The Total Gym is familiar to many people as the workout machine sold through infomercials featuring actor Chuck Norris and model Christie Brinkley. It consists of a moving bench attached to cables, using your body’s weight to create a variety of exercises. Knowing some of the more common exercises will help you start working out on the Total Gym, building muscle, burning calories and improving you heart and lungs.
Seated Biceps Curl
A biceps curl works the front of the upper arm, commonly referred to as your “guns.” Set the Total Gym bench at a 45-degree angle. Sitting on the bench, facing the higher of the two ends of the bench, grasp the cables with your arms and palms facing upward, toward the ceiling. Pull your hands toward your shoulders. This motion will pull you toward the high end of the machine. Hold your curl once you are at the top of your pull for one or two seconds, then using your muscles, not the machine, lower yourself back down.
This last phase of exercise, or the eccentric, lengthening of your muscle, provides the most benefit, so make sure you do not neglect these contractions by letting your weight drop you down after your pull yourself up. Decrease or increase the angle of the bench to make the exercise easier or more difficult.
Incline Ab Crunch
Crunches help you increase the size of your abdominal muscles without putting the stress on your back which sit-ups do. Lie on your back on the bench, with your head near higher end of bench. Place your hands behind your heads and grasp the cables, then raise your shoulders off the bench using your abdominal muscles. Do not twist and turn your torso as you begin to fatigue to prevent lower back strain. To get the most out of this exercise, don’t fall backward or let your shoulders touch the bench after each rep. Keep tension in your abs and obliques by slowly lowering yourself with your muscles (rather than gravity and momentum), and keeping your shoulders off the bench.
Exercise can help you reduce lower back pain, by strengthening your back muscles, improve your posture and help build spinal column support. Lie on your back on the bench with your head near the higher end of the machine, with your knees bent up. Start with your arms grasping the cables, straight out from your sides. Pull yourself up toward the top of the machine by pushing down on the cables and moving your hands toward your hips, ending with your palms facing your hips. Think of making snow angels when you were a child.
Squats work the upper portion of your leg, known as the quadriceps, responsible for many movements in sports. To perform squats on a Total Gym, lie on your back with your head toward the high end of the machine, legs straight and your hands on your hips. Slowly lower yourself down to the low end with your knees bending up. Push off the lower end bar to raise you back to your starting, straight-leg position. Using less resistance and more repetitions lets you work on muscular endurance, while using more resistance helps you build muscle size.