5) Cybex Hack Squat
If you have some healthy ankles and knees, then you will love this machine. Yes, that is the one huge caveat to this particular model. With an insanely a steep angle, no other movement or machine beats the crap out of my quads the way that this one does. Be prepared to leave the ego at the door. I guarantee you that anything over 3 plates per side and this machine starts getting very heavy, VERY quickly. If you have access to this one, be patient with the loading. Another tip would be to favor adding reps instead of plates.
4) Lat Pull-Over Machine
Can’t be too picky with the year or particular model for these. They are, unfortunately, just not very popular. I went over a single-arm cable pullover variation in a previous video. Like the lateral raise with free weights, the issue is that the lever is disadvantageously long. Your lats insert into the intertubercular groove (top of your humerus) and this machine happens to place it right below. This will make progression that much more practical for you and you will be able to make progress faster in regards to both weight and reps. For people with stubborn lats, I would go as far as saying this should be your first lat-specific movement. The machine is THAT good. It truly is a shame that they are becoming less and less prevalent. Like the Cybex Hack Squat, this machine does come with some small print: it might be too rough for the shoulders of some bodybuilders. For some, this can be alleviated by simply having your bro (or sis) help you start the working set within your means by helping you get into position on the first repetition. If it still doesn’t feel good, stick to the single arm cable pullover. It is still a great movement.
3) Hammer Strength Plate-Loaded Iso Lateral Leg Press
Let’s face it, trying to get your volume needs completed via free-weight squats alone can very quickly stop making sense from a benefit vs fatigue perspective as an advanced athlete. Especially if you aren’t perfectly built to squat. This is one of the reasons I feel that leg press machines are good tools to keep around even if you are a free-weight wiz. For the people who really aren’t well built for high volume free weight lower body exercises (maybe your leverages aren’t necessarily ideal or maybe you’ve experienced some sort of injury) you need an alternative. The Cybex Squat Press mentioned above (number 5) is a great option, but for all of my Manute Bol’s of the world… but, it might not be enough. This very rare machine has a plethora of settings so that you can find a ROM that works for you. The sled design is easier on your ankles and you will find it almost impossible to “butt wink” on this machine when you are doing it one leg at a time. I had a brief stint of back squat burnout and injury for the majority of 2015. This machine is what I centered my quad work around. I still feel this was the best my legs looked all offseason. Not to mention, my volume work felt awesome on this thing. I could sit back, relax and not worry about keeping my groove while fully enjoying the “pain train.”
2) Standing Leg Curl
Hamstrings, much like anything else on our backside, are some of the hardest muscles to connect with. There are a number of reasons as to why this machine feels better to most bodybuilders than its lying-down or seated cousins. If you struggle to control your pelvis and torso on lying and seated leg curls to the point where you lose tension on the hamstrings, you will love the standing variation. With your ribs down and glutes contracted, you are basically doing a modified standing plank. You will certainly be using much less weight than you were before on other ham curls, but I suspect that even the people who designed this machine knew that you didn’t need that much weight to stimulate the targeted muscle groups. Besides being able to sustain a positon that better distributes the load to the targeted muscle groups, a big contributor to its effectiveness is that it forces you to do one leg at a time. In my opinion, this is a simple solution to really connecting with a body part many have a hard time feeling. On this machine, in contrast to traditional ham curl machines, I went from simply kicking myself in the butt to being able to induce contractions that almost felt like self-induced cramps.
- Free Motion Dual Cable Cross EXT
Back in 2015, I was relocating states and I had this great idea for what I felt was going to be my dream home gym. I was going to buy a combo rack along with this contraption right here and I was going to be set. I didn’t follow up on this, reason being that if I had a home gym, I would probably never leave the house. Out of all the cable stations that I have used in my years, this is by far the smoothest. From the feedback I have gathered, they are quite durable. Obviously the other perk is that you can do a number of isolation movements on this machine. Perhaps even some that mimic a few of the machines I highlighted in this series. Don’t give me the whole “if you could only do one movement as a bodybuilder” hypothetical question. With those limitations, I would simply just not be a bodybuilder. How about, if I could only pick one machine to accompany my free weights? Easy. I would pick the smoothest cable station out there: the Free Motion Dual Cable Cross.
So that concludes my final installment of “Rise of the Machines. Based on the positive feedback I have gotten on this series, when I do run into a cool new gadget… I will make sure to share it with you guys. To the end this series, if you guys want to give me any suggestions about machines I should try out… feel free to let me know in the comment section below.