The Total-Body Gym Machine Workout
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
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? Click here 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.
Click here to see a video demonstration and more tips for the lat pulldown.
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.
Click here to see a video demonstration and more tips for the seated leg curl.
Step #4: Treadmill Walk
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.
Click here to see a video demonstration and more tips for the treadmill.
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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.
Click here 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.
Click here to see a video demonstration and more tips for the seated row.