Not all machines in the gym are created equal. Most new gyms have top quality machinery that is fairly safe and ergonomically correct for people to use. But older gyms can have a mismatch approach to equipment with pieces from various manufactures mixed in. Sadly some of these machines are not the best option for people to use and can be dangerous.
Let’s look at some of the common machines exercises at the gym and see exactly why you should avoid them or how to use them safely.
T-Bar Rows – You can find a few different versions of this piece of equipment and all of them should be avoided. The danger is that you are going to load far too much weight on the machine and try and torque it up to obtain a back contraction. The body position is fixed and it is unnatural with your torso locked in position and not many adjustments can be made. Your spine is very vulnerable. It makes more sense to do a simple barbell row which allows movement of the upper body and less stress on the shoulders and spine.
Hack Squat Machines – These machines can be hit or miss. I think I have found 2 in twenty years that fit me well and provided a good workout. Much of the problem is based on your personal size compared to the machine. A bigger guy has a problem with them because the placement area for the feet is not always large enough which means as you squat down your knee travels past your feet which puts too much stress on your knee joints. If you do use this machine don’t go overboard on the weight and pay attention to the path your knees take.
Calf Raise Machines – Most machines are built fairly well because they are very simple. The danger is in using too much weight on all of them. In the standing position your spine is rather vulnerable as well as your neck. Loading 500 pounds on top of your own bodyweight can be a dangerous situation unless you are used to squatting or deadlifting that much. Yet, time and time again I see skinny people load it up and do half reps. Drop the weight, work the whole range of motion, and save your back.
Abdominal Machines – These are much too easy to hurt yourself on. Just learn how to perform proper core work instead and save your body the pain and suffering that can occur as you try to move too much weight in a position that is rather unnatural for your body. Most of these machines have minimal adjustments at best and yet people often have different length torsos. Also there is a tendency to pull the handles with your arms which is bad for the neck.
Adductor / Abductor Machines – These are both pointless machines. A good set of dumbbell lunges will work both of these muscles and more. Yes women love these machines for some reason but they are so ineffective. It is far easier to hurt your hips by using too much weight in a position where the joint is open compared to learning some simple yet effective free weight exercises that target the entire leg much more evenly.