Look around your home. You might find a nail gun in the garage that's never been plugged in or a bread maker in the kitchen closet that's still in its original box. We sometimes forget about such machines, and when we do remember them, well, it often seems easier to grab a hammer or add a loaf of bread to the grocery list. Many people own tools like these that produce better results than any other, and yet such devices routinely gather dust.
Bodybuilding gyms also have dust repositories. They're those contraptions far from the squat racks and bench press stations that you never get around to trying. You probably reason that they're for those other gym members, the tummy-toning moms and weekend-warrior dads; those spa people who head home the moment they break a sweat. The truth, however, is that the gym tools you've ignored actually work work better than any others for some purposes.
Underused workout equipment can be divided into three categories.
1) Softcore tools are designed for sculpting, not hardcore muscle growing;
2) Neglected basics include pieces of equipment that stress major muscles but have fallen out of favor; and
3) Littlest details isolate the smallest muscles.
Abductor and Adductor: Abducting is a synonym for kidnapping, and adducting sounds like something an accountant might do. As exercises, however, they are neither so exciting nor so dull. On an abductor machine, you work your legs from knees together to knees apart. An adductor machine trains the legs through the opposite motion: knees apart to knees together.
Somewhere along the way the abductor and adductor became known as girly machines. Many men who spend the bulk of their leg workouts pounding out squats and leg presses would sooner be caught in pink leotards than bring their knees together and apart 10 times in a row. However, this is the sort of bodybuilding thinking that can keep you from attaining maximum leg development.
Abductors hit the outer hip flexors more directly than any other exercise. Although bodybuilders don't want wide hips, if this is a problem area, then this is the exercise for you (especially with higher reps); to boot, increasing your strength with abductors will also boost your squats and leg presses.
Reversing the exercise motion, adductors are the best method for training the hard to reach inner upper thighs and can etch in aa topography of sinewy strips. Many elite bodybuilders make adductors part of their leg routines.
With an adductor machine, begin with your legs together, slightly bent. Spread your knees apart until you cannot comfortably go any farther, where you've reached the contraction of the rep. The distance of the stretch is less important than the amount of resistance. Furthermore, moving about in the seat or utilizing momentum to stretch farther can easily lead to injuries. (Don't let the randy name fool you; groin pulls are no fun!) Reps should be kept in the 10-20 range.
An adductor machine works in the opposite manner. Adjust the machine so the beginning position stretches your bent legs fully but not painfully apart. Then bring your knees together. Again, reps in the 10-20 range work best. Because abductor and adductor machines are often side by side, you may want to superset these antagonistic exercises.
Glutes and Hips: Two additional antagonistic machines, also used mostly by women, are those that stress the glutes and the hips. Men can benefit from such machines, however. Hip machines hit the flexors in the groin area and hips. Glute machines isolate the muscles where the sun doesn't shine (unless you're wearing a thong). Leading to a peak, glute and hip exercises can etch in the details that separate winners from the also ran.
With a glute machine, either your foot or hamstrings are on a pad, and you push a weight back and up with one leg at a time. With a hip machine, bring your bent leg forward and up as though climbing very tall steps. These movements are almost always done for toning and definition, so high reps of 15-30 are appropriate.
Pullovers: The pullover is a fundamental upper-body exercise that isolates the serratus and other lats and ties the front and back torso together. Decades ago, high-rep dumbbell or barbell pullovers were done in the hope of expanding the rib cage, and thus they fit into chest routines. In fact although they stress the pecs slightly, the proper home for pullovers is within your back routine. [Note: they make a great "transition" movement as a final chest and back exercise before going to back-centered moves.] Dorian Yates has championed this movement as a principal tool for constructing his legendary lats. Yet, even with such a prime endorsement, pullovers remain neglected.
A pullover machine will help you isolate your upper and outer lats, especially around your armpits. Keeping your back against the seatback, pull the bar from overhead all the way down to your midsection. The movement should be aa half-moon arc, with your arms remaining bent throughout. Reps should generally be moderate, in the 8-12 range.
Dips and Chins. You can't get much more basic than deeps and cheens. You don't even need weights. You just need parallel bars for dips and an overhead bar for chins. Almost every gym in the world has such equipment invariably going unused while trainers toil away on the latest chest and back contraptions. Many people find dips and chins simply too difficult; they're unable to perform even six reps with good form using their bodyweight as resistance. Others perceive dips and chins as too old school, the sort of things they might have done in gym class or basic training; certainly not fit for sculpting a 21st century physique.
Dips and chins are old school, like squats and deadlifts. They're compound classics that never go out of style because they work and can never be replaced. Even though seated dipping and pulldown machines mimic dips and chins, they do so in reverse (a weight is moved down, as opposed to propelling the body up). They're completely different exercises. Old school dips and chins force you to stabilize your body and find your own path in a manner machines can't.
What if you simply can't grind out more than a few reps with good form? Never fear; because of their great bodyweights, even some elite bodybuilders have this problem. The solution is to have a training partner to assist you by slightly pulling up on your feet. Alternately, many gyms have combination dipping/chinning machines that simulate both the path of bodyweight dips and chins and the assistance of a training partner. [Note: You could always start with the few reps you can do and build the rep count over time progressively as you get stronger on the exercise. That's too simple, I suppose.)
Neck, Tibialis and Hands: Most serious trainers no longer neglect important areas like hamstrings and rear deltoids. Instead, to find the areas that today's bodybuilders avoid, you have to go further down the size chart to muscles deemed so insignificant that even most competitors overlook them: neck, tibialis and hands.
Your neck is almost always visible. Until turtlenecks come back in style, your head's stem remains on view and serves as a barometer of strength even when you're fully clothed. Yet neck-training devices are among the least used equipment in any gym. Take a seat on that dusty neck machine and get to work in all directions. If your gym doesn't have a neck machine, a neck harness cna provide the same effect.
If you previously thought tibialis was a South American country, you're wrong but you're not alone. In fact, the tibialis anterior are muscles at the front of your calves along the shin bone. When fully developed they bring depth and detail to the lower legs and sometimes allow one to have the sexes with others more often following a trip to the lake or beach. Furthermore, it's important for all athletes (everyone's an athlete now, right. Two lifting sessions a week, eight or 10 work sets each and you're an "athlete" in your own mind, eh.
There are machines specifically made for training the tibialis. If you don't have access to one, a modified version of the tibialis lift can be done by sitting backward on a leg curl machine. Hook your toes under the pad, then pull up with just your toes while keeping your heels still. Very little weight is necessary. High reps, 15-30, are usually best.
It's doubtful that well-developed hands have ever directly decided a bodybuilding contest [this always makes me laugh . . . what percent of hobbyist lifters who read these mags even entertain entering a physique contest? Few, very few, yet the authors in around this era keep making it sound like everyone who bodybuilds is a budding physique competitor.]
Grip training. Train your grip. There are numerous grip-strengthening tools available, and all manner of them can be DIY'ed if you're even the slightest bit creative and have working opposing thumbs.
Drop your preconceptions and embrace any gym tool that helps you achieve your goals.
Enjoy Your Lifting!