Beginner Basics: A 30-Minute Gym Machine Workout Routine

by Autumn Jones

Looking for a solid, go-to workout routine? Machines at the gym offer a ton of great options! And they can help you strengthen all of your major muscle groups in just 30 minutes! The versatility of fitness machines will also allow you to start at the right level for you and build over time. For those who are new to working out, machines help make sure you are using proper form and targeting the right muscles.

When using machines, remember to start slow. This goes for speed and intensity on cardio machines as well as resistance on weight-based machines. As you become comfortable with your gym machine workout, you can increase all of these elements to challenge your body.

Here’s a great full-body routine that uses six common machines in the gym. Before beginning your routine, be sure to complete a set of dynamic warm-up stretches.

Treadmill

Time on: 10 minutes

If you’re not used to using a treadmill, don’t worry! You can attach the emergency stop clip to your shirt, which senses if you lose balance during your workout and immediately stops the treadmill.

Once you feel steady, get the treadmill moving and adjust the speed and incline buttons gradually to find the settings that work best for you.

Lat Pulldown Machine

Time on: two sets of 12 reps (about three minutes). Rest for 10 seconds between sets.

Target your upper body by putting in reps on the lat pulldown machine. To get started, make sure your knees are secure under the seat pads and grab onto the bar.

Form is super important when using the lat pulldown machine, so keep it slow and steady as you pull the bar down to your chest and then return your arms to their starting position over your head. When doing lat pulldowns, keep these four form tips in mind: good posture, chest out, back straight, neutral spine.

Leg Press Machine

Time on: two sets of 12 reps (about three minutes). Rest for 10 seconds between sets.

Your gym machine workout wouldn’t be complete without giving some attention to one of the largest muscles groups in the body: the legs.

Before you start on the leg press, make sure you’ve adjusted the seat to a comfortable position by using the lever. Sit down and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the press, slide the seat until your knees are positioned at slightly less than a 90-degree angle so you don’t clank the weight stack at the bottom of the movement, and choose the weight that’s right for you.

Now that you’re ready to start pressing, shift your focus to your form. While you push from your heels, use controlled movements to press yourself away from the machine until your legs are straight (don’t lock your knees), then return gently to the starting position.

Stair Climber

Time on: five minutes

The stair climber targets the muscles in your lower body while keeping your heart rate up. Push the green “Go” button to start the machine. Use the plus and minus buttons to increase and decrease your speed until you find the rate that works best for you.

Chest Press

Time on: two sets of 12 reps (about three minutes). Rest for 10 seconds between sets.

To use this machine, adjust the seat to a height that feels comfortable, then set the weight to your desired amount of resistance. Once you have this basic set-up complete, you’re ready to start your reps on the chest press machine.

Sit so your is back straight against the back of the seat and grab onto the handles. Using control, extend your arms out fully until they are straight (don’t lock your elbows), then slowly return to the starting position. Yep, it’s really that simple!

Ab Machine

Time on: two sets of 12 reps (about three minutes). Rest for 10 seconds between sets.

Strengthen your core with a few rounds of crunches on the ab machine. First, sit down and adjust the seat height as needed, then choose the amount of weight you’d like to start with. Next, grip the handles and rest your elbows on the pads. As you exercise your core, your elbows will naturally want to move down toward your legs. Hold this contracted position for a breath and then return to the starting position.

After you’ve finished your workout, cool down with some static stretching to round out all of your hard work! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.

When starting a fitness career, beginners often ask themselves a lot of questions: Which split training is the right for me? Shall I focus on the training of my chest, or rather on the shaping of my biceps?

No wonder! With the variety of training plans and tips from professionals, as well as a large number of equipment in modern fitness studios, it is really not easy to find the right start.

But it’s actually very easy: Keep it simple! First, keep your workout as simple as possible. Your objective at this point is to get the muscles used to the stress of the weight lifting stimulus and prepare yourself for more.

This plan accompanies you on your first 6-8 weeks in the gym. It gives you a good basis for advanced programs. You will focus on training the main muscle groups. These basic exercises are performed on equipment that is available in almost every gym.

  • Goal: build muscles and strength
  • Muscles: Entire body
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Equipment: yes
  • Duration: 6-8 weeks
  • Type: Complete training plan

Further informations: With this purchase you will unlock the complete workout routine. Next to the workouts you will also unlock descriptions and animations for each exercise.

The Big Mike Alright UG assumes no liability for any injuries whatsoever connected to or resulting from the use of any our exercise programs. Consult a physician before performing this or any exercise program. It is your responsibility to evaluate your own medical and physical condition and to independently determine whether to perform, use or adapt any of the information or content in this app.

Enjoy the SilverSneakers store!

This 20-minute program hits every muscle group and gives your heart a boost.

Gym machines often get a bad rap. The truth is, they’re a fantastic way to strengthen your body and can be less intimidating to use than dumbbells. Plus, when you combine a few machines that target different muscle groups, you can get a safe and effective full-body workout.

Take this routine from fitness expert David Jack, for example. Not only does it challenge every muscle group, but it also provides some cardio work—all in roughly 20 minutes. How’s that for an effective workout? (With SilverSneakers, it could be a free workout too. If you haven’t yet, check your eligibility for free access to gyms and fitness classes through SilverSneakers here. Already a member? Find a location near you here.)

For best results, Jack recommends doing this workout one to three times per week for six to eight weeks. The recumbent bike can serve as your warmup, or if you have time, try these five dynamic stretches to prime your muscles and reduce your risk of injury.

Ready to get started? Here’s your step-by-step guide. Keep in mind that safety comes first. If your doctor or physical therapist has advised against a particular exercise, skip it but feel free to do the other ones that are okay for you. For machines with weight, use a light weight to start—you can always add more weight as you get comfortable. And if you ever feel too tired or that your form is compromised, pause to check in with your body, and only resume if you feel you can do so safely.

Step #1: Recumbent Bike

2 minutes

Sit down and secure your feet in the pedals. Adjust the seat as necessary so your front knee is slightly bent and your foot is comfortably extended on the pedal. Grab the handle and start pedaling. Once you’ve got a good riding rhythm, press the big Quick Start button. Set the resistance level (Jack starts at 7), and see how that feels. Continue for two minutes, rest for 60 seconds, and then move on to the next machine.

Want more guidance? to see a video demonstration and more tips for the recumbent bike.

Step #2: Lat Pulldown

2 sets of 15 reps

Sit down and position your feet so that your shins are against the lower pads of the machine—your feet will slide underneath the pads. Lower the top pad onto your thighs, far enough so that it puts pressure on the top of your legs without being uncomfortable. Next, use the pin to choose a weight from the weight stack.

Now that the machine is set up, carefully stand and grab the handle with your hands shoulder-width apart. If that’s uncomfortable for your shoulders, adjust your grip. Firmly holding the bar and keeping your arms extended, slowly sit down. Secure your legs under the pads and plant your feet forward, just like you did before. Pull the bar down to your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades down and back. Pause at the bottom of the movement (when the bar is at chest height), and then raise the bar as high as you can go. That’s one rep. Do two sets of 15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

to see a video demonstration and more tips for the lat pulldown.

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Step #3: Seated Leg Curl

2 sets of 15 reps

Adjust the seat height so that when you sit down, your knee joint lines up close to the pivot point of the machine. Insert the pin into the weight stack. Position your legs on the pad so that it’s just above your sneakers or ankles when you place your legs on top of it. Your legs should be about hip-width apart, toes pointing up. From here, secure your legs by bringing the top pad down.

Now it’s time to curl. Sit back, face forward, and pull your heels down, squeezing at the bottom of the movement so you feel it in the backs of your legs. Slowly extend as far out as you can, and repeat. That’s one rep. Do two sets of 15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

to see a video demonstration and more tips for the seated leg curl.

Step #4: Treadmill Walk

2 minutes

Step onto the sides of the treadmill, and attach the safety clip to a piece of your clothing. Press the Quick Start button. Place your hands on the rails, and start walking. Once you find your balance, gradually increase your speed up to 3 mph. You can stay at this speed or increase your speed to a comfortable but challenging pace. If you feel safe, let go of the handrails and swing your arms as you walk. Continue for two minutes, rest for 60 seconds, and then move on to the next machine.

to see a video demonstration and more tips for the treadmill.

Step #5: Rotary Chest Press

2 sets of 15 reps

Sit down and use the pin to select a weight on the weight stack. Press the foot pedal down with one foot. This will help you safely place your hands on the handles with an overhand grip. Whether the handles are fixed or adjustable, you’ll know you’re in the right position when your forearms point straight ahead. Once your hands are set, remove your foot from the lever.

Keeping your back against the pad, push the handles away until your arms are fully extended. With control, return to the starting position, pulling your shoulder blades together at the bottom of the movement. That’s one rep. Do two sets of 15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

to see a video demonstration and more tips for the rotary chest press.

Step #6: Seated Row

2 sets of 15 reps

Sit down and adjust the seat so that your hips are slightly above your knees. Then adjust the chest pad so it’s in the middle of your chest and far enough away that you can’t quite reach the handles when your arms are extended. Insert the pin into the weight stack to set your weight.

Set your feet, and reach forward to grab the handles with a comfortable grip. Pull your back to an upright position by pushing through your legs. Your shoulders should be down and back, with arms straight.

Now it’s time to row! Pull the handles into your chest as far as you can comfortably go, and then reverse the movement with control until your arms are fully extended. That’s one rep. Do two sets of 15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

to see a video demonstration and more tips for the seated row.

The Only 7 Gym Machines Worth Using

Despite the fact that kettlebells and bodyweight workouts might win the gym popularity contest right now, fitness pros agree: Not only are exercise machines totally fine to use, they might be especially helpful if you’re new to working out.

“It’s true that if you’re using free weights, you have to recruit so many stabilizing muscles,” says Shannon Fable, certified trainer and programming director for Anytime Fitness. “But when you’re getting started, using selectorized equipment (the machines with weighted plates) and just learning the movement pattern is OK.”

Another bonus: “If you haven’t got full strength or balance or full range of motion, machines are much safer,” says Stuart Munro, certified personal trainer for the New York Health and Racquet Club.

For those who have been on a gym hiatus or are gaining back strength post-injury, weight machines are an easy way to get back in the game — without the risk of dropping anything heavy on your foot, Munro says.

And, as you’ve likely noticed, weight machines remove the guesswork since they usually have helpful how-to cards right on them.

With that in mind, here are the top machines the trainers we spoke with suggested. Each one will help you build strength and train your body to use the right muscles, so you can be on the leg press one day and do weighted squats with perfect form the next.

The best home-gym equipment for every type of workout

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

Tulane Public Relations/Flickr With swimsuit season just around the corner, it’s time to get serious about getting in shape. It’s a tough goal to stick to; gyms are expensive and crowded, working out is a huge time commitment, and more than anything else, it’s physically exhausting. Sure, it’s supposed to be physically exhausting, that’s the whole point of it, but getting your body used to that level of exertion is a difficult process.

But we can do it. With enough willpower and determination, and with the amount of workout plans available online, you don’t need a personal trainer to keep you on track as long as you stay committed to the process. Below, Insider Picks has collected home gym equipment for various types of workouts; whether you’re looking to up your endurance or come out of the winter season with a set of washboard abs, there’s something here that could help you on your way.

Cardio

A punching bag

Amazon If you put the proper time and technique into working the heavy bag, you can get a full-body cardio workout. This bag from Outslayer is reviewed as being made with high quality materials and built to last. Plus, in addition to getting a solid sweat going, you get to hit something, and hit it hard; a solid way to relieve whatever stress life may be in your life.

Outslayer 80lb Punching Bag, $114.99, available at Amazon.

A rowing machine

Amazon Rowing machines can help improve your fitness level in a variety of ways; they can build and tone muscles, strengthen cardiovascular function, and improve your endurance. It’s a great way to burn calories, so if your main goal is weight loss, think about making it a part of your regular routine. Rowing is also a solid alternative for people with back and joint problems, as it places little strain on these areas as long as they’re using good form.

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine, $945, available at Amazon.

An air bike

Amazon There are many stationary bikes to choose from if you’re in the market, but air bikes have a few features that make them a bit different from your SoulCycle bike. First, all resistance is created by you; the harder you pedal, the more the fan will push back. This allows to you change resistance at your own pace, making it the perfect piece of equipment for your home gym if you’re focused on high-intensity interval training. Also, unlike most stationary bikes, you’ll also be pushing and pulling with your arms while you move, providing an upper body workout as well.

Lifecore Fitness Assault Air Bike Trainer, $986.69, available at Amazon.

An elliptical machine

Amazon Elliptical machines have been the subject of many a debate in gyms across the nation. While some purists believe the treadmill to be superior, there are many benefits to putting in time with the elliptical. To start, it’s a low impact workout; the gliding motion allows those with joint issues and back pain to work up a sweat without throwing their body out of place. Also, ellipticals lend themselves well to multitasking, so if you’re the type to read or watch “Survivor” while you exercise, this is a great addition to your home gym. While this model by Sole Fitness is pricey, most reviewers have cited that the quality is well worth the cost.

Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine, $1,739.90, available at Amazon.

A treadmill

Amazon Running is always a workout. If you can afford it, having a treadmill in your home gym can allow you to get your three daily miles in regardless of how much ice and rain Mother Nature throws at you.

LifeSpan TR1200i Folding Treadmill, $999, available at Amazon.

Strength

Adjustable dumbbells

Amazon Dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment, and these adjustable weights by Bowflex only add to that versatility. With the turn of a dial, you have access to free weights from 5 to 52.5 pounds. For those starting a new workout regiment, this is a great feature that allows you to vary your workouts and continue to challenge yourself as you get stronger, rather than having to buy a new set of weights every time your biceps bulge out.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, $259.99, available at Amazon.

A weight-lifting bench

Amazon If you want to get a full workout in with your free weights, it’s helpful to have a bench that allows you to switch positions while keeping proper form.

Ironmaster Super Bench Adjustable Weight-Lifting Bench, $318, available at Amazon.

Medicine balls

Amazon For those who enjoy a machine-free workout, medicine balls are a valuable asset. Plan a workout of lunges, squats, sit ups, and curls, and you can get your whole body involved without jumping from machine to sweat-covered machine at an overcrowded gym.

SPRI Dual Grip 12 lb. Medicine Ball, $65.99, available at Amazon.

Flexibility

An exercise mat

Amazon Having a comfortable, reliable exercise mat is important for anyone trying to start a regular yoga regiment. It’s also a great surface for ab work, pushups, and your pre- and post-workout stretches. This mat from HemingWeigh is about 5/8” thick, providing an extra bit of cushion compared to your standard yoga mat, allowing you to save yourself the soreness that comes with working on a hardwood floor.

HemingWeigh Extra Thick Foam Exercise Mat, $22.99, available at Amazon.

A foam roller

Amazon Once you get into the swing of your regular workout routine, you’ll probably (well, definitely) experience some soreness on your off days. To help relieve that pain, snag a foam roller such as this one by TriggerPoint in order to roll out knots and tight muscles.

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller, $34.98, available at Amazon.

On a Budget

A pull up bar

Amazon Pull ups are tough. Some of us can’t even do two in succession without our arms giving out. But if you set up a pull up bar in a doorway of your home and make a point to do as many as you can each time you walk through, you’ll find improvement comes quicker than expected.

Iron Gym Upper Body Workout, $23.60, available at Amazon.

A jump rope

Amazon It’s quite possible you haven’t picked up a jump rope since elementary school, but if you’re looking for a cheap, portable way to get your blood flowing quickly, a jump rope is a solid investment. Ten minutes of continuous jumps is the equivalent of about 30 minutes of running, so if you’re having difficulty fitting time for cardio into your schedule, this could be your solution.

King Athletic Jump Rope, $14.97, available at Amazon.

An ab wheel

Amazon An ab wheel is a great way to mix up your core routine and flatten out your stomach. Just be careful jumping too quickly and too far into ab work, you might not be able to move the next day.

Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro, $26.67, available at Amazon.

An elliptical trainer

Amazon If the low-impact cardio offered by elliptical machines is appealing to you, but you don’t have the space or money for a commercial unit, this model by stamina is a nice alternative. While you lose the upper body push-pull of traditional ellipticals, maintaining your balance forces you to engage your core while pumping your legs.

Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer, $74.98, available at Amazon.

A minimalist treadmill

Amazon Of course it’s nice to have top-tier equipment, but if you can’t swing paying four figures for a top-tier treadmill, there are some more affordable options that will still allow you to get your run in come snow or rain or heat. This model by Weslo is fairly narrow, but in giving up a few inches of width you’re saving a lot of money.

Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill, $287, available at Amazon.

Having a structured machine workout routine is not just for those new to the gym scene. Following a predetermined plan makes it more likely that you have a well-rounded routine (no neglected muscles here), and that you get the maximum benefit from your gym time.
This gym workout routine is meant to help you cut down on any time spent wandering around, trying to figure out which machine to do next. It’s also a very balanced routine because it hits all antagonistic muscle groups.
Weight Machine Circuit Gym Workout
Upper Body
Chest Press
Seated Row
Overhead Press
Lat Pull Down
Bicep Curl
Triceps Extension
Lower Body
Leg Extension
Leg Curl
Inside Thigh (Adduction Machine)
Outside Thigh (Abduction Machine)
Leg Press
Calf Raise
Break the upper and lower body circuits into two different workouts done on two different days. It works really well to train the upper body while the lower body is still sore, and vice versa.
Example Workout Program:
Monday: Lower Body Circuit
Tuesday: Upper Body Circuit
Wednesday: Rest or Cardio & Core Exercises
Thursday: Lower Body
Friday: Upper Body
Saturday: Optional Cardio
Sunday: Rest
Reps, sets, & how to do a weight machine circuit
The exact number of reps and sets that you do of each exercise depends on whether you are trying to build mass and gain strength, or tone your body.
Number of reps & sets for toning
If toning up is what you’re after, do 3-4 sets of between 12 and 18 repetitions (you can even go higher if you like). Whatever the number of repetitions you complete, choose a weight that makes it difficult for you to complete the last 2-3 repetitions. Proper form in executing any exercise should be a priority.
Number of reps & sets for strength
For strength, complete three sets of 6-10 reps. As is true with toning, the last few reps when training for this goal should feel very challenging. If you are pursuing mass or increased strength, give perfect form precedence; never sacrifice precision for a higher lift weight.
Cardio and your weight machine workouts
You should ideally begin every single workout with a bit of cardio in order to warm up your muscles. 10-15 Minutes is sufficient for prepping your muscles for more demanding physical activity (like the circuit training workouts above).
On the days where you only do cardio workouts, aim for between 30 and 60 minutes of at least a 5/10 perceived exertion level. Always make sure to stretch your muscles when you finish workouts, especially when doing a strength training routine; the damage caused by the ripping of the muscle fibers can cause them to bind and tighten up.
Do venture outside of your weight machine gym workout
Weight machines are most ideal for beginners, particularly those who have not had the opportunity to spend any one on one time with a personal trainer. However, it’s important to realize that though machines initially do a really good job of helping you navigate the gym, they are limited in the number of calories that they can burn, and their range of motion in relation to your body’s natural movements.
Functional strength training using bodyweight exercises or dumbbells gives you the most natural range of motion and develops your strength, coordination, and controlling muscles most comprehensively.
If you have the time and resources, it pays to invest in a few sessions with a quality personal trainer when you are new to working out. If you don’t want to hire a personal trainer, check out our library of free full-length workout videos here, where we walk you step by step through each exercise.

Total body workout machines

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