The five machines at the gym you should really be using.

The gym can be a confronting place. There are lots of sweaty people, music so loud it rivals a rave and various curious-looking contraptions that most of us have no idea how to use. For fear of embarrassing ourselves, we stay well away.

But while your kettlebell and cardio routine has its merits, you’re missing out if you’re not getting stuck into the equipment on offer over in that feared weights section.

According to Fitness First personal trainer Leanne Tesoriero, the area is nothing to be afraid of — and even better for you if you’re a beginner to the gym workout.

“Between me and you, everybody at the gym is focused on their own training so they don’t pay attention if you are lifting too much or too little. Don’t worry about it, just focus on your plan. There is no reason to put the weights floor into the ‘too hard’ basket,” she says.

Here are the five machines you should be trying in your next workout.

Watch: The Bachelor’s Sam Wood’s easy body weight workout you can do anywhere. (Post continues after video.) 

1. Leg press

Why bother? It might look a bit like a torture device, but it’s a good one to start off on.

“It’s great for building good quad, glute and hamstring strength,” says Tesoriero.

“You can change the variation of angle with your feet to target different muscle groups.”

To use: Select the appropriate weight, place feet on the pad and push with your legs. As you inhale, slowly lower the platform until your upper and lower legs make a 90-degree angle and then return to start position and repeat.


Image: iStock

2. Lat Pulldown

Why bother? "This is great to build the basics of back strength and helps you with correct back posture," says Tesoriero.

To use: Make sure you adjust the knee pad of the machine to your height. Grab the bar with your palms facing forwards and as you breathe out, bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Bring back to start position and repeat.

Image: iStock

3. Triceps pulldown.

One you definitely shouldn't miss? The tricep pulldown.

Why bother? "It properly isolates and works your triceps. Try it with the rope to really feel the burn in the arms," says Tesoriero.

To use: Standing upright, bring the upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor. Using the triceps, bring the bar down until it touches the front of your thighs and the arms are fully extended perpendicular to the floor. Bring back to start position and repeat.


Image: iStock

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4. Leg extension.

This is a great everyday one when you want to give your legs a workout.

Why bother? "It works your VMO (vastus medialis oblique) and quadriceps and it’s a great combination with walking lunges or hamstring curls," she says.

To use: Choose your weight and sit on the machine with your legs under the pad and the hands holding the side bars. Using your quadriceps, extend your legs to the maximum as you exhale. Bring back to start position and repeat.


Image: iStock

5. Shoulder Press

Finally, it's the shoulder press.

Why bother? "It’s a great exercise especially for these very 'small and strong' muscles. The shoulder press is a great finisher for your workout," Tesoriero says.

To use: Grab the handles to your sides as you keep the elbows bent and in line with your torso. Then lift the handles as you exhale and extend the arms fully. Bring back to start position and repeat.

Image: iStock

Still not sure about it?

Look at joining a class to get comfortable.

"At Fitness First, our Freestyle Group Training classes such as XT Strength are a great introduction to weight training and help you feel more comfortable with the weights area of the gym. In small groups there's plenty of one-on-one guidance from an instructor, giving you the opportunity to ask questions and get some advice," Tesoriero says.

Don't be afraid to ask, either.

"If you’re completely new to the gym, try a few sessions with a personal trainer. It's a great way to learn how to use the equipment safely and feel comfortable in all areas of the gym," she adds.

What's your favourite piece of gym equipment?