If you want to use weight machines to work on your arms, it is important to know what you are doing. Be sure to talk to a member of staff at the gym if you need help, and make sure you warm up properly before you start exercise. With these weight machines you will be able to work your shoulders, chest and back too, not just your arms, so you can perform a good upper body workout.
Converging chest press machine
This machine consists of a seat with a backrest, which you need to sit firmly against. There are handles located at chest height, either side of you. If they are not at chest height then you will need to adjust the height of your seat.
Hold onto the handles with your arms bent at the elbows to begin with. Then, push forwards, until your arms are almost fully extended and the handles are in front of your body. This movement is where you encounter resistance, as it lifts the weights up.
Once you have reached this extended position, you should bend your arms again and return to the start position in a controlled manner, to complete one rep.
This machine works the pecs, triceps and front deltoids effectively, and changing which handles you use during the exercise can result in slightly different muscles being targeted. This chest press machine can carry advantages over a bench chest press, such as not requiring a spotter whilst you train. Of course, if you would still like assistance then ask a member of staff to help you.
Arm curl/bicep curl machine
A bicep curl machine usually has a seat and body support, and two handles connected to weights. There are several different types of bicep curl machines, but these are the standard components.
Sitting in the chair, the handles will either be out in front of you, or down by your side.
If the handles are out in front, there will be a chest support and arm rests. Brace yourself comfortably against these, with a good posture, before beginning the exercise. If the machine is shaped to have your arms pointing downwards, hold the two handles by your side with your back braced firmly against the seat.
Ensure the machine is adjusted to fit you correctly, asking a member of staff to show you how if needed.
With any form of this machine, you need to carefully bend your arms at the elbow, using just the biceps muscles, to lift the weights. Once the maximum height has been reached, lower the weights again in a controlled manner. You should not use your shoulders to lift the weights, and focus on using only your biceps.
Lateral pulldown machine
When using a lateral pulldown machine, a padded bar braces against the top of your thighs when sitting in the seat to give support during the exercise. Above the seat is a wide bar, which should hang within easy reach with your arms at just below full extension.
This bar is attached to the weights through a pulley system, and one rep is completed by pulling the bar down towards your body, in front of your face and just above your chest, and then returning to the start position in a controlled manner.
This exercise will mostly target the latissimus dorsi (often referred to simply as lats), the muscles that wrap around your middle back and under your armpits, but will also help to strengthen an entire group of muscles across the top of the shoulders too.
It is important for good form to ensure that each arm pulls down with equal strength, balancing the bar. If you tend to pull harder with your right arm, for example, the right side of your body may grow stronger while the left remains weak, leading to muscle imbalances.
Pull up bars
Most gyms provide access to pull up bars, as well as bars for completing triceps dips. For these, you simply hold the bars and pull yourself up/lower yourself down, before returning back to the start position, completing one rep.
Because losing your grip could result in you falling and possibly injuring yourself, ensure you know what you are doing when using the equipment, and do not attempt to complete another rep if you are really struggling. A member of staff will be able to provide assistance should you desire it.
Usually referred to as pull up bars, these generally consist of two vertical stands (which are tall and strong) with a horizontal bar connecting them at the top. To begin with you will be positioned between the stands, underneath the bar. Either by jumping or standing on a box, you will reach up and hold onto the bar, with your body lifted up off the ground. The most common grip is to have your hands shoulder-width apart, but wide and narrow grips can help target different muscles. Hanging with your arms fully extended, you are ready to begin the exercise.
Pull ups are performed by gripping the bar firmly with your hands, with your palms facing away from your body. Maintaining good stability and control, you will lift yourself up until your chin rises above the bar. Once this point has been reached, you will gently lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended. This is considered the start point and signals that one rep has been completed. Pull ups work your lats predominantly.
Chin ups are seen as a type of pull up, and are performed by gripping the bar with your palms facing towards your body. The different handgrips target different muscles, and some may find chin ups easier than pull ups. Chin ups work your lats and biceps predominantly.
Triceps dips bars
Dips are generally completed using two strong horizontal dip bars, located at approximately shoulder-width, with you positioned in-between them. Predominantly dips exercise the triceps muscles, although it works your chest and back also.
To begin the exercise, you grip each bar with your hands on top of it, palms facing towards the floor. With extended arms, you need to hold your body up, and this will be the starting position. For the entirety of the exercise your legs will need to be bent at the knee, to prevent your feet touching the floor.
To complete one rep, you need to bend your arms at the elbow, lowering yourself down until your chest is almost level with your hands. Once this lowered position has been reached, you then need to push yourself back up, extending your arms as you do so.
You may also have access to an assisted pull up and dip machine, which helps you during pull ups and dips. There is a small platform partway down from the top, which can help take some of your bodyweight to make it easier for you to complete the exercise. This can be useful if you need to build up your strength before completing an unassisted pull up or dip.
You perform the exercise exactly the same as when completing normal pull ups and dips, but you kneel on the platform throughout.
Shoulder press machine
On the shoulder press machine, there is a seat with a back support and handles located above each shoulder. Sitting firmly against the backrest, grasp the handles with your arms bent at the elbows. If the handles are too low or high you will need to adjust the height of the seat to minimise the risk of injury, and a member of staff can help you if required.
Push the handles upwards, extending your arms almost completely. Pushing the handles up causes the weights to be lifted, providing you with resistance. Once you have reached the top of the movement, bend your arms again to lower the handles back down to the start position in a controlled manner, completing one rep.
This machine trains your deltoids, triceps and biceps, as well as your back. Altering your grip can alter which muscles are targeted.
Pectoral fly machine
On the pectoral fly machine, there is a seat with a backrest with two vertical arm pads and handles located around chest/shoulder height out to either side of your body. When holding the handles, your forearms will be up against the pads, perpendicular to the floor.
Sitting with your back firmly against the backrest in a neutral position, grab hold of the handles and place your forearms against the pad. Your arms should be out to the sides and bent at the elbow.
To perform the exercise, push the handles/pads around from your sides until they are in front of you, meeting together in front of your chest. This action is where resistance is faced, as pushing forwards (and inwards) is what lifts the weights up. Then, return your arms back to the starting position in a controlled manner, to complete one rep.
The fly machine trains your pecs mainly, and also the deltoids.