Do You Need Machines to Get Fit?

Here’s a bit question in the fitness world: Do you need machines to get fit?

The short answer is, “no.”

Here’s a quick history lesson: before the 1950’s gyms didn’t have any machines. It was just barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and other similar implements. And people got fit!

In the 50’s the first machines appeared. In the beginning, they were homemade. Soon they became more advanced and then large Universal gym stations appeared. Before long Universals are everywhere.

In the 1970’s, expensive and more complex Nautilus machines were all the rage. By the mid-80’s, even more advanced machines were designed and the “modern gym” is born.

In the 2000’s, CrossFit and functional training brought gymnastics equipment, barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells back to the forefront. Other minimalist programs appeared as well (ex: Insanity, Tae Bo, P90X, and so on).

Functional and minimalist training proved what our parents [and our parent’s parents] already knew: you can get very fit without using any of those fancy machines.

In many of these “throwback gyms,” clients meticulously tracked workout results and saw measurable [and impressive] increases in strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, agility, speed, and power. These improvements were often accompanied by other changes: less body fat, more muscle, weight loss, etc.

As this style of training went mainstream, gyms sprang up all over the world and an increasing number of people embraced machine-free training with fantastic results. Of course, these gyms often have some machines: treadmills, rowing and ski ergometers, and air bikes are common.

Some may even have cable stations or a few of the machines often seen in big gyms.

What About Machines?

The machines you see in large commercial gyms aren’t bad… they just might not be optimally suited to your goals.

Here’s what we’ve learned from 100 years of evolution in the fitness industry: coaching and consistency are actually more important than the exact implements you use. And a coach shouldn’t be tied only to one program or set of equipment. A truly great coach works closely with clients to create the best program for each one. The coach will draw from a wealth of knowledge and take into account the client’s preferences and goals.

For some, their program might involve machine training. Others might use free weights and gymnastics movements in 1-on-1 or group settings. Some clients might prefer to train in the basement with common household objects and an online coach.

A good coach helps a client accomplish goals and that can be done with or without machines.

At Iron Hero CrossFit, in Omaha, we don’t focus on machines. We could definitely use them to create a program to help a client get fitter but we generally work with bodyweight movements and free weights to help people accomplish goals. The benefit of this plan is that it allows us to train the body as a whole using “compound movements.” Machines tend to isolate one body part.

For example: the leg extension (or quad extension) machine is for your quads.

Now, think about a barbell squat. A barbell squat works the quads and all the other leg muscles as well as your abs and spinal erectors. Good lifters even use their upper backs and shoulders in squats. We use barbells, dumbbells, and other objects because you can train a host of muscles at once — including your core.

This style of training has many benefits:

  • You work more muscles in less time
  • You improve your core strength
  • You train your body as a whole
  • And you generate impressive metabolic responses to cause your body to gain muscle and lose body fat

We also track progress so you don’t have to wonder if you’re getting fitter. Your results will prove it and our coaches will consistently check in to make adjustments to the plan to ensure you’re on track.


Machines can be used in a fitness program but aren’t the end all be all. In fact, other styles of training are more effective for many goals for many people.

The best way to find out what style of training is right for you is to book a free consultation with us. We will sit down with you, answer your questions, find out about your goals, and then tell you exactly how you can accomplish them.

CLICK HERE to meet with one of our amazing coaches and create a plan to get to your goals!

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