You might have noticed that there are some machines we tend to favor more than others, a select few that we put into your routine week after week. That’s right, we’re talking about the Leg Press, Pull Down, and Chest Press. They are our Big 3. These three machines produce compound movements that are easy to perform and basically target all the major muscle groups in your body. That means huge muscle stimulation and adaptation triggered in your whole body by these three machines alone. No wonder we love them! Performing these exercises is also a great way to measure overall improvement in strength in each individual. Let’s dive deep and take a look at the specific muscles and muscle groups you’re working when performing these exercises.
Not a hard one to figure out – the leg press is working all the big muscles from your waist down. Your gluteal muscles (your buttocks), hamstring muscles (back of the thigh), quadricep muscles (front of the thigh), and gastrocnemius (calf) are all involved in lifting and lowering the weight of the leg press, and without a question, you’ve experienced muscle burn in all its glory on this machine. Make sure to use all four corners of your feet (both ball and heel of your foot), and to squeeze your gluteal muscles for a brief second on the upper turnaround when your legs are in an extended position.
When pulling the weight down and into your upper chest, you can feel your heart speeding up and your breath getting heavy. This machine sure is intense, but it can be slightly difficult to pinpoint exactly what muscles are at work. Besides the more obvious ones like your biceps brachii (front of upper arm), triceps (back of upper arm), and forearm flexors, there’s a whole list of muscles highly involved that you’ve probably heard us mention before. Your trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles are all major muscles recruited in your back, along with you pectoralis minor and major (chest), and abdominals (stomach) in the front of your body. It’s an impressive list and it makes this machine one of the most potent ones. In order to target the desired muscles, make sure to relax your neck and keep your shoulders down while pulling with your back muscles. End each pull by holding the handles close to your chest and briefly crunching your abs, before slowly lowering the weight back down.
This classic “push up” movement is pretty straight forward, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging and intense. You will push horizontally with the help of your pectoralis major and minor (chest), deltoids (shoulder), and triceps (back of upper arm) muscles. The trick here is to drop your shoulders and keep your elbows in a 45 degree angle. You should also focus on relaxing you neck and keep your feet grounded on the floor/stool. Sounds simple, but the body responds to muscle fatigue in the most curious ways.
The basic goal of strength training is to stimulate your muscle tissue to grow bigger and stronger, and this will happen when you lift heavy weights with proper form. By being educated and knowledgeable on the why’s and how’s of true exercise, you will be rewarded with greater results. Stay curious!