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Best Gym Machines For Beginners

Have you ever been intimidated by all the gym machines that can be found in the gym? Perhaps, with the wide array of equipment in modern fitness centres, you’ve wondered what the best gym workout machines are, especially if you’re just beginning your fitness journey. 

Our article aims to sort through all the different gym machines you might encounter, and what you’ll need, depending on your goals and aspirations.

We’ll be covering all of the best gym machines for beginners, including the muscles they target and where you can find them in the gym, and how incorporating them as part of your routine can be hugely beneficial.

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But if you’re already confident with all the equipment in the gym, and fully understand how they affect your muscles, then perhaps a career in fitness could be your next step.

OriGym’s internationally recognised personal training diploma offers the complete package, with unmatched levels of flexibility when it comes to payment plans, 7 days a week expert support, a library of tailored resources, and a guaranteed post-course interview at a range of gyms.

Click here to download our FREE prospectus, and explore more of what we offer, and how it could be perfect for you.

What Are Gym Machines?

While this may seem like quite a basic question, especially if you’re simply seeking out the best gym machines for beginners, it’s crucially important to define what we mean by a gym machine, and what it does. 

Gym machines can cover anything from treadmills and stationary bikes, to leg presses and chest press machines. They are typically machines that allow you to perform a certain exercise, such as a chest press, without using free weights. 

Gym machines, particularly those using weights, usually follow a set range of motion, which means that you can only follow the movement that the machine sets rather than setting your own. This makes them perfect for beginners to learn the most efficient and safe techniques, as they’re in a very controlled environment. 

But, it’s still vitally important that you stay safe when using gym machines. Always ensure that you check the instructions on the equipment - these will usually be displayed prominently, either on the front or the side of the machine itself. Learning how to properly use gym machines can mean the difference between injury and progress.

If you’re ever unsure about anything, whether that’s adjusting a machine to better suit your individual needs, or changing the weight on a machine, ask a member of staff at your gym.This is part of their role - explore more in our complete exploration of the roles and responsibilities of a fitness instructor.

How Do Gym Weight Machines Compare To Free Weights?

If you’re looking at the fixed weight machines, you might also be wondering why it wouldn’t be easier to simply pick up some free weights and get going. However, if you’re a beginner, inexperienced with the gym, or you’re recovering from an injury, gym exercise machines might be a better option for you.

When you use free weights, you’re working not only your muscles in whatever exercise you’re doing, but also your core to keep you balanced as you work. Using a gym weight machine, however, doesn’t have as much of an effect on the core, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t immensely beneficial. 

Gym machines have a more restricted range of motion, which can not only help beginners with form and practice, but also allows people recovering from an injury or illness to get back into lifting without straining themselves too much. 

The best gym machines are adjustable, so you can tweak the seat, height, and weight to your desires, making them more comfortable for beginners too. This also allows you complete novices to familiarise themselves with key aspects of fitness, such as the correct gym etiquette, and what machine settings work best for them.

Gym weight machines will always come with instructions on the front or side, so make sure that you’re following them closely to avoid any injuries! But, if you’re really looking to progress, what are the best machines to use at the gym?

Best Gym Machines For Beginners

The best gym workout machines range from the simplest, to some of the more complicated pieces of kit. Here are the best gym machines for beginners, starting with cardio and ranging into weighted exercise machines.

 

#1 - Treadmill

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes.

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Running, walking, HIIT workouts.

Where To Find It In The Gym: The cardio room/section, usually in a line with the other treadmills. 

The treadmill is a great piece of equipment and deserves its reputation as one of the best machines at the gym. If you’re looking to start or end your workout with some cardio, the treadmill is one of the easiest machines to use at the gym. Treadmills simply allow you to run while inside, and you can adjust the intensity, speed, and even incline to make it the best workout tailored just for you.

If you’re wondering what the best gym machines to lose weight are, a treadmill is a great one. Running is a great high-intensity workout that burns a significant amount of calories and using a treadmill can be lower impact than running outside on the roads. Not only that, but using a treadmill can seriously tone your legs, as it targets all the major muscles in them. 

Explore even more benefits of running on a treadmill with OriGym’s complete overview.

You don’t just have to run on a treadmill either. If you want something high-intensity that targets your calves and glutes, set your treadmill to a steep incline but a low speed and simply walk for a while – it might be slow, but you’ll feel the burn! 

You’re also able to design your own HIIT workouts, such as running for 2 minutes, walking for one, which will not only help shed pounds, but it’ll also improve your overall fitness levels, too.

#2 - Stationary Bike

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Cycling, spin classes, HIIT workouts 

Where To Find It In The Gym: Cardio room/section, usually with other stationary bikes

If you’ve ever asked “what are the best gym machines for weight loss”, then the answer is always going to include a stationary bike. These are phenomenal for toning your legs and glutes as well as burning some serious calories. 

This is a great gym machine for beginners, as you simply jump on, ensure that your feet are secured, and begin riding. Most modern exercise bikes will also have a display that automatically activates as you start cycling, meaning you can always track your data, even if you don’t have your own wearable heart monitor.

There are many ways you can use a stationary bike rather than just cycling on it. Spin classes are a high-intensity class that uses a stationary bike to get you sweating and burn those calories, but you can do so much without attending classes. If you really want to target your leg muscles, crank up the intensity of the resistance and feel the burn in your glutes and calves.

Many bikes also come with pre-set workouts that you can do if you want a heavier workout. Stationary bikes are one of the best gym machines if you want to lose weight, as it combines a great leg workout with an intensive cardio workout. 



#3 - Rowing Machine

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads, forearms, biceps, lats, spinal erectors

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Rowing

Where To Find It In The Gym: Cardio room/section, typically with a group of other rowing machines

A rowing machine is definitely one of the best resistance training machines thanks to the full-body workout it provides every time. There are 4 parts to a successful row – the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. 

Each section works a group of different muscles, from your arms to your legs to your abs, making it an incredibly effective gym machine to use.  Just be sure to practice your rowing for a while before starting a long workout! 

This is also one of the best gym machines for weight loss as you burn some serious calories when you row thanks to the number of muscle groups that it uses. The variety of rowing workouts that you can do is so varied that you’ll never get bored.

You’re able to choose from pre-set workouts on the machine (which can range in difficulty, so you’ve always got something to strive for) or set yourself a distance target and try to get there as quickly as possible.

This is just one of many advantages of the rowing machine - we’ve explored all the benefits of rowing machines in our comprehensive report.

#4 - Cross-trainer/Elliptical Machine

Muscles Targeted: Calves, thighs, glutes, arms, back, pectorals

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Low impact running and walking

Where To Find It In The Gym: Cardio room/section

Another one of the best weight loss machines at the gym, the cross-trainer (or elliptical machine) is a great, low-impact, full-body workout to burn some serious calories and shed some extra weight. It targets the full body, as not only are you using your legs to move the pedals, but you’re also working your arms, back, and chest by pushing and pulling on the handles.

This is a very beginner friendly gym machine, as it is easy to get the correct posture and form, and you can set it to any resistance for a more muscle-focused workout or reduce the intensity for a quicker pace that’ll burn more calories. 

Cross-trainers are very low impact, so if you have any joint issues, this is a great gym machine for you. You’ll simply place your feet on the platforms provided, and move your legs in a smooth motion using the handles for guidance and support.

You can even change up your workout by standing in different ways on this gym machine! You can step backwards, or on your tiptoes to work your calves. This provides an ideal exercise for your calves, as well as an additional challenge if you’re beginning to find it too easy.

However, if you really want an extra burn for your thighs and abs, stand with your knees bent outwards, as this places much more pressure on those areas, and therefore helps to build muscle and shed excess fat.

#5 - Stairmaster

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Stair climbing 

Where To Find It In The Gym: Cardio room/section

If you’re looking for the best gym workout machine for working the glutes, as well as burning calories, look no further than the notorious Stairmaster. While it offers a significant challenge for your legs and glutes, it equally means that you’ll start to see the results you’re looking for quickly and effectively. 

This simple to use resistance training machine is ideal for beginners. It simply requires that you start climbing the stairs as you normally would, before it begins to cycle through them at a steady pace.

Stairmasters can be used for both cardio and strength workouts, making it an incredibly versatile gym exercise machine to add to your workout. For a cardio workout, try a HIIT session – run on the stairs for 20 seconds, walk for 10, before repeating those steps for between 6 and 10 reps.

For a strength workout, simply crank the intensity up and power up the stairs. This will target your legs and glutes especially, as well as working your core, although it’s vital to ensure that you fully engage your core before undertaking this workout. This is one of the best gym machines for weight loss too, as you’re getting two workouts in one here – cardio and strength. 

You burn around 200 calories just from a half an hour Stairmaster workout. Plus, they’re great for beginners – there’s no wrong way to climb the stairs, and the pace is slow enough that you’ll be able to keep up, even if it’s only for a short amount of time at first.

#6 - Leg Press

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves 

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Leg presses, calf presses

Where To Find It In The Gym: Strength room/section (around the other lower body machines)

The leg press is one of the best strength machines to use at the gym, especially if you’re a beginner, or you’re inexperienced when it comes to using gym machines. Its simple construction and easy movements mean you’ll need to do very little preparation before using this piece of kit.

Before jumping straight into squats with a bar, or attempting to perform deadlifts (learn more about the benefits of deadlifts with OriGym’s complete guide), you can build your strength with the leg press first. 

This gym exercise machine provides a much safer alternative to potentially struggling with a heavy bar – with the leg press, you lie back and place your feet on a plate and adjust the weight. 

You can adjust your foot placement on this gym machine to target different areas of your legs. Placing your feet shoulder-width apart will target your whole leg, but if you place them wider, you’ll feel it more in your glutes. 

When you’re performing this exercise, make sure your back and hips are pressed against the seat to reduce the risk of injury. While the leg press limits the range of motion to help prevent injury, you can still minimise the risk and make sure your form is good and that you don’t overload it with weight.

#7 - Chest Press

Muscles Targeted: Pectorals, deltoids (shoulders), triceps 

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Chest press

Where To Find It In The Gym: Strength room/section

So far, we’ve focused on the best machines at the gym for your lower body, so let’s have a look at the best gym machine for your chest. A chest press targets more than just your chest, working your triceps and shoulders too! 

This is a great gym machine for beginners, as the limited range of motion can help you get used to the feel of a chest press before you use dumbbells or a bar, as well as improve your form and reduce the risk of injury. 

Make sure you keep your form when you’re using this gym machine. Keep your back flat and avoid arching, and plant your feet for extra stability. Working your upper body has a whole host of benefits, including gaining muscle and losing weight, which can help with everyday activities. 

It’s also important to note that gym machines of this nature don’t just provide muscle gain. Even if you’re specifically looking to not gain muscle, it’s a great idea to incorporate weighted gym machines to achieve toning and definition. 

We’d also suggest incorporating stretches to ensure maximum effectiveness when you’re using these gym machines - find out more in our comprehensive guide to the best chest presses.

#8 - Smith Machine

Muscles Targeted: Full body

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Squats, bench presses, deadlifts, upright rows, shoulder presses, hip thrusts

Where To Find It In The Gym: Strength room/section

The Smith machine is one of the best weight lifting machines in the gym, as not only can you target your whole body with just this one machine, but you can also use it without a spotter. They have a barbell attached to the rails to keep it safer than a regular squat rack. 

These gym machines are fantastic for their versatility, as you can use them to not only squat, but a whole range of other upper body exercises, such as the shoulder press, deadlifting, hip thrusts, and bicep curls.

Explore some of the key bicep exercises for strength and mass with OriGym’s complete report on the diverse exercise.

When performing any of these exercises, make sure you practice before loading any weight on to get a feel for the machine and set the safety catches to the right position – this can also help you with your form!

This is one of the best gym machines for beginners thanks to the extra safety that it offers. With a regular squat rack, you’ll need a spotter, and there’s an added risk of injury if you’re accustomed to using it. Smith machines remove a lot of the danger we’d normally associate with those exercises.

 

#9 - Cable Machine

Muscles Targeted: Full body

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Chest press, rows, deadlifts, bicep curls, shoulder press, wood chops

Where To Find It In The Gym: Strength room/section

Another one of the best weight lifting machines in the gym, the cable machine is so versatile and yet can be overlooked at the gym. Unlike most of the other gym machines on this list that restrict the range of motion you can use, the cable machine doesn’t have that issue, so you can lift in a way that’s right for you.

Cable machines work with a carabiner that lets you swap attachments, and the height of where the cable can come from is adjustable, meaning it can stretch from the top, bottom, or middle of the machine. This is a level of adjustability that often isn’t available with other machines, meaning a cable machine could be the ideal choice.

Different attachments to the cable machine can be used for different things – bars can be used for bicep stretches and curls and deadlifts, and the rope can be used for rows and wood chops. 

Cable machines are fantastic for upper body exercises, as you can do anything from bicep curls to chest presses to tricep extensions, making it one of the best gym machines for the chest as well as arms.  

However, you can also perform lower body exercises such as Romanian deadlifts and glute kickbacks to target that muscle group. To target your abdominals and obliques, you can do some wood chops.

This is a great gym machine for beginners thanks to how versatile they are. Many exercises that can be done with dumbbells can be done on this machine, and the adjustable weights mean that you can go as light or as heavy as you like to get used to the exercises. 

Cable machines are also good for if you’re returning from an injury, thanks to their versatility, as you can adjust the weight and position until it’s comfortable for you.

#10 - Lat Pulldown

Muscles Targeted: Lats, biceps, shoulders

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Lat pulldowns 

Where To Find It In The Gym: Strength room/section

This is one of the best weight lifting machines in the gym for working those back muscles and strengthening your back. This is one for both beginners and more advanced weightlifters, as it is one of the best exercises for targeting just the lats and strengthening your back.

Make sure you’re using this gym machine properly, though. If the bar is too high above your head, adjust it so that it’s more comfortable, and pull the bar until it’s level with your chin. If you’re fully confident with lat pulls, you might also want to consider purchasing your own lat pulldown machine.

Keep a good mind-to-muscle connection and feel the pull in your back – it’s okay to shift back a little, but we would strongly recommend trying to keep still and really focus on squeezing those shoulder blades together.

You’ll probably feel the burn in your shoulders and biceps a bit, too, making this one of the best gym machines for strength training. One thing we’d stress here is that you need to ensure that your form is good, especially as the incorrect form can cause injury, or aggravate existing ones. 

Don’t arch your back or place your hands too wide on the bar – this won’t target your back enough. The best bet is to start with light weights and get your form right before moving onto heavier weights.

#11 - Shoulder Press

Muscles Targeted: Shoulders

Exercises Performed Using This Machine: Shoulder press

Where To Find It In The Gym: Strength room/section, typically near the other gym machines that target the arms

One of the best weightlifting machines at the gym, the shoulder press is perfect for beginners seeking to build their shoulder strength. By following the fixed range of motion, this machine allows you to learn the perfect technique for the shoulder press. 

Make sure you adjust the seat to the right height and don’t set the weight too high until you’ve done a few practice sets to get used to the feeling. This is usually a great idea for most weighted gym machines, especially as you’ll be able to gradually build up the weight until you’re comfortable with even the heaviest loads.

Doing this exercise with free weights engages your core, but as you’re fully supported with this gym machine, it primarily works just your shoulder muscles, and increases engagement of this muscle group. However, we’d also recommend fully engaging your core on this gym machine, as this will provide you with additional stability.  

It’s vital to ensure that you don’t get complacent, though, as this can lead to unnecessary injury. Keep your back straight, and don’t lock out your elbows when you reach the top of the press – this will help to keep the engagement within your shoulders, and ensure that you aren’t overstretching.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which Gym Machines Should I Not Use?

The simple answer to this is that there are no machines you need to avoid, or that you should feel intimidated by. All gym equipment needs to be clearly labelled, and even if you’re ever unsure of something, a fitness instructor will be able to provide key guidance and ideas.

Each machine in the gym works a different set of muscles and is good for different things, so you can use each one to get a feel for them or if they fit into your workout. By doing this, you’ll also be able to establish a routine or schedule, and understand how each muscle group connects to another. 

When you’re a beginner using the gym machines, just make sure that you follow the instructions on the side of the machines and never lift heavily on your first go – always practice the sets before you load on the weight.

It may also be a good idea to start with a lower number of reps as you get more accustomed to the right posture and position you’ll need your body to be in to maximise what you get out of completing these exercises.

We’ve explored all the benefits of good posture in our thorough guide, but it’s equally important to establish what does and doesn’t work for your own fitness goals, as well as your body.

What Are The Best Gym Machines For Losing Weight?

While this can be quite a subjective question, depending on the exercises you’re completing with your chosen gym machine, the short answer is that all of the gym exercise machines we’ve looked at will help you on your weight loss journey.

However, while all of these gym machines will have some impact on your weight loss, it’s important to consider what areas of your body that you want to improve in particular. For instance, if you’re looking to lose belly fat, then a machine that emphasises the core (or the whole body) would be ideal.

If you’re unsure, OriGym have compiled a complete guide to the different types of body fat so you can fully determine what you want to work on, and how you can shed those excess pounds.

One key aspect of losing fat, though, is ensuring that you maintain a calorie deficit, so your body instead uses the stored fat for energy. This essentially means eating under the recommended intake of calories per day (2500 calories for men, and 2000 for women). 

All gym machines will burn calories, so just be mindful of your diet when you’re trying to lose weight – you can’t outtrain a bad diet, no matter how many hours you spend in the gym, so it’s important to ensure that, as you train, you implement healthy lifestyle and dietary changes, too.

Which Is The Best Cardio Gym Machine?

This question all depends on your preference, as many cardio machines will work similar muscles, and therefore be focused more on those areas of the body. While there are numerous benefits of cardio and aerobic exercises, much of it comes down to personal opinion and fitness levels.

For instance, if you want a lower-impact gym machine, opt for the stationary bike – there’s less pressure on your knees and joints, and low impact doesn’t mean low intensity. This allows you to undergo an intense workout without damaging or injuring weaker or less stable joints.

This same principle applies to the rowing machine, too, which, while being lower impact, still targets your whole body for an intense burn, and can facilitate significant weight loss and muscle gain, especially across the core and legs.

Choosing a cardio exercise is often down to your own personal inclinations, but we’d always recommend trying to diversify your cardio exercise schedule. This not only allows you to experience new exercises you may not have otherwise tried, but it also means you don’t stagnate, and lose interest in the exercises you’re completing.

We’d also suggest altering the settings on these cardio gym machines, too - this will allow for a much more controlled exercise, and one that can provide additional levels of challenge, such as increasing the incline on a treadmill, or the intensity of the stairmaster. 


Before You Go!

We hope you enjoyed this list of the best gym machines for beginners, and that you’ve now got a clearer idea of what you want to achieve when going to the gym, and how you can do that.T

The first few visits to the gym can be intimidating, but using gym machines to get the best form and increase your strength is a great way to build your confidence, increase your strength, and reduce the risk of injury. Gym machines also allow you to implement the correct form, which establishes an ideal baseline for less structured exercises, such as free weights.

However, if you’re already confident in your abilities, and understand the importance of proper form during your workouts, then perhaps your next step is a career in the fitness industry.

OriGym’s CIMSPA accredited personal training diploma offers the ultimate package when it comes to starting your exercise career, with 7 days a week expert guidance, an unmatched library of resources and materials, unlimited post-course support, and a guaranteed post-course interview at our range of partner gyms.

If you’re interested, download our FREE comprehensive prospectus, and learn more about what we offer, and how it could be ideal for you.

Written by Lauren Banks

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Lauren is a history graduate with a first-class degree from Lancaster University and is currently completing her Masters Degree. She worked on the university paper Scan for her 4 years there, eventually becoming the Carolynne Editor, overseeing 5 sections underneath her. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her lifting weights at the gym, trying to beat her current 5K personal best, or with her head in a long book.

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