Like any other professional, I get slightly aggravated when I see someone performing an exercise incorrectly.  I know that teachers get upset when they hear someone give bad advice and I’m sure lawyers get perturbed when someone weighs in on a legal subject who has no idea what they are talking about.  That being said, I will stick to what I know.

This post is about the correct use of resistance training equipment.  While the topic is straightforward, these are oft overlooked aspects of a workout.  As expensive as these machines are, they don’t have much use when performed incorrectly.  Exercise professionals design and engineer these machines in such a way as to reflect of the movement patterns of the human body.  Without adjusting the machines to your proportions, you will not only minimize your gains, but also increase your chances of injury.  I will disclose three key points that will ensure you get the most benefit from using the machines.  Each of them are equally important, so be sure to read them all.

The first thing I’m going to talk about is the alignment of your joint in relation to the machine.  As I mentioned before, the machines are created to mimic the human body.  They are designed in such a way that the resistance is applied directly to the muscles being trained; however, you must adjust the machine properly for this to happen.  Most machines of the upper and lower body have either a handle to grip or a piece where your legs apply force.  If you study the machine closely, you will notice an axis that the machine pivots on as you perform each exercise.  Most machines will place a colored sticker with a circular arrow or just have a black covering on the axis.  This is where you should align your joint.  Take for example the bicep curl.  If you correctly align your elbow with the axis on the machine, then your movement is both stable and safe with regards to the joint itself and involved musculature.  Similarly, on the hamstring curl your knee should be aligned with the axis of the machine to ensure that the hamstring is being utilized maximally.

The second point I want to make is about seat height.  Since the machines are expensive, it wouldn’t be feasible to make a “Josh” machine customized to my exact height and proportions.  Only people of my build would be able to use it.  Because everyone has different torso heights and limb lengths, the seats on most machines are adjustable.  Putting the seat at the appropriate height will result in the most efficient exercise.  All the machines at the Bernhardt Wellness Center are Lifetime Fitness machines.  To maximize the amount of people who can use their machines, Lifetime’s seats will adjust to fit a range of heights.  The specs on their machines are comparable; therefore your adjustment should be consistent.  If your seat height on the shoulder press is at #4 then it is probably the same on the chest press.  Be sure to look before just sitting on the machine.

The last thing I want to talk about ties in with the first two topics.  I will continue to express this theme with all of my articles on resistance training.  It is the idea of a complete range of motion.  As I stated above, machines must be able to adjust to people of different proportions, capabilities, and even injury history.  They allow for range of motion adjustment to comply with a rehabilitation plan or a lack of flexibility.  It is vitally important to your improvement that you maximize your range of motion on all machines.  This means that you need to put the leg extension seat close to the platform, move the pec fly as wide as you can get it, and try to extend your legs as much as possible before contracting in the hamstring curl.

These pointers will help you perform exercises correctly.  Be sure to adjust the machines to your proportions before you start working out.  They have provided visual cues to aid you.  Next time you approach a machine, be sure to make the necessary changes in seat height, range of motion, and joint alignment before pumping out your set.