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How to Use Machines at the Gym Other Than the Elliptical

If you’re like many of us collegiettes, working out is probably an important part of your week. But if you have a regular date with the elliptical and the other machines at the gym look more like Transformers than workout equipment, it’s time to revamp your workout!
Curious about everything else the gym offers but overwhelmed by the army of ironclad machines next to the all-too-familiar treadmill? Fear no more -- HC did the work for you and demystified the contraptions that you’re most likely to see.
Lat Pull-down

Works: Lats, biceps
This machine will help define your biceps and firm up your arms!

Start by gripping the bar with one hand on each side, palms facing forward. Keeping your arms straight, abs engaged and chest lifted, pull the bar down towards your chest. Try to use your arm muscles as little as possible, therefore working your lats — you should feel it in your back. Hold for 1 count, then slowly return to the starting position as you complete one rep. You should complete three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Leg Press

Works: Quads, glutes
Think of the leg press as a “do-it-all” machine for amazing legs. Bonus: it’ll work your butt too!

Sit back and place your feet on the plate. Slowly push your legs out until your knees are just slightly bent-don’t straighten them all the way. Then lower the weight, bringing knees back towards your chest — that’s one rep. Do three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Ab Bench

Works: Abdominals
This versatile platform allows you to perform several variations of ab exercises, working different muscles to sculpt your core.

Sit with your legs tucked underneath the rollers, as shown. Place hands behind your head, keeping your shoulders and neck in a straight line. Slowly lean back until your shoulders are just a few inches from the bench. Keeping abs engaged, lift yourself back up (this should resemble a basic sit-up motion). In order to really work your abs, be careful not to lean forward with your head as you sit up. For a full workout, do five sets of ten reps.

Leg Curl Machine

Works: Hamstrings
This machine will tighten your hamstrings and help shape your legs!

Start by sitting on the machine with your legs under the pad and your feet pointed forward. Using your hamstrings, extend your legs upward as you exhale. Keep the rest of your body stationary on the seat. Hold for a second, then slowly lower the weight back to its original position as you inhale to finish one rep. Complete three sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Pec Deck

Works: Pectorals, deltoids
The pec deck is often thought of as a guys-only machine. But don’t overlook its ability to strengthen your arms and tighten up your chest!

Sit with your back pressed against the chair. Squeeze your forearms and elbows together as you draw the grip bars toward each other. (Try to almost touch them together at the peak of the exercise.) Engage your chest muscles during the movement by pressing with your elbows. Return to the starting position to complete a rep. Do at least two sets of ten reps.
Abductor Machine

Works: Glutes
Try this machine if you want sleek thighs. It’ll work the upper-leg muscles necessary for a streamlined look.

Sit on the machine with your legs together, feet placed on each platform. Push outwards and separate your legs, extending slowly. Then let your legs return to the center, without fully returning to the starting position. Be sure to keep muscles engaged during the exercise. Two sets of ten will give you the workout you need.

Shoulder Press

Works: Deltoids 
This is really effective when it comes to attaining tight muscles, especially sculpted shoulders!

Be sure to sit correctly, as the proper position will prevent injuries. When you grasp the handles, your elbows should be level with your shoulders, and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Hang onto the outside handles, keeping your back straight and tightening your abs. Then extend your arms, but don’t straighten them all the way. Lower the weight back toward you to complete one rep. Complete three sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Rowing Machine

Works: Quadriceps, biceps, back, abdominals
The benefits of this genius machine are two-fold! Working out on the rower develops your muscles while delivering a powerful cardio workout.

Start by holding the handle with your palms down. Place your feet on the platforms, as shown. Keep your back straight and your abs engaged. After getting into position, push into the foot pedals and extend your legs while pulling the bar in towards you. Bring your elbows back until they're just past your torso. To finish, return back to the starting position, bending at your hips instead of hunching your back over your knees. Use this machine for as long as you would usually stay on the treadmill.

Arc Trainer

Works: Full-body, Cardio
Get the same workout you’d get on the treadmill without the impact!

If you prefer a low-impact machine like the elliptical, the Arc Trainer might also be a good treadmill-alternative. Rather than moving your feet in a circular pattern, you’ll glide — like the machine’s name suggests — in an arc-like shape. To get a full-body workout, hold on to the handles and pump your arms as if you were running, and remember to keep your hips straight so you’re working the right muscles. Spend as long on this machine as you would on the elliptical.

Works: Biceps, back
Chin-ups made easy? Yes please!

Can’t do pull-ups? The Gravitron is your answer! Choose how much weight you want to assist you with each pull-up, grab on to the handles and step onto the lever either on your feet or knees, and lift as you would in a normal pull-up. The lever will assist you up and down as you do your reps, almost as if someone were helping lift you with each pull. Do three sets of 8 to 10 pull-ups.

Dani Wong is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco, where she is double majoring in media studies and journalism. After her short story was published in a recent book, she decided to explore a new facet of writing and became involved with student newspapers and magazines. Between interning, taking classes, and exploring San Francisco, Dani is embracing the new opportunities that city life brings. Her true loves include traveling, taking photographs, playing sports and anything food related!
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