The Right and Wrong Way to Use Exercise Machines


Are You Exercising Properly? Find out from top certified Personal Trainers using these contact points described below:


Gym members and personal training clients frequently resemble contortionist while using strength machines. They twist, lunge, heave, jerk and strain their entire bodies while using the equipment. This is a sure indicator that the individual is attempting to lift too much weight. The twisting, lunging, heaving, jerking and straining are efforts to recruit other muscles to help lift the weight. The isolation principle is lost, the exercises lose their effectiveness and the possibility of injury escalates.


The key to success when using a weight machine is establishing specific points of body contact with the machine for both action and stabilization. Action contact points are created by the arms and legs as they grip, push or pull the parts of a machine that move during theexercise. For exercises involving the trunk, the abdomen or back may create the action contact points. The action contact points are easy to establish, as without them the machine will not move.

Here is an example of a proper contact and an improper contact using this exercise:


The Chest-Bench Press Exercise  using a Smith Machine:

Proper contact: the hands are the active points of contact, while the stabilizing points of contact are the feet, buttocks, upper back and head.

Bench Press from Smith Machine
Proper form


Improper contact:  the hands are the active points of contact; however, the stabilization points of contact are not well-established. The feet are not set properly, and the upper back and head are not in contact with the machine.

Bench press from Smith Machine
Improper form


There are five common stabilization contact points;  1 & 2. the two extremities not involved in the exercise movement,  3.  the buttocks,  4.  the upper back and  5.  the head. These areas should be in contact with the padded portions of the machine.


For example, if the exercise involves the arms;  the feet, buttocks, upper back and head are the stabilization points. If the exercise involves the legs;  the hands, the buttocks, upper back and head are the stabilization points.


When you employ proper form utilizing appropriate points for active and stabilization contact, exercises using strength machines are safe and effective. Otherwise, there is risk of injury and gains in fitness are minimal.


Changing Your Stabilization Habits to Maximize Your Workout


A frequent response by exercisers  or personal training clients attempting to change from poor to good stabilization habits is, “I can’t lift as much weight the new way. I’m stronger than that.” It is true; they are not lifting the same amount of weight as before but, they were not lifting the previous weight with just the muscles the machines are designed to isolate in the first place. They were lifting (heaving, straining) with their entire bodies. Proper form in strength training cannot be overemphasized.


Exercise is safer, more effective and more enjoyable when it’s done correctly. The result is that you are more likely to continue toexercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Following these simple instructions will help in this endeavor. Remember, whenever you have questions about which exercises you should be doing or how to do them correctly, ask a fitness professional or Certified Personal Trainer with experience for help. Exercise is important enough to do it right.


For more information on exercising properly, contact Maurie Cofman, C.E.S.  Certified Personal Trainer in St. Louis.