeping your elbows close to your body. Pause when the weights reach the top of the movement and then slowly lower them back down to the ground.
These three exercises are a great alternative to resistance machines, but that does not mean you should never use the machines again. Almost everything in the gym can be effective if used correctly, but the more exercises you know, the more freedom you will have. Knowing that you can use a low row when all the dumbbells are being used is really good as it prevents you from having to wait 10 minutes.
If you have enjoyed learning about these alternative exercises and would like to learn even more, then why not consider trying our Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification. Not only will you learn loads about how to train yourself, you will also learn how to effectively teach others about how to use a gym effectively.
If you are feeling inspired you may also be interested in reading about the various ways in which to diversify your fitness routine and the benefits this offers.