The 10 Best Machines for Building Muscle Mass

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Gym machines have received a bad reputation. They are often considered to be less effective; a sub-par choice compared to compound exercises and other good old fashioned 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 muscle growth and development.

Related: 50 Ways to Not SUCK at Muscle Building

Machines can be successfully used in many situations to build more muscle. these include, but are not limited to supersets, and finishing movements. The following is a list of the most effective machines available that can supplement compound movements and aid you gains.

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10 Exercises to Improve Your Gym Machine Workouts

#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. Try squeezing the weight up quickly and then slowly releasing it downwards.

The hamstrings can be one of the most difficult muscle groups to target so be sure to concentrate on using the mind muscle connection.

Lying Leg Curls

The hamstrings can be one of the most difficult muscle groups to target so be sure to concentrate on using the mind muscle connection.

#3 – Low-Row or Seated Row

Rows are arguably one of the best back movements you can perform. They are great for maximum back width and thickness development.

There are a variety of modifications available for this movement. You can use either a close grip or wide grip, depending on which part of the back muscles you are attempting to target.

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

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 machines focus on overloading chest or back movements. The best part of Hammer Strength machines is that they have specific targets such as upper chest, lower chest, etc.

Also, these machines can typically be overloaded with more weight than a standard bench press. This can only help you achieve optimal muscle growth.

#5 – Leg Extension

Leg ExtensionsThe 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 lockout 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

The machine commonly known as the “Pec Dec” focuses on muscle contraction in the chest region. It is perfect for overloading the chest after primary movements such as the bench press or incline bench press.

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. Focus on contracting the lats for the best results possible.

#8 – Preacher Curl Machine

The preacher curl machine allows you to isolate your bicep muscles. 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.

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.

Pec Dec

Perform 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.

#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. 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 aide in providing additional stimulus for maximal muscle hypertrophy.

Add in some gym machine movements into your workout routines. this will help expedite your overall physique progess, providing superlative muscle growth.

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Name: Ryan Rodal

Bio: My short term fitness goals include reaching a 300lb bench, 405 lb squat and a 500 lb deadlift. Longterm I want to become more involved in the fitness industry and help others achieve their goals. The bodybuilding lifestyle is not about how much you can lift or even how you look, its simply about being the best version of yourself.