Strength / gym help

This off season I would like to get in some gym time. I reviewed chads core and strength training programs.

My neighborhood gym doesn’t have a Barbell.
They have dumbbells. And the following machines.


Lat pull down

Leg curl

Leg extension

Chest press

Overhead press

Leg press.

My experience in the gym is little but would going twice a week and doing a circuit with the machines be a benefit? I was thinking those machines with his core work would be good enough for someone just trying to add gym time in. Thoughts?

Thank you :blush:

If the dumbbells are heavy enough I would use those instead of the chest press and overhead press machines. Free weights gives a better exercise as you have to stabilise and control the movement rather than just shoving. Particularly if they’re the type of machine where you’re pushing the end of a pivoted bar so the movement follows a slightly unnatural parabola instead of a straight line. Maybe use the dumbbells for a row exercise as well. Though if the seated row machine and lat pull down are ones where you have a handle on a cable then at least you are having to stabilise your upper body and control the movement somewhat. Is there a pull up bar you can use?

Without a barbell it’s difficult to do heavy leg lifts. I would probably do your main strength work on the leg press and then supplement with things like lunges and one legged squats. Personally I never liked leg extension and leg curl machines, always felt very unnatural!

There are lots of videos of body weight and dumbbell exercises you can do to help with technique. But if you feel safer sticking to the machines you’ll still get benefit and make strength improvements.


Check out “Body by Science” by Doug McGuff and John Little. They describe a strength plan that uses machines, goes to muscular failure and is accomplished in a short time. It’s not barbells, but I’m not sure it makes any difference for improving strength and functional status.

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Ah this is good know! I’ll do the free weights where I can.
Technique is always something that worries me but these workouts are simply enough.

No there’s no pull up bar :confused:
the playground might have monkey bars :thinking:

If you’re only lifting twice a week, go with a full body split. Not sure how much time you plan to devote, but you could definitely superset opposing muscle groups if you are time crunched, I.e. dumbbell bench press followed immediately by lay pull down.

I would also throw in some renegade rows, as they work both your back, chest and abs and don’t require a ton of weight.

As for legs, try some walking lunges with the dumbbells. You could probably also do some front squats with the dumbbells on your shoulders as well.

There are a lot of resources online. Just find a total body routine and give it a try. Even with the limited equipment I’m sure you can get in a great total body workout in under an hour.

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It depends on how old you are. If you are 50 and up it might be better to use the machines. It is a safety thing for seniors. If you are less than 50 dumbbells would be okay but be sure to learn good form. I had several injuries from lack of good form.

I ruptured a lumbar disk doing squats. I stayed away from free weights for several years and used The Body by Science format for strength workouts. I got personal instruction in free weights from Alan Thrall of Untamed Strength. Even so, other than squats and deadlifts, I stick to machines. I don’t want to be trapped under a barbell while trying to do a PB bench press.

No one does. That’s what spotter arms/pins are for, or a proper spotter.

LOL. I had this happen. Started to ask the guy next to me for help when he looked at me and asked: ‘Want some help? I’ve been there too.’

For most of the year I avoid barbell lifts.

Front squats with dumbbells
Single-leg dead lifts with dumbbells
Single-leg Romanian dead lifts with dumb bells

I’m a weight room weenie, but I find that using the 30lb or 35lb dumbbells makes for 3 sets of 10-12 on each of the above.