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exercise-equipmentBelow you will find a sample of nautilus machines that are present in many gyms.  Not all machines work the same. For example, some machines have plate loaded capabilities and others incorporate a pin system. Some machines allow you the choice to train either unilaterally (one side at a time) or bilaterally (both sides at once). Regardless, the differences are usually small and the guide below can be applied to those variations.

It’s important to train opposing muscles to stay injury free. See the list below.  Each color represents a set of muscles and their opposing muscles. For example, the chest’s opposing muscles are the upper back muscles. This guide provides you with the information needed to train in a balanced way.

Chest/Upper back (chest press, pec deck/reverse fly, horizontal seated cable)
Shoulder/Middle Back (lateral raise, shoulder press/lat pull down, seated low row cable)

Biceps/Triceps (bicep curl/tricep press)
Abdominals/Lower back (abdominal, standing roman chair, torso rotation/back extension)
LEGS:
Abductors/Adductors (abduction/adduction)
Quadriceps/Hamstrings:
(leg press, v squat = works both quads and hams)
(leg extension/leg curl)
Calves/Anterior Tibialis (seated calf machine/various)

CHEST

chest-muscles

 

CHEST PRESS

chest-press-machine1
Sit on machine and adjust seat so that knees are at 90° and handles are at or slightly above mid-chest. Neck, spine and wrists are in neutral. Abdominals are contracted. Grip handles and keep your back resting on the back pad throughout the movement. Exhale as you extend forearms out to full range of motion. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis, triceps
Note: The use of this machine takes the shoulder joint to an extreme range of rotation and extension. This puts you at high risk of injury if you are experiencing shoulder problems.

PEC DECK

pec-deck-machineSit on machine and adjust seat so that elbows are slightly below shoulders. Adjust start position using overhead range of motion adjustments (located above or to the sides/back of seat) for each arm. Neck, spine and wrists are in neutral and shoulders are down and back. Abdominals are contracted. Elbows are slightly flexed. Grip handles and exhale as you bring handles together in a slow and controlled manner. Inhale as you slowly return to original position. Keep your back resting on the back pad throughout the movement.
Muscles worked: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis, triceps
Note: I do not recommend the use of this machine. Like the Chest press, the use of this machine can take the shoulder joint to an extreme range of rotation and extension. This puts you at high risk of injury regardless of any shoulder problems.

UPPER BACK

upper-back-muscles

REVERSE FLY/ROW REAR DELTOID MACHINE

row-rear-dwltiod-machineSit facing machine and adjust seat height so that your mid-chest aligns with the top of the chest pad. Hips should be flexed at 90°, feet are flat on the floor, spine and neck are in neutral, shoulders are down and back, and abdominals are contracted. Grip the handles and exhale as you pull handles back into full range of motion. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: posterior deltoid, infraspinatus and teres minor (external rotator cuff), mid-trapezius (middle trap), rhomboids

SEATED CABLE ROW

seated-cable-machine Horizontal seated high row exercise – Sit with hips flexed at 90°. Keep spine, neck and wrists in neutral, shoulder blades pressed down and back, elbows a little lower than shoulders, wrists a little lower than elbows, palms facing down on handle, knees flexed and abdominals contracted. Exhale as you pull handles into chest. Inhale as you release to starting position. For a more detailed explanation of this exercise, see my original post.
Muscles worked: posterior deltoid, infraspinatus and teres minor(external rotator cuff), mid-trapezius, rhomboids, and biceps.

 

SHOULDER

deltoids1

LATERAL RAISE

lateral-raise Depending on the type of machine your gym has, sit facing the machine or with back resting on back pad. Adjust machine so shoulders line up with pivot point. Feet are flat on floor, hips are at 90°, neck,spine and wrists are in neutral, shoulders are down and abdominals are contracted. Place forearms on pads and grip the handles. Exhale as you raise elbows so that they are even with shoulders. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: medial deltoid, supraspinatus, trapezius II and IV, serratus anterior

SHOULDER PRESS

shoulder-press-machine Sit on machine and adjust seat height so that the handles are lined up with the top of the shoulders. Feet are flat on floor, hips are at 90°, neck, spine and wrists are in neutral, shoulders are down and back and abdominals are contracted. Grip handles and keep your back against the pad. Exhale as you press handles to full extension without locking elbows. Inhale and return to original position.
Muscles worked: deltoids, supraspinatus, trapezius II and IV, serratus anterior, triceps

 

MIDDLE BACK

backmuscleslabeled

LAT PULL DOWN

lateral-pull-down-machinelatpull-down-machine1Sit so knees are placed under knee pad and hips are flexed at 90°. Position of your neck is in a natural extension of the spine while abdominals are contracted, elbows are straight but not locked and wrists are in neutral. Use an overhand grip on the bar which can be wide, slightly beyond shoulder width or narrow. A narrow underhand grip can be used but places more emphasis on the biceps. Without moving the torso, exhale while pulling the bar to the sternum. Squeeze shoulder blades together. Pause. Then, while inhaling, slowly return bar to starting position. Keep your shoulder blades down.
Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, teres major, sternal portion of pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, rhomboids, biceps

SEATED CABLE ROW

seated-cable-machineSeated low row exercise – Sit with hips flexed at 90°. Keep spine, neck and wrists in neutral, knees flexed, arms extended with soft elbow and palms facing each other on the handles.  Press shoulder blades down and back. Abdominals are contracted. With lifted chest, exhale as you pull handles to lower chest. Inhale as you release to starting position.
Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, teres major, and the biceps, (posterior deltoid and long head of the triceps assist)
For a more detailed explanation of this exercise, see my original post.

 

UPPER ARMS

upper-arm-muscles

BICEP CURL

bicep-curl Sit on machine and adjust seat so that the elbows are aligned with the pivot point. Keep your neck, spine, pelvis and wrists in neutral, shoulders down and back and your abdominals contracted. Grip the handles, and with upper arms resting on pad, exhale as you slowly lift and curl to full range of motion. Inhale as you slowly return to original position.
Muscles worked: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis,

TRICEP PRESS

triceps-press-machine Sit on machine and adjust seat height so that you can easily grip handles. Adjust handles to an inner or outer position. Keep your neck, spine, pelvis and wrists in neutral and back resting on pad at all times. Abdominals are contracted. Make sure elbows remain close to the body during the entire movement. Exhale as you fully extend elbows taking care not to lock them out (hyperextending). Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: triceps

 

ABDOMINAL

core-abdominal-muscles

ABDOMINAL

ab-machine Adjust seat height using the lever located under the seat so legs are at 90° angle. Sit so that the axis of rotation (cam) is aligned with the lower part of the sternum. The middle of your torso should be aligned with the pivot point. Place elbows on pads. Keep shoulders down. Exhale as you flex the spine and bring rib cage towards pelvic bone. Some machines move in both directions so that you can move the rib cage and pelvic bone towards one another. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques

STANDING ROMAN CHAIR

captains-chair Place elbows on pads and grip handles. Keep shoulders down. Without using momentum exhale as you bring bent knees to a 90° angle or bring straightened legs to a 180° angle/line. Slowly curl the pelvic bone up towards ribs. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique

KNEELING TORSO ROTATION

torso-rotationLocate handle below seat. Adjust seat position for desired range of motion. Place knees on the front edge of seat and place chest on the chest pads. Adjust chest support pad so that the center of the pads align with top of the chest. Exhale as you grab handles and slowly rotate torso. Be sure to keep knees placed against support pads. Inhale as you return slowly to starting position. Rotate seat position to train opposite side of torso.
Muscles worked: internal and external obliques.

 

LOWER BACK – Erector Spinae

side-view-of-spine

BACK EXTENSION

back-extension-machineTo work spinal muscles only, set the axis of rotation around the lower thoracic spine. If you align the axis of rotation around the hips, you are working the hip extensor muscles (gluteus maximus and hamstrings) and training the erector spinae muscle as a stabilizer. Place feet on foot support and adjust lever so knees are slightly bent. Adjust the start position on back pad to your desired range of motion. This is where the axis of rotation is set. Sit with hands on thighs or grab handles for support. Exhale and slowly extend spine or hips. The movement is complete when your low back contacts the lumbar pad. Inhale as you slowly, and with control, return to starting position.
Muscles worked: erector spinae (glutes and hamstrings if you work the hips).

HYPEREXTENSION (back extension)BENCH

back-machineGrab handles and place feet on foot pad. Rest on pad so that the edge of the pad is slightly above the Illiac crest (hip bone). For hip work, rest on pad so that the edge of the pad is below the hip bone or under the upper thigh. Flex the spine and lower your head down. Arms can be at your side or overhead (hands can be positioned straight out or lightly clasped behind head). Inhale and extend spine up to a neutral position (parallel to floor). Exhale and slowly flex spine back to original position. Your cervical spine stays in line with the rest of your spine as you move. Some people extend beyond the parallel position. If you have issues with your spine, I recommend staying at neutral.
Muscles worked: erector spinae (glutes and hamstrings if you work hips)

 

LEGS

hip-and-leg-1gastroc-soleus

ABDUCTION

abductionmachine
Sit on machine and place the knees against pad creating a 90° angle. Using the lever located below and to the side of the seat, adjust the starting position to your desired range of motion. Before you begin movement, make sure your head and neck are in line with the spine. Shoulders are down and abdominals are contracted. Exhale as you slowly move pads out with knees until shoulder width apart. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: (outer thighs/glutes) to be more specific the major muscle worked is the gluteus medius and the assisting muscles are: tensor fasciae latae, sartorius, gluteus minimus and the hip flexors (iliacus, psoas major and rectus femoris).

ADDUCTION

adduction-machine
Sit on machine and place the knees against pad creating a 90° angle. Using the lever located below and to the side of the seat, adjust the starting position to your desired range of motion. Before you begin the movement, make sure your head and neck are in line with the spine. Shoulders are down and abdominals are contracted. Exhale as you slowly move pads in with knees. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: Inner thighs (adductors- longus, magnus and brevis, gracilis, and pectineus)

LEG SLED

leg-press-machineLEG PRESS

leg-pressSit on machine and place feet flat on pad. Adjust seat or pad so that your knees are at 90° angle. Neck, shoulders and spine are in neutral and abdominals are contracted. Grip handles and exhale as you extend knees until they are slightly bent. Inhale as you slowly return to original position.
Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius and soleus

V SQUAT MACHINE

hack-squat-machineStand in machine so that your back and head rest against back pad. Place shoulders under shoulder pads. Feet should rest on foot plate so that knees are shoulder width apart and line up with toes. Neck, shoulders and spine are in neutral. Grip handles and exhale as you straighten legs keeping knees slightly bent. Inhale as you slowly lower until knees are at 90°. This angle is controversial and some suggest knees should go beyond 90°. I err on the side of caution and recommend the knees stay parallel to the floor (90°)
Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius, soleus

LEG EXTENSION

leg-extension
Sit on machine and adjust the axis of rotation to line up with your knee-joint. Knees should be flexed just over 90°. Adjust lower leg pad so that it sits right above ankle. Neck, shoulders and spine are in neutral and abdominals are contracted. Exhale as you slowly extend knees to full extension. Inhale as you slowly return to original position.
Muscles worked: quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis)
Note: I do not recommend the use of this machine as it tends to put too much pressure on the knee. If you choose to use this machine and experience knee pain, reduce the weight.

LEG CURL/FLEXION

leg-curl-machineSit on machine and adjust the back of the seat so that the axis of rotation lines up with your knee-joint. Adjust ankle pad so that so that the back of the ankles rest on the ankle pad. Neck, shoulders and spine are in neutral and abdominals are contracted. Grip handles and exhale as you slowly flex knees as close as possible to glutes. Inhale as you return to original position.
Muscles worked: hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus)
Please leave a comment  below if you want information on the lying leg extension machine.

STANDING GLUTE MACHINE

glute-machineAdjust front pad so it sits between chest and abdominals. Place foot on plate so that knee is slightly flexed. Exhale as you slowly straighten leg keeping knee slightly bent. Inhale as you slowly return to original position. Flip foot pad to other side and repeat.
Muscles worked: Glutes, quadriceps

SEATED CALF MACHINE

calf-extension-macine Sit on machine and place feet on foot pad. Adjust back of seat so that the knees are slightly flexed. Exhale as you slowly extend ankles. Keep back and hips against pad. Inhale as you slowly return to original position.
Muscles worked: gastrocnemius and soleus

Not many gyms have a machine that work the Anterior Tibialis.  However, Livestrong offers several solutions to this situation.

Depending on the maker, you may find slight variations of these machines. For example, your gym may have a lying leg extension machine but not a sitting leg extension machine or a sitting torso rotation machine but not a kneeling torso rotation machine. If you have any questions or need further clarifications, please leave a comment…

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