The 10 Best Machines for Building Muscle Mass

The 10 Best Machines for Building Muscle Mass

Gym machines have received a bad reputation. They are often considered to be less effective; a sub-par choice compared to compound exercises and free weights.

However, machines can - in fact - be used to build muscle. There is a time and place for machine exercises, and they can be used in conjunction with compound movements for maximum muscle gains.

Now, so there is no confusion, major compound movements provide the best bang for your buck, so to speak. These movements include the bench press, deadlift, squat, and overhead press. After these exercises, dumbbells are believed to be the next best option, providing the most benefit for muscular development. Machines can be utilized optimally through various programming mechanisms to incorporate more volume. 

Related: 50 Ways to Not SUCK at Muscle Building

#1 - Leg Press

The leg press is one of the best leg movements you can perform because they overload the quads. The leg press also allows you to squeeze in extra repetitions and sets into your leg day routine. The leg press can never replace the classic squat, but it makes for a perfect second or third movement in your leg day routine.

The leg press can be overloaded with plenty of plates, but be sure to focus on the muscle contraction. Don't be one of those gym bros that loads up 22 plates, only to go up and down half an inch. The only thing you are accomplishing is looking like a dumbass.

#2 - Hamstring Curl

Sticking with leg day movements, the hamstring curl provides extra hypertrophy sets in the 10-15 rep range. They can be performed after your squats or deadlifts for the day.

Once again focus on muscle contraction. Focus on utilizing the hamstring (not momentum) to execute the movement It is not a ballistic exercise.

Lying Leg Curls

#3 - Low-Row or Seated Row

Rows are arguably one of the best back movements you can perform developing a thick back.

There are a variety of modifications available for this movement. Concentrate on targeting the lats to engage the movement. Many use the seated row as a another curl variation with no back involvement. 

Related: Build a Machine: 12 Week Mass Without Fat Plan

Be sure to make rows one of the main movements in your back workout routine for those wide lats of the gods.

#4 - Hammer Strength Machines (Plate Loaded Machines)

Although Hammer Strength machines are not available at every gym, you are likely to find them in most major chains and local gyms both big and small.

Hammer Strength are plate-loaded machines focusing on overloading specific muscle groups with grooved ranges of motion. They can typically be overloaded with more weight than a free weight exercise.

#5 - Leg Extension

Leg Extensions

The leg extension - known fondly by some as "knee snaps" - is one of the better leg finishing movements. It helps you to achieve the ever so desirable teardrop definition in the quadriceps.

While performing this movement make sure to not lock out your knees. Instead, concentrate on maintaining constant tension on the quads and staying in the higher rep range.

This is one of the few movements where it doesn't hurt to go beyond the 15 rep range.

#6 - Pec Dec Machine

 This machine is perfect for overloading the chest after primary movements such as the bench press or incline bench press. It provides a different stimulus than the traditional horizontal push.

Some people claim that this machine helps develop inner chest definition. This is debatable, as we don't know if any exercise can actually target the inner chest.

Either way, try performing different variations of the pec dec, such as single arm or using different heights on the seat attachment to target different regions of the pectoral muscles.

#7 - Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is an often underrated movement that provides extra repetitions for the lats. Like any machine, it must be used properly in order to achieve the best results.

Commonly, you see people load up a weight that is too heavy. Instead of working their lat muscles, they end up using too much of the shoulders and/or biceps.

Rotate your scapula back and give yourself a bit of a gangster lean at a 45 degree angle (thoracic extension). Focus on contracting the lats (rotating around the spine) for the best results possible.

#8 - Preacher Curl Machine

The preacher curl machine allows you to truly isolate your bicep muscles, negating any momentum or shoulder involvement. This can be difficult sometimes when using standard dumbbells.

By placing your arms on the pads, preacher curls will focus exclusively on the biceps themselves, forcing the muscle to work exclusively. 

Be sure to squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement for about one second. This will give you extra blood flow and perhaps a better pump. Don't forget to control the eccentric portion as well. 
Pec Dec

#9 - Seated Calf Raise

Calves are quite possibly one of the least favorite muscle groups to train. They are difficult to grow. The seated calf raise is a quality movement that will allow you to overload the calves and have a chance at packing on more size.

At the top of the movement, hold the calf muscles and squeeze for a second for that extra burn.

Calf movements can be performed in high rep ranges over 20. This may be beneficial to overall size increases. Frequency is also important for calf growth, so performing movements 2-3 times per week will only help development.

#10 - Lateral Raise Machine

The lateral raise machine can be used as an alternative to standard dumbbell lateral raises, or you can use this movement as part of a superset with lateral dumbbell movements.

While performing reps on the lateral raise machine concentrate on slowly bringing each side of your upper arm up to shoulder level utilizing your deltoids, not momentum. Hold this position for a second, then slowly lower the weight back down to your sides.

This machine will help give you the 3D delt boulder shoulders look that every bodybuilder dreams of.

Gym Machines for Bonus Gains

Machines should not be used exclusively to try and build muscle. But when used in conjunction with other key compound movements, they will aid in providing additional stimulus for maximal muscle hypertrophy.

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Comments

David Glasgow - April 15, 2020

What are the top commercial weight lifting equipment to go with.

Thomas Rossi - February 4, 2019

Machines are good if you have had injuries and cannot really balance the free weights. Nothing beats the basic exercises with free weights. Machines will tone never give you mass. They use them in conjunction with free weights. Your bread and butter is free weights barbells and dumbells old school!

Thomas Rossi - February 4, 2019

Machines are good if you have had injuries and cannot really balance the free weights. Nothing beats the basic exercises with free weights. Machines will tone never give you mass. They use them in conjunction with free weights. Your bread and butter is free weights barbells and dumbells old school!

John Hennessy - January 11, 2019

Oh over course. You must use a hybrid of each. I agree

Brennen Pacheco - January 11, 2019

That’s fine, but machines also neglect your all important stabilizer muscles. I think it’s important to incorporate both machines and free weights

John Hennessy - January 11, 2019

Personally I kind of like machines slightly better than free weights. This does not mean I do not use free weights because I do. I just think that machines prevent you from cheating and teaches you proper form.

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