In most places, things are kind of… dare we say it? Going back to normal, whatever that is. This means people are resuming their pre-pandemic activities that once seemed so mundane, but now feel like a treat. One of these activities involves working out at an actual gym! Though our free weights and at-home workout videos served us well when we needed them, many of us are excited to get back to the variety of machines that gyms offer us.
Most of the machines you find at the gym are designed to target specific muscles, so whichever machine you hop on will be effective. However, if you only have a short window due to the many plans the pandemic put on hold that are now coming to fruition, you’re going to want to use the machines that have the most total-body training benefits.
To help you get back in the groove, here’s a list of the most effective machines at the gym when you have only 20 or 30 minutes.
According to certified personal trainer and weight management coach Chris Gagliardi, rowing is a good aerobic workout that will get your lungs and heart pumping. However, rowing trains many sets of muscles, making it particularly effective. “You drive through your hips and legs to start the rowing movement, you have to activate your core to maintain posture, and then you have the arm, shoulder, and back involvement,” he says.
If you’re new to rowing, it’s best to ask a trainer at the gym to give you notes on your form so that you avoid injuries and get the most out of your workout with proper posture. If you don’t have access to a trainer, a quick search for an instructional video online should do the trick.
An air bike is a stationary bike that has upright, movable handles like an elliptical machine, along with a big air-generating fan wheel at the front. This is another machine that will give you a full-body workout. “Again, you’re getting the cardiovascular component, but you’re also improving muscle fitness,” explains Gagliardi.
Cycling of all kinds will undoubtedly train your lower body. If your gym is equipped with an air bike machine that has a foot strap, then your knee and hip muscles will get even more engagement because of the pulling-up motion involved in this kind of pedaling.
Your upper body and core will also get a great workout because of the stabilization required with you engage your arm and chest muscles with the push-pull action of the upright handles.
The stair climber combines aerobic and lower-body training, and builds functional strength, meaning the muscles or movements you use frequently in day-to-day life. “You’ll train your hip flexors and extensors, your knee flexors and extensors, your glutes, and your hamstrings,” Gagliardi explains.
Functional exercises become more and more important as we age, as they help improve balance and stability.
Just because you may be short on time, doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself to one machine. Gagliardi says that if you can squeeze in three machines into a short workout, you should do it. Even just five minutes on each machine will get your whole body burning, as long as you push yourself.
That’s where circuit training comes in. Circuit training is a workout that involves repeating a sequence of different exercises (which in this case means different machines). Instead of only using one machine, you move from one to the next to the next, and then start over.
Gagliardi’s advice is to make sure consecutive machines don’t work out the exact same muscles so that your body doesn’t wear out too quickly. “It helps to alternate upper body and lower body machines,” he says.