How to Use Weight-Lifting Machines

Using weight-lifting machines are a great way to start weight training; learn how to use them properly and get a sample weight-lifting routine sure to give you great results.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #4

How Many Reps Should You Do on Each Machine?

Tip 4: Follow the rule of 3. If after doing 12 reps you feel like you could keep going for more than 3 above that, such as 15,  then you should probably increase the weight a little. (You can easily change the weights by moving a pin up and down the stack on a weight machine.) If you can’t get within 3 reps of 12 without having to stop and rest, then you should probably decrease the weight, or find a really good massage therapist to work on you the next day!

How Should You Breathe When Lifting Weights?

Tip 5: Remember to breathe! If you don’t breathe while lifting weights, you can build up potentially dangerous internal pressures. So follow this simple rule: breathe out while you’re pushing something away from you or pulling something towards you, and breathe in while you’re returning that something back to it’s original position. That is actually a pretty good rule to follow whether you’re picking up a box in your garage, or using a weight-lifting machine. An easy way to remember it is: EXhale when you EXert!

A Sample Weight-Lifting Routine

Now that I’ve given you my top 5 tips for using weight-lifting machines, here’s a sample routine to get you started:

Exercise 1: Machine Chest Press. On this upper body pushing machine, you’ll sit down, grip a pair of handles, and then push your arms out and away from your body.

Exercise 2: Machine Pull-Downs. For this upper body pulling machine, you sit down, lean back, and then pull a bar down towards your torso, until the bar touches your chest.

Exercise 3: Machine Shoulder Press. This is very similar to the chest press, except you press up instead of out!

Exercise 4: Machine Seated Rows. On this upper body pulling machine, you’ll be doing the exact opposite motion of the chest press: pulling the weight towards your body.

Exercise 5: Machine Leg Press. Consider this your lower body pushing exercise. Lie down, bend your knees, plant your feet on a platform and simply press your legs away from your body.

Exercise 6: Machine Leg Curls. There are two variations of this low-body pulling machine. On one variation of the machine, you’re lying on your stomach with a pad against the back of your ankles, and contracting your leg muscles to bring your heels towards your butt. On the other variation of the machine, you’re doing the same movement, but you’re sitting down, rather than lying on your stomach.

Exercise 7: Machine Abdominal Crunches. Here’s your core exercise! On this machine, a pad is placed against your chest, and you contract your abdominals to move the pad forward, and then let the pad move slowly back to it’s original location.

For a good video for each of these exercises just go to bodybuilding.com, where there’s a handy little search function that lets you search for machine based exercises only. I’ll put a link in the show notes that brings you directly to the machines. And don’t let the weird pictures of incredibly ripped freaks scare you away. The instructions are really good.

Best of luck as you get started with weight lifting. In future episodes, I’m going to tell you all about the different styles of weight lifting that can be used for everything from muscle building, to firming and toning, to fat burning, and in no time flat, you’ll be ready to run for the Governor of California. OK, maybe not, but at least you’ll vastly enhance the effectiveness of your workouts, and that’s what I’m here to teach you!

Weight Training Machine image courtesy of Shutterstock


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.