1. Master essential movements
If you’re new to the gym, or are beginning to get into lifting weights rather than focusing purely on cardio, using resistance machines is a great way to learn the main movement patterns involved in weight lifting in a safe and controlled way.
Why it works: The way machines are made means the movement is always in a fixed plane so you can only lift and lower in the correct way. This builds strength, a mind-muscle connection and confidence before you advance to free weights.
2. Isolate specific muscles safely
Machines allow movement only along a fixed path, which makes them an effective tool for advanced lifters to target specific muscles.
Why it works: While free weights are essential in any muscle-building plan, you’re only as strong as your weakest link, which is often the small, stabilising muscles around a joint. When you use machines these stabilising muscles are not recruited, allowing you to lift heavier in safety and work a particular muscle to its limit.
3. Come back from an injury
It’s inevitable that at some point during your training life you will suffer an injury, regardless of the precautions you take. And it’s when you return to training that machines can help you regain strength and stability lost during your time on the sidelines, enabling you ultimately to come back stronger than ever.
Why it works: Again, the fixed movement range of machines supports your major and minor muscle groups, allowing you to focus on perfect form.
4. Fire up your fast-twitch fibres
Muscles are made up of different types of fibres, and the more fast-twitch fibres you have, the quicker and harder they can contract to make you more powerful and explosive.
Why it works: Using machines for explosive contractions – think of a fast but controlled movement to initiate a move – is one of the most effective ways to build bigger, stronger and more powerful muscles, according to research from Loughborough University.
5. Maintain tension on your muscles
All resistance machines allow you to maintain more tension on the working muscles – which results in greater growth – but none more so than cable machines.
Why it works: Cable machines are a halfway house between fixed machines and free weights because you have some control over the movement range. The best thing about them is that the weight you move remains the same through every stage of the rep, making your muscles work harder every set.
RECOMMENDED: Cable Machine Exercises
6. Power through a strength plateau
Have your strength gains hit a plateau? Using machines for safe eccentric lifting – which is where you lower a heavy weight slowly and under complete control – can shock your body into getting stronger.
Why it works: Eccentric reps are tough to do well with free weights as you start to fatigue. In a study in the journal Frontiers In Physiology, subjects increased their force production, work capacity, muscle activation and resistance after just five weeks of eccentric lifting.
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