Trying to figure out what to do with all those machines at the gym, after being warned away from them by all the free-weight junkies? Even if you’re not a fan of their traditional uses, many of them have special benefits you can leverage for unique exercises–if nothing else, they’ll get to be more than an eyesore and an occasional coat rack. Here are five alternative workouts to make gym machines work for you:
5 Alternative Workouts on Common Machines
- Bench Press Throw. The first of several movements on this list to take advantage of the infamous Smith machine, bench press throws work wonders for training your explosive power. The concept is quite simple: You do a fierce bench press motion, let go of the bar at maximum extension, and catch it when it comes back down. You could do this without a machine, if you’re insane or have the greatest spotter of all time, but for the rest of us the machine lets us make a dangerous movement into a safe, useful one.
- Lat Pulldown Machine Glute-Ham Raises. There aren’t a lot of exercises out there which can effectively engage your hamstrings, so this is a good way to get extra usage out of the lat pulldown machine (one of the few machines everyone generally like anyway). It’s simple enough to perform: You kneel facing away from the stack on the seat, securing your feet beneath the knee brace (you’ll probably need a barbell or partner to help you get in position). Start upright, hips extended, then lower your torso towards the floor, going as far as you can without your lower back giving up on you. Use your hamstrings to return upright.
- Curl Throw. Another Smith machine throw, the curl throw is easy to understand if you already get the idea behind the bench press throw. This one looks a bit weird, but like the bench press throw it will greatly enhance your explosive strength.
- Kaz Press. A close cousin of the close-grip bench press, the Kaz Press is an elbow-friendly, high-weight movement you can do with the assistance of a Smith machine. Use them to give your triceps a fierce workout without engaging your shoulder or chest overmuch.
- Stationary Lunge. It can be tricky to figure out the proper weight for lunges without putting yourself at risk of injury, but stationary lunges on a Smith can give you the opportunity you need to really work some serious weight. Just don’t take it as a 1:1 guide to what you can manage without the machine; stabilizers are a big part of free lunges. A stationary lunge will work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings almost exclusively, however, so if you’re feeling a lack with your current workout this is a great move to toss in.