How to Use Assisted Weight Features at the Gym

There's no shame in enlisting a little help. Here's a sample workout.

A man doing push-ups with his knees on the floor.
There's nothing wrong with planting those knees on the floor. Whatever helps you complete the move.
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The pull-up bar can feel like a bit of a stage at the gym.

It’s usually in the middle of the action, flanked by seated rows or rope push-downs, and just about anyone with half an eye on the oversized mirror can track your progress up and down. If you can’t do more than a couple of convincing reps, you might decide to save face and call off the whole attempt.

Two points here: A) who cares what your local meatheads think, and B) this is a scenario where you ought to make use of your gym’s assisted weight apparatuses.

Most gyms offer a range of machines or instruments designed to assist with bodyweight exercises, such as assisted pull machines, parallel dip machines, resistance bands, TRX suspension systems and padded benches. These tools make it easier to complete movements that have otherwise morphed into a bit of a personal boogeyman over the years.

You shouldn’t feel any pressure to become a pull-up master, but going a decade without performing a single rep isn’t exactly ideal for longevity purposes. Sourcing assisted features, though, will help you build up your form and strength in time — allowing you to optimize alignment, perform more repetitions and gradually increase the load — all while building up your confidence in kind.

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A sample assisted weight strength training workout:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of light cardio, such as jogging or jumping jacks
  • Assisted pull-ups: 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions, using a pull-up machine or resistance band for support
  • Assisted dips: 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions, using a dip machine or resistance bands for assistance
  • Elevated push-ups: 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions, with hands placed against a bench or other elevated surface
  • Plank: Hold for 60 seconds, keeping your knees on the floor
  • Cool down: 5 minutes of gentle stretching, focusing on the muscle groups worked during the workout

At the end of the day, it’s nice to get a win. Strength training isn’t like riding a bike. You can’t really return to the gym after a while away and expect to start performing certain moves or putting up a certain weight again. But enlisting the training wheels for a bit, until you’ve built yourself back up, can make a massive difference.

While bodyweight assistance is pretty self-explanatory (place your hands against this bench, place your knees against that mat, etc.) feel free to play around with the assisted machines. Overload on weight at the beginning as you find your footing. Don’t worry about what anyone else is thinking. Just appreciate your reunion with a movement that’s been a long time coming.

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