T Nation

Machines and Beginners


Hey all,

I've had some very helpful replies by members in a previous thread. My question was, those lever machines that you get in commercial gyms, how much better than nothing are they if that's the only thing you've got to work with?

I'm hopefully switching gym soon to a place where I can do the big compounds, but until my membership runs out at the end of the month all I have available is a lever chest press, a lat pulldown, a shoulder press thingy (lever) and a leg press ...

Would anyone advise me to avoid any of these for any reason? Can a decent workout be got with only the equipment mentioned above? Are they good at all, for anything? And they literally ONLY have 3 sets of dumbbell at the gym (the rest went missing)

Thanks for your help,



A weight doesn't have to be in the shape of a dumbell in order to be effective. Do you own a bucket? Some dirt/sand/rocks? How big are the 3 sets of db at the gym? Are there any fallen trees or big branches in some nearby wooded areas? Just look for heavy shit.

The machines aren't going to hurt you, but I'd look for some more options before giving up on the free weights temporarily. Also, you should see if you can get some of your membership fee back from the gym... weights are pretty much expected at a gym.

Just my newbie advice.


Of course they are better than nothing. Go heavy.....with high intensity and volume.


No Machines man.

Do pushups, pullups, crunches, lunges etc... until you get a new gym.


Thanks for all of your replies guys,

I'll get right onto the gym. In prep for the new gym I'm to join, any advice on pre-preparing in any way for the squats, deads and benching that I'll be doing?

Anyone have strength standards for absolute beginners? What sort of dead/squat/bench numbers ought a 145lb, 5'10'' aim to begin with? I don't want to turn up on my first day, with 10 experienced guys waiting in line until I figure out whether I should be deadlifting around 30kg, 50kg, or 70kg.

Sorry for all the questions - quite excited about it all, and I'd more than appreciate any advice!


Doesn't matter what you should be lifting, it's about what you can lift with correct technique.

Start with the bar and work your way up.


Cool! I'll begin looking at vids/articles on form, and I guess ask a few questions when I'm at the gym. Hopefully it isn't against gym etiquette to do the latter.



And if there are 10 experienced guys waiting...then you better just grab some dumbbells and find your own space to get your work done. Crowds are no fun...try to go when it's not busy!

The gym where I work out....has a free weight room with by far...the most iron in town. But it's usually empty because the rest of the club isn't very modern.


get on YuoTube and watch videos of the lifts . figure out the right and wrong ways . then practice the movements at home with a broom handle until your new membership starts .

standards mean shit . dont worry about that . your only goal is to be stronger/bigger in 1 year than you are now . if thats NOT your goal , you're posting on the wrong site .

there will be experienced lifters watching you at first . they're waiting for you to break a finger doing something stupid . dont do that . just focus on your goal for that day . try to stay out of peoples way until you get a feel of things .

you wont be the only newb there .

good luck


some guys dont appreciate being bothered , while others dont mind . it wont be easy to know which is which at first . but the sweaty guy/s that keeps to himself , not wasting space , keeps moving , and looks like he's giving it his all is the guy to ask for help/advice .....if possible .

the guys to avoid asking questions of are the ones that stand around bullshittin' and talking to the hotties .


As long as it's just for the next few weeks machines are fine.
Also x2 on getting plenty of press ups and pullups in


Form first. Weight second.

And don't feel bad about it. For all everyone else at your gym knows, you are rehabbing a knee injury, a shoulder injury or a back injury. There are lots of reasons to lift low weight. Not that you should feel ashamed about starting out.

I absolutely think you get some money back from your current gym. Incomplete weight sets is absolutely garbage. Not that it'll come to this, but I almost guarantee that any small claims court would agree (and once you tell them that, you'll be even more likely to get a refund). But I'd start politely first.


start with the bar on all the compound lifts. If they have training plates, use them, especially for deadlift (training plates are plates the size of 45 lb plates, but they only weigh like 5 lb. The point is that the form of the deadlift is a lot different if the bottom position is determined by 45 lb plates on either side or by an empty bar).

Once you are comfortable with the form, start loading up slowly!



Thanks a lot for all of your replies guys, they've been extremely helpful and motivational,

I will watch the videos, hit the pullups, broom squats, machines, and know as much as I possibly can before I begin my new membership,

And I'll tell you in six months just how much I've improved,



Most of my lifts I still start with an empty bar as the warmup and no-one has ever looked at me funny (well apart from their confusing as to what I am doing with the bar on my shoulders in the curling rack)


Whats wrong with training with machines? If the weight is high enough, and the food and volume are there theres no reason why you shouldn't be able to grow.


I should probably let some of the more technical posters answer this, but I believe the answer is because you employ more muscle fibers when you use free weights. More muscle fibers = more growth. Just try to lift your "machine max" in free weights (but get a spotter first!). You won't be able to do it. You will also use your stabilizing muscles when using free weights, which will give you far more "real world strength." Also, I've read that some poorly designed machines actually guide your body in an unnatural motion, which can lead to imbalances and joint injury.

Anyone else?


I had wondered and thought about this. I suppose that there will be a certain amount of muscle recruitment and in that sense it may be beneficial in the short run. Paying £25 per month ($40?), I guess its better than nothing.

Unless of course, as you say, certain machines may guide you towards some sort of injury.