You'd be hard-pressed to find a reputable gym that doesn't have a variety of weight stack machines available. Specifically, weight stack machines refer to exercise machines that typically utilize a series of pulleys, wheels, and levers to create resistance and allow users to target specific muscle groups in the body through weight lifting. These machines have a "stack" of weights with pins that allow users to customize how much weight they wish to lift.
Advantages of Weight Stack Machines
When compared to that of traditional free weights, there are numerous advantages that come along with using a weight stack machine for training and building muscle.
Ability to Target Specific Muscle Groups
With any weight stack machine, you're able to target a specific muscle or muscle group. This is great for those who want to zone in on an exact area to tone and build muscle. Typically, it's easy to tell which muscles a weight stack machine is designed to train, as they usually have an informational sticker or sign posted within eyesight that includes a diagram and explanation of the muscles targeted by the exercise. With some weight stack machines, it's even possible to target various muscle groups depending on how you position yourself while using the machine. In this sense, weight stack machines can also be very versatile.
Reduced Risk of Injury
The risk of injury is also significantly lower when using a weight stack machine as opposed to traditional free weights. That's because each weight stack machine comes with its own set of instructions and is also rather self-explanatory in terms of how it should be used. With free weights, on the other hand, exercises are often dependent on proper form and some may be more open to interpretation. This, combined with the fact that free weights by their very nature provide a greater range of motion, make them more prone to causing injuries—especially among beginners and those who don't have very much experience when it comes to lifting weights.
Since the range of motion with the typical weight stack machine is limited in order to target a specific muscle or muscle group, the risk of injury (especially by hyper-extension) is much lower. As a result, weight stack machines are often recommended as a great starting point for beginning weight lifters and those looking to tone muscle. They're also great for those who have injured themselves in the past and are currently in rehabilitation because these machines allow for the building of muscle without the added risk. For this reason, weight stack machines are also commonly recommended for the elderly.
Easy to Add Weight Without Assistance
With free weights, making the decision to attempt lifting more weight often requires the assistance of a spotter. Otherwise, the risk of injury or mishap can be very high. Unfortunately, not everybody has the luxury of having a spotter available to them at all times. Fortunately, weight stack machines make it possible to easily add weight without the need for assistance or a spotter for safety. Instead, all it takes is the movement of a simple pin to add 10, 20, or even 50 pounds of resistance. If the weight turns out to be too much, the pin can easily be adjusted to reduce the weight burden without risk of injury.
Usually Simple to Learn How to Use
Last but certainly not least, weight stack machines are extremely easy for even beginning weight lifters to use. Most of them are quite self-explanatory in terms of how they should be used, and even if the proper form isn't immediately obvious, there are always signs and instructions available for those who need further guidance. Once one figures out how to use a specific weight stack machine, it usually becomes very simple and even intuitive from that point on.
The same simply cannot be said when it comes to free weights. Because there are so many different exercises one can perform with a basic set of dumbbells, they can be quite complicated to use. However, the average weight stack machine is only designed to allow the user to perform one or maybe a few different exercises, which means the margin for error is much lower. This leads people to feel more comfortable and confident when using weight stack machines than they typically would when lifting free weights.
Tips for Using Weight Stack Machines
Overall, weight stack machines are rather simple to use. However, if you've never used one before or if you're new to lifting weights in general, there are still some basic tips you'll want to keep in mind that'll help you make the most of the experience and avoid injury in the process.
Track Your Progress With Each Machine
If you plan on using a variety of weight stack machines, it's always a good idea to keep a set of notes (along with a pen or pencil) with you at the gym at all times. This way, you can easily keep track of just how much weight you're able to lift at each machine, along with other important notes about the machine's settings/adjustments. Not only will this save you time while using weight stack machines, but it will also allow you to track your progress so you can see how much stronger you're getting.
For example, if you're able to lift 30 pounds of weight on one machine one day, be sure to write this down so that when you go to the use the same machine the next day, you don't have to rack your brain to try and remember where you should place the pin.
Take Time to Make Adjustments
This is an especially important tip to remember if you're using weight stack machines at your local gym as opposed to ones at your own home gym. Always take the time to make any necessary adjustments not only to the weight pins, but to the positioning of the seat and other parts of the equipment itself. Otherwise, if the last person who used the weight stack machine was significantly taller than you, you may have a hard time using the machine in its current position. It's always worth it to make the necessary adjustments to your machine so you can maximize your comfort and make sure you get the most out of the workout at the same time.
If you're unsure of how to adjust any aspect of the machine, be sure to ask for help from the staff at your local gym; they're specifically trained on how to show people just like you how to use the various machines in the gym. If you're dealing with a piece of home gym equipment, be sure to refer to the instructions that were included or download the instruction manual from the manufacturer's website, if necessary.
Work on Increasing Weight in Small Increments
While it may be tempting to push yourself and lift as much weight as you possibly can, remember that it's generally best to work in small increments when using a weight stack machine. Even adding five pounds to the amount you usually lift can make a surprising difference, so you don't want to overdo it. Otherwise, you run the risk of over-exerting yourself and causing an injury.
Understand the Target Muscles for Each Machine
When working with weight stack machines, take the time to study and truly understand the target muscles being worked by each machine you use. This way, you can make sure that the machines you use are in-line with your muscle-building goals and that you're maximizing your use of time in gym. For example, if you want to focus primarily on your shoulders, don't waste your time on machines that are designed to work out your biceps. It really helps to have a "game plan" or sorts in place when you decide to start incorporating weight stack machines into your daily workouts. Otherwise, without the proper planning and guidance, you aren't likely to achieve the results you want.
Don't Forget the Importance of Proper Form
As with any weight lifting exercise, it's always important to remember proper form when using a weight stack machine. Sometimes, people assume that because they're not lifting free weights, they don't have to worry as much about form and posture when using a weight stack machine. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth. Improper form, even when using a machine that provides some assistance with posture, can result in injury. Not to mention, you will always achieve the best results in terms of your muscle building goals when you use proper form. This is why it's so important to study diagrams and instructions of how to use a weight stack machine before you attempt to use it for the first time. Never assume that you know how to use a machine just by looking at it. And if you're ever in doubt when it comes to how to use a weight stack machine, don't hesitate to ask for guidance. The last thing you want is to end up with an injury that prevents you from lifting for an extended period of time, thus hindering your progress—simply because you couldn't be bothered to learn the proper form and technique.
Overall, weight stack machines can be a great option for those who want to build strength and muscle without the complexity of using free weights. Whether you're looking to work your arms, legs, abs, or glutes, you can be sure to find a weight stack machine that can help you tone your target muscle group at GTech Fitness.