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Fitness That Fits You

Weight Machines

The weight machines you find at your local gym are designed to work each muscle in your body one by one. You sit on, stand at or lie on a machine, and it guides your body through the movement while providing resistance. Machines can be good for beginners because you can follow the machine's range of motion to guarantee you hit your target muscles. The machines are built to move in the appropriate range of motion for most people, but if you have limited mobility due to arthritis, you still have to be careful of overextending when using a weight machine. Another consideration is that weight machines put you in a fixed movement pattern and don’t allow for individual differences in biomechanics.


Specific modifications will depend on your joints affected, but you may consider the following.

  • Prescribed orthotics, wraps and braces can be used for joint positioning, stability and comfort.
  • Never strain to reach behind you for machine handles. Use the foot plate to move the handles forward, reach for them one at a time, or have someone hand them to you.
  • It is not recommended to use the Smith machine or a hack squat machine because it forces you to take a movement path that may not be natural for you. Bodyweight squats, free weight squats or partial squats are safer alternatives.


  • Your stabilizing muscles are not recruited as much with machines as when you use free weights. Think about keeping your core muscles engaged.
  • Use slow and controlled movements; breathe out during the exertion portion of the motion.


  • Begin with low reps at a low weight. Add reps, sets and additional weight as tolerated.
  • Begin training one day a week then add more days to build to 2–3 days per week.

This is general weight machines information. Get personalized results, with specific modifications and tips customized to your problem joints and level of fitness.