Encouraging Health and Happiness

Three machines that are worth your gym time

Health columnist Kelly Turner explains the benefits of three machines for a great gym workout.

By On Exercise

By Kelly Turner Special to The Seattle Times

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The gym is full of twisted metal contraptions with more handles and levers than a medieval torture device, but knowing which machines are worth using cannot only save you time, but get you results faster than you expect.

People like to stick to what they know, and this is no truer than in the gym, which can be an intimidating place for most. The only way to truly get results, however, is to mix up your workout. Doing the same routine, in the same way, day in and day out will eventually hinder your progress.

Your body is inherently lazy and will find ways to do the same amount of work with less effort. This is known as the plateau effect, where even though you are continuing to do the exercises that got you results at first, they will suddenly stall. When your body gets used to doing the same workout and knows what to expect, it won’t burn as many calories. To keep your results rolling, you have to keep your body on its toes.

For one way to increase your intensity without adding minutes to your workout, consider swapping your go-to equipment for something with a little extra oomph.

• Instead of the treadmill, try the rowing machine. You’ll get the same cardio benefits of using a treadmill, plus strength training benefits with the added resistance of the machine. And that means you’ll spend less time in the gym overall. With the treadmill, even if you crank the incline all the way up to get a great burn in your legs to match the burn in your lungs, you won’t be able to get your arms in on the action. But the rower will give you a total body, cardio and strength training workout that you can’t beat.

• Instead of dumbbells, try the cable machine. The cable machine can look confusing with its moving arms and handle attachments, but once you get it down, you’ll never go back. Cable machines offer you all the functionality of dumbbells while letting you safely and effectively use more weight, making it the best of both worlds. Functional training is using your body in the way it was designed to move: lifting, twisting and moving weight all in combination to train your body to handle work you will encounter every day, which experts agree is the most effective way to build overall, even strength.

• Instead of the elliptical, use the step mill: The step mill is a tall machine with a mini escalator attached, which allows you to simulate climbing an endless flight of stairs. Choosing the step mill over the smooth ride of an elliptical will burn more calories while lifting and tightening your butt, slimming your thighs and toning calves. Propelling your body upward is one of the most taxing ways to use your muscles, so climb your lower body to new heights. Step mills can be a little tricky to maneuver at first, and you may find yourself stumbling as you get used to the motion — it isn’t as similar to climbing normal stairs as you might think — so watch your step until you get used to it.

If you’ve never used these machines before, find a friendly and knowledgeable gym employee to show you the ropes and never be shy about asking for pointers or different exercises to try. Get in, work hard and get out. Your time is important so use it wisely.

Kelly Turner: kellyturnerfitness@gmail.com; Turner is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer and fitness writer.

 

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