The Best Exercise Equipment You're Not Using
These 12 underrated fitness machines and gadgets could give your workout a boost.
At the gym, we're often creatures of habit. We walk through the doors and
directly to our treadmill -- as if it has our name on it -- without
giving another thought to what exercise equipment we're overlooking. But while
treadmills and elliptical fitness machines are great, experts say, some of the
best exercise equipment and machines in the gym may be some you've never
And as much as it's comfortable to hop on the same familiar piece of fitness
equipment every time we enter the gym, our bodies benefit from variety. Here
are 12 of the best unsung exercise machines and equipment at the gym, according
to fitness instructors, personal trainers, and exercise physiologists who spoke
Strength Training Fitness Equipment
The Smith Machine. Invented by fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne in the
1950s, the Smith machine is a weight-training machine with a sliding barbell
that moves up and down on steel runners.
"This may look daunting," but it's really a great tool, even for a
beginner, says exercise physiologist Jim Stoppani, PhD, senior science editor
at Muscle & Fitness Magazine. "Because of all the safety
latches, you can rack it anywhere, and it provides balance because the bar is
on a fixed path of movement," he says.
The benefits? It allows you to perform multi-joint, multi-muscle movements.
Squatting with the Smith machine works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, while
the weighted bar works the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, and core.
"When you utilize more muscle groups, you burn more calories and you're
training several muscle groups at a time," says Stoppani.
Cable-based resistance machines. You can get some multi-muscle
strength work done in as little as five minutes, if you use one of the cable
resistance machines like the FreeMotion Cable Cross, says Patricia Moreno, a
fitness instructor at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York.
"You can train every muscle group," says Stoppani, and "you get
the benefit of the continuous tension the cable provides."
A cable machine has two long arms with adjustments that allow you to work in
any range, from above, the sides, below, or anywhere in between. You can work
different muscle groups simply by moving a lever or turning around, Stoppani
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