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When I first set foot in the weight room of my local gym, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was Dorothy and had just landed in Oz.

What to do?

Being the proactive gal that I am, I decided to take advantage of the two free introductory classes detailing the use of those eye-catching nautilus machines. Instructions on the use of other equipment was not offered.  Pfff!

At the end of those two lessons, I still had no clue what I was doing.
I was on my own.
I was cooked.
I couldn’t even pull off a “fake it till I make it” ruse.
The jig was up.

So I did what any other self-respecting person would do, I ran (drove, actually) home and You Tubed the use of every machine I could remember. The next day, I mustered up enough courage to steal my fancy chart, which listed all of those machines, and hightailed it home to the beauty of You Tube yet again.

Note to readers: Viewer beware, not all You tube videos are created equal.

While those machines became less intimidating as time marched on, I never learned the importance of exercising opposing muscles until I began studying to become a personal trainer. With the Bicep and Tricep muscles as an exception, I didn’t even know I had opposing muscles – never mind what they were. How would I know enough to work those muscles with their respective machines/equipment?

Have you experienced this fine kettle of fish?  Fear not.

Below, you will find a list of common weight room isolation muscle exercises with their (color coordinated) opposing exercises. You can perform these exercises at the gym and home with the help of nautilus machines or other equipment.

Some common weight room (and home) equipment that you may encounter and should begin to familiarize yourself with include: Barbells, Dumbbells, Kettlebells, EZ-Curl Bar, Tricep Bar, Weight Plates, Medicine ball, Stability ball, Bosu, Wobble board, Ropes, Bands, Elastic tubing, TRX suspension, Blast Straps, Cable Pulley Machines, Squat Rack, Smith Press, Bench, Step/Box

Variety will help keep you from boredom and from plateauing.  Mix up the type of exercise you perform and equipment you use from each group on a regular basis. Should you need help, print out the list and bring it to your gym. Ask for help if you need it.
Be the Wizard!

CHEST – Bench Press, Incline/Decline Press, Cable Chest Press, Dumbbell Fly, Pec Deck*                   

UPPER BACK Reverse Fly, Horizontal High Row, Reverse Pec Deck*, Barbell/Dumbbell Row, Y-T-L-W-I Raise, Cable Face Pull


SHOULDER – Front Raise, Lateral Raise, Upright Row*, Shoulder Press Machine, Overhead/Military Press

MIDDLE BACK – Lat Pull Down, Lat Pull Over, Bent Over Row, Seated Low Row, Chin-ups, Pull-Ups


BICEPS – 21’s, Hammer Curl, Concentration Curl, Bicep Curl, Preacher Curl, Reverse Curl

TRICEPS – Triceps Press Down, Triceps Kickback, Triceps Dip, Triceps Overhead Press, Standing/Seated or Cable Triceps Extension

ABDOMINALS – Plank, Abdominal Crunch Machine, Curl Up/Crunch*, Hip Lift, Russian Twist, Oblique TORSO ROTATION Machine

ERECTOR SPINAE – (3 muscle groups along spine) – Plank,  Back Extension Machine, Swiss (stability) Ball Extension, Back Extension on Roman Chair*, Superman


QUADRICEPSSquat, Lunge, Leg Press/Sled Machine, Leg Extension Machine*

HAMSTRINGS Squat, Lunge, Leg Press/Sled Machine, Leg flexion Machine


ABDUCTORS (gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and Tensor Fasciae Latae/moves thigh outward)Abductor Machine, Cable-Hip Abduction, Side–Lying Abduction

ADDUCTORS (5 muscles of the inner thigh) – Adductor Machine, Cable-Hip Adduction, Side-Lying Adduction


ROTATOR CUFF (external)**– External Rotation with Tube, Cable Pulley or Dumbbell, Seated Dumbbell Rotation


ANTERIOR TIBIALISHeels are down while toes are pointed upward. You can use a Leg Press or Calf Machine to perform this exercise. You can also perform a Dorsiflexion with band exercise with the help of a partner.

CALVES – Heel Raise, Walk On Toes, Calf Machine

* Although they are controversial due to high risk of injury, I’ve included these exercises because you may already be or may see others performing them.

**There is an imbalance between the internal and external rotator cuff muscles. There is more internal rotator support of the shoulder while there is far fewer and weaker external support. Thus, if you are performing exercises of the chest, shoulder and middle back then there should not be a reason to perform isolated internal rotator exercises.

Need help working your opposing muscle groups?  Please leave a comment…