8 Most Popular Gym Machines Explained

| Fitness

row of treadmills at the gym

Machines at the gym can be intimidating, especially for those new to working out. Staring down a long row of machinery never boosted anyone's confidence at the gym, and many people don't like going to the gym because they feel overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar equipment. We've rounded up eight of the most popular gym machines and explained them, so you can feel prepared next time you step into the gym.

Treadmill: The treadmill is the most popular cardio machine for a reason! It works both your upper and lower body simultaneously and burns the most calories of any cardio machine at most gyms. It's great because its speed and incline can be adapted to fit many different fitness levels. The only bad thing about the treadmill is that it isn't great if you have bad joints, as the high impact could be too much for them.

>> Read more: Tread to Shred: 5 Treadmill Workouts You Need to Try

run treadmill

Elliptical: The elliptical is easier on your joints than the treadmill and still burns a lot of calories! The arm components of ellipticals allow for your upper body to get a workout as well, which will burn more calories.

woman on elliptical machine at the gym

Stair stepper: Stair steppers are similar to ellipticals in the sense that they are low impact. They will work your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves just as a normal set of stairs would, but there isn't really an upper body workout like there is with the elliptical. However, we guarantee you will still get hot and sweaty with the stair stepper!

stair stepper

Stationary bike: The stationary bike is the best machine for people with bad knees because it has the least amount of impact on your joints. Adjusting the seat on your bike is a crucial part of using the stationary bike. You'll want to make sure that when you're sitting with your feet on the pedals and your legs are fully extended, that you have a very slight bend in your knee. Most people sit too low, which can cause knee soreness and doesn't allow for your knee to travel the full range of motion.

woman doing cardio on stationary bike at the gym

Rowing machine: The rowing machine requires great strength and coordination because you have to simultaneously push with your legs and pull with your arms. You will also be engaging your core abdominal muscles in order to support and protect your back. While this machine burns tons of calories and is great to use when you want to switch up your normal fitness routine, it is not the best option for you if you have back pains.

Young Woman Exercising on a Rowing Machine

Leg press: The leg press allows you to safely lift heavy weights without having to worry about slipping or falling. It also works out and still get results in your quads while placing less stress on your lower back and knees than squats would.

leg press weight

Leg extension machine: This machine allows you to isolate and really focus on your quads as well! Many people like to use it for warming up their quads and knee joints before squats or leg presses.

leg extension
(Photo: Iron Company)

Lat Pulldown Machine: The lat pulldown is similar to a chin-up machine with one added benefit: you don't have to be able to lift your entire bodyweight! It works your lattissimus dorsi muscle, which stretches across the middle of your back down the side to the bottom three ribs. This machine, like the leg extension and the leg press, allows you to adjust the weights to fit your fitness level.

lat pulldown
(Photo: Cybex)