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Strength Training Fitness Equipment continued...

Get creative, suggests Stoppani: "It's really limitless the exercises you can do using a cable machine -- shoulder presses, biceps, triceps, step-ups, lateral raises, even ab crunches."

Low back extension machine. Strengthening the muscles of the back is critical, says Wayne Westcott, PhD, CSCS, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass.

"Eighty percent of Americans have back pain at some point in their lives," he says. Though the muscles of the lower back may not be "showy" muscles like the biceps or the pectorals, he says, they are critical for trunk stability and for absorbing the stress the back often absorbs.

Look for a low back extension machine like the Nautilus or the MedEx, in which you work sitting and strapped in so that your form stays intact. Westcott says this type of machine enables you to stay off of your hip flexors and instead use the muscles of your back to do the exercise.

Neck extension machine. "The neck has to hold up a 10-14 pound head all day," says Westcott. Though neck extension exercises are somewhat controversial, Westcott says that -- done properly -- strengthening the muscles of the neck and upper trapezius will help improve posture and avert injury.

"These have been around for decades, and all the football teams use them to strengthen their necks to avoid injury," he says. "People in sports realize how important it is to have a strong support for the head, but the average person doesn't."

Just make sure you get instruction on using this machine, and always take care to use proper form to avoid injury. 

Shoulder rotator machine. The shoulder rotator muscles are often ignored, and this is a good way to work them, Westcott says.

"Because so many people injure the rotator cuff," he says, "we need to work the external rotators of the shoulder."

Generally, he says, "we are not doing enough to strengthen the rotator cuff that holds that loose joint in place. Most everyone ignores the rotator cuff and builds the chest and biceps, but those aren't the ones that hold the joint together."

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