T Nation

What Machines To Use?


I constantly hear total disdane towards exersize machines from BB's and gym vets who all hate machines and only seem to use free wieghts.

Which is fair enough i agree to some extent, and would never be found dead on the curl machine, but are they missing out?

surely some machines are OK to use even for big BB guys?

I use the following, this is Ok isn't it? or can I replace all these with free weights?:

Low pull
lat pull down
smith machine (I train alone and have no spotter)
possibly leg extension and hamstring raise?

any BB guys here that hate machines? Do you use absoloutley no machines at all?


At different times I use machines for Lat Pulldowns, Leg Extensions, Leg curls, Tricep extensions and different grip seated rows. Thats about it for me.

I try to use free weights as much as possible but I also think that if a machine meets your goals and provides you with some advantage that you want, use it. I think that refusing to use a machines is as bad as refusing to do isolation work.


A smith machine should not be used as your primary source for any movement.


Ditch the smith machine and use a rack instead.

I am not a big fan of leg extesions either. Done incorrectly, they are a sure way to mess up your knees.


Ditch the smith machine. I train in a gym where I don't trust anybody to spot me, so I used it for Benches for a while, got some bad shoulder pain. I switched the dumbbells and it got better right away. I'd try it- you can ditch 'em easily if you cant handle the weight, and they give you a better range of motion. You'll just have to use lower weights. I'd also stay away for some of the other lifts- squats are hard in it, because its at a slight angle, so you have to lean in odd ways.

Stick with free weight mostly- if you really want to you can probably do some work on machines, but I'd do it after your freeweights, i.e. once you finish your squats go over and do some leg extensions.


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because I have a fooked up elbow that gives in on me sometimes I use the smith for bench press, so I can load on as much weight as I can manage (I try to beat my PB every 2 weeks) .

Would I benifit more if I bench pressed with a lower weight barbell.

I do my squats in the rack.


I use the lat pulldown and that is mostly the only machine I use besides the rowing machine; everything else is free weights. If my knees or legs are bothering me I will use the place-load hack squat machine or the leg press.


The only machine I've used worth anything was the seated rowing machine. Other than that, I never bother.


Apart from the high and low pulley you can replace all of those with free weights. for hamstring development read mike robertson's single leg exercises article. Or do GM's. Leg extensions can really hurt your patelar/knee area. stick to squats. If you don't have a bench spotter then just bench in the rack. use the rails as spots down by your chest.



I really feel that for cable rows and pulldowns, you need a machine that has a 1:1 cable ratio so that the weight rises as much as your arms move down/in. When you have a 1:2 cable ration where the weight is rising only half the distance, you do not have the same eccentric effect and the natural downward rate transmitted to the arms is slower than free fall.

Calf raise machines are good.

Leg curls are good, but I prefer ones with a cable to free weights because with free weights, the load decreases.

I have no problem with cable crossovers as a supplimental exercise.

Cable pressdowns are an OK supplimental exercise to heavy extensions or dips, and lockouts.

I would never use a leg press machine.
I would never use a leg extension machine now.

The seated back extension can be OK, but I think I can do a better job with seated goodmornings supplimented with bands pulling forward.

Cables are good for a form of stretch position curl I do and prefer to regular incline curls.

Free weights+bands can produce almost any effect you want if you are thoughtful, and I basically think that using a 1:1 ratio cable station to supplement just gives you more options.


I'm like bushy...

I use machines for supersets but that's about it.

As for the smith machine. I fell in love with it when I was younger but moved away from it a long time ago. When I hear the "zeeeep-zoooop" of someone on a smith machine I cringe a little.

I don't know, maybe I'm not the smartest tool in the shed but I just love seeing 80 feet of dumbell racks and having my way with them...



Couldn't you move your bench into the rack and bench there? I'm trying to convince my gym to get a rack and one of my arguments is that it isn't safe to have people benching by themselves without some sort of safety setup since there usually isn't anyone there to help them if they do get into trouble.


lots of pros uses machines, heck all of them do...but some use them alot(cutler, priest, yates...)

anyways, i mix it up between free weights but here's the machines i use...

*leg press, leg curl, leg extension, seated calf raise, hack squat

*hammer strength chest presses(incline, decline, wide), pec deck, cables, machine press

*hammer strength shrug, hs seated row, cables

*hs front delt press, cybex mill press

*i also use a hammer strength t-bar row, which is basically a raised platform with a bar, not much of a machine but works great(it's not the laying chest supported one)...


machines are generally superior for rotary movements, which are by nature isolation exercises regardless of whether you use a machine or free weights.

also, the leg press is at least as good as the squat for hypertrophy in the prime movers


Technically, machines that involve cables with round pulleys (such as low row and lat pull) are constant resistance...basically free weights. If you've got a non-circular (e.g., elliptical or egg-shaped) cam, it's now variable resistance...a "machine."


i use

lat pulldown
seated calf raise
seated cable row


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I never feel as if I put in enough effort if I use some type of machine. Don't know why. I guess I get off on having to stabilize dumbells or a barbell. Not like I'm going after slick looking muscles though, so who really gives a shit, right?
On a sadder note, I can't stand seeing someone being spotted on a Hammer Strength bench press machine or military press machine or whatever but I can't look away either. It's like watching someone spit into their own hand and rub it into their shirt. SO odd, so odd.


What pros do should be irrelevant to regular lifters. Are you a genetic freak, nearly maxed out on your muscular development, and a live pharmaceudical experiment?

About machines:
Like some posters above me said, non-free weight exercises have their place in rotational movements. The load of a free weight always points down, so it will change within the rotation. Taken through the full range of motion, the load would end up over your body, with your bones instead of your muscles supporting it.
However, I prefer cables over machines, because they still allow for some degrees of freedom, forcing you to control your movement. Machines usually lock you up into one path.