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5 Resistance Machines Gym Beginners Need To Try!


New to the gym and not sure where to start? Resistance machines are a great way for beginners to start resistance training! Much like free weights, resistance machines add weight to an exercise to make it more challenging for your muscles, so they adapt and grow.

However, resistance machines are particularly great for beginners as they used a pre-determined movement pattern, meaning you can learn the exercise form in a safe and controlled way and build both your confidence and your strength.

It's not just for beginners though, even pro lifters can build muscle using resistance machines. 

Read on to find out more and check out our favourite resistance machines beginners should try

Are resistance machines as good as free weights?

Free weights recruit more muscles than resistance machines, so can be more challenging and are typically more effective at working multiple muscle groups at once.

However, resistance machines are still an effective way to train for both beginner and advanced gym goers. For those new to working out, it allows you to build strength safely – it’s pretty much impossible to get the form wrong as the movement pattern is fixed.

For intermediate and advanced gym goers, resistance machines are great to add into a workout to add a balance of isolation work towards the end of your session.

What are the benefits of using resistance machines?

  • Resistance machines help you to master essential movements

If you’re a gym beginner resistance machines are a great way to learn some of the movement patterns involved in weightlifting, in a safe and controlled way.

Resistance machines have a predetermined range of motion, meaning you can only lift and lower the weight in the correct way. This helps you to learn the exercise, build up strength and learn to engage the right muscles before progressing onto free weights.

  • Resistance machines are easy to set up

We understand that starting out in the gym may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Resistance machines are really easy to set up – all you need to do is adjust the starting position to suit your height. It’s also simple to change the weight, and you can test different weights without having to find and put back free weights such as dumbbells or kettlebells.

  • Resistance machines help you to target specific muscles

What’s great about resistance machines is that they are perfect for isolation work – which means targeting a specific muscle rather than lots of muscles at once. This can be helpful for building up strength in muscles that otherwise may get overlooked and can really help with muscular balance.

When you get onto compound lifts like squats and deadlifts, you’re only as strong as your weakest muscle – so try to train them all equally!

What resistance should I use?

When starting out it’s important to always use a weight that you can comfortably lift without your form slipping. So, we’d recommend you start off with a light weight and work your way up from there.

A good rule of thumb is to work within a ‘rep range’ that matches your goal – so for example, 4 – 6 reps for strength, 8 – 10 reps for hypertrophy (muscle growth), and 12+ reps for endurance. If you find that you’re comfortably able to lift more reps than your desired rep range, then it’s time to increase your weight slightly.

This is called progressive overload, which is a training principle that involves increasing the stimulus on your muscles to encourage greater adaptation. This can be through increased weight or also by increasing your reps, frequency of training a certain muscle or even reduced rest times.

How often should I do resistance machine workouts?

Resistance machines are great for beginners, so they can be a great place to start when planning your workout routine. Depending on your goal, you may want to do resistance machine workouts multiple times per week, and you can even break it down into upper or lower body workout days.

However, once you’ve become more confident with the exercises and built up some strength in your muscles you may want to start using free weights or more functional exercises in your workouts too.

There are so many benefits to using resistance machines though, so we’d recommend building them in alongside free weight exercises to get a balance of compound and isolation movements into your routine.

Which resistance machines should I use?

There are lots of resistance machines in PureGym for you to get a great workout, but here are 5 of our favourite machines to help build your confidence and get you started in the gym.

1. Lat Pulldown

What muscles are worked in the lat pulldown?

The lat pulldown machine targets your back muscles such as your latissimus dorsi and trapezius and will also engage your abs for some core stabilisation too.

Which lat pulldown machine should I use?

There are two types of Lat Pulldown machines in PureGym that you can use:

  • Diverging lat pulldown
  • Cable lat pulldown

We’d recommend beginners to try the diverging lat pulldown first as this machine has a predetermined movement pattern. This will help you to improve your form and concentrate on engaging the right muscles to start.

The cable lat pulldown machine is great to then progress onto after becoming comfortable with the diverging lat pulldown machine. The cable lat pulldown will engage more of your core muscles and allow you to switch up your grip (neutral, underhand or wide lat pulldown) to target different areas of your back and biceps. You can see how to different lat pulldown variations here, or check out these 9 back exercises.

How to use the lat pulldown machine

  • Adjust the leg pads so that they are resting just above your thighs. It shouldn’t be squashing your legs but equally there shouldn’t be a large gap.
  • Pop the pin in the weight that you’d like to lift, remember to always prioritise form over the weight.
  • Stand up to grab the diverging lat pull down handles and return to your seat.
  • And then you’re ready to go! Lean back slightly, retract your shoulders (imagine bringing your shoulders together) and then pull the handles down towards your shoulders.
  • Return slowly back to your starting position and then repeat. 

2. Leg Press

What muscles does the leg press work?

The leg press is an effective machine to work your lower body, particularly your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Did you know that your foot positioning influences which muscles the leg press targets more? Here are a few foot positions you can try on the leg press:

Neutral stance: Placing your feet shoulder width apart will target your quads, hamstring and glutes and help with overall leg strength and development.

High stance: Placing your feet slightly higher on the foot pad will target more of your hamstrings and glutes.

Narrow Stance: Placing your feet in a narrow stance will focus more emphasis on the outer thigh.

Single leg: Unilateral exercises, which involves focusing on one side at a time, are a great way to encourage muscular balance. Many of us have a naturally dominant and stronger side which will overcompensate in many movements, so this is a great way to build strength in the weaker side to combat that.

How to use the leg press machine

  • Firstly, adjust the seat to a comfortable start position by pulling the seat pin. Aim for a 90-degree angle with your knees
  • Pop the pin into the weight you’d like to lift and then you’re ready to go!
  • Place your feet on the leg press platform around hip width apart and hold the handles at the side of your seat
  • Press the platform with your legs until they are fully extended, without locking your knees and return to your starting position. And then repeat!

Need more leg day inspiration? Check out our leg & glute workout hub.

3. Shoulder Press Machine

What muscles does the shoulder press work?

The shoulder press machine targets your shoulder muscles, such as your anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids, teres major and rotator cuff.

How to use the shoulder press machine

  • Adjust the seat height so hands are in line with your shoulders
  • Pop the pin into the weight you’d like to lift, sit back into the seat pad and keep your feet planted on the ground
  • Grab the handles (narrow or wide) and use your shoulders to push the grips up above your head, without locking out your elbows
  • Slowly return to your starting position, trying to keep the weight from touching the stack and repeat

Feeling confident? Try these 5 exercises for strong shoulders next.

4. Seated Chest Press Machine

What muscles does the seated chest press work?

The chest press machine is an effective way to target your chest muscles, including your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.

How to use the converging chest press machine

  • Adjust the seat height so hands are in line with your mid-chest
  • Pop the pin into the weight you’d like to lift, sit back into the seat pad and keep your feet planted on the ground
  • Grab the handles and use your chest muscles to press out until arms are near full extension
  • Keep your back against the seat pad and slowly return to your starting position, trying to keep the weight from touching the stack and repeat

You can find more chest exercises and workouts here.

5. Seated Row

What muscles does the seated row work?

The seated row machine targets your back muscles. The main muscles activated are your trapezius in your upper back, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi in the middle of your back and your erector spinae in your lower back.

How to use the seated row machine

  • Adjust the seat height so the upper handles are in light with the top of your shoulders
  • Adjust the chest pad so both hands can reach the handles when extended
  • Grab either of the grip positions (narrow or wide) and pull the handles to your side, squeezing your back muscles and then slowly return to your starting position without touching the weights back on the stack. Then repeat!

You can watch our step by step video on how to use the seated row machine here. We've also shared step by step instructions on how to do different row variations here


If you need help getting set up on some of resistance machines, we have video tutorials on how to use gym equipment here.

Looking for more gym machines to try? We've shared two beginner gym machine workouts here and some of the best gym machines for weight loss here. For more workout ideas for beginners, check out our gym workouts for beginners guide or try one of our beginner workouts over on our YouTube channel. We upload new content every week to support you on your fitness journey.

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