You don't need machines to lift weights.
Machines you find at a gym include cardio machines like the treadmill and elliptical, and strength-training weight machines like the shoulder press machine and the leg press machine. However, most of these exercise machines simulate exercises you can do with free weights or even no equipment at all using your own body weight as resistance. You don't need to go to the gym for every workout, since you can work all parts of your body without using machines.
Instead of using the cardio machines at the gym, you could walk or run outdoors. If you'd rather stay indoors, you can still get a cardio workout without equipment by doing standing aerobics or floor exercises. For standing exercises, jump rope and do jumping jacks. Some floor exercises that get your heart rate soaring are mountain climbers, crab walks and burpees. Swimming is an effective workout if you want to work all of your body's muscle groups doing one exercise. Kickboxing is a challenging sport that sculpts your entire body while giving you a cardio workout. Or, try a taekwondo or karate class to build and stretch all of your muscles.
Body-Weight Exercises and Plyometrics
Body-weight exercises are strength-training exercises that use your own body weight as resistance, so there's no equipment needed. There are body-weight exercises that work every major muscle group in your body, and many of them target more muscle groups at a time than machine weights can. For example, lunges and squats work all of your leg muscles and your butt and hips. For your triceps and pecs, you can do pushups and chest dips. Plyometrics, also called jump training, recruits all of your muscles for explosive power. Do tuck jumps, box jumps, scissor jumps and squat jumps to get a total-body workout that emphasizes your quads and glutes.
You can also lift weights to exercise all of your muscles. The key to strength-training success and safety with free weights is knowing a wide range of exercises for each muscle group, and knowing how to do them with the proper technique. Choose from dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and resistance bands for weight resistance. Free weights give you more freedom of movement and because they don't isolate your muscle movement as much as machine weights, you can work more muscles with them. Just changing the way you hold a dumbbell while doing a weight lifting exercise can change the parts of a muscle you use, giving you a more well-rounded total-body workout.
Though free weights give you more mobility for doing a wider range of exercises, machine weights are considered safer and easier for beginners to use with proper form. If you're new to strength training or a particular exercise, using a machine can help you with coordination until you're strong enough to do it on your own with free weights. If you're working out at home and are new to the exercise you're doing, use a DVD that explains and demonstrates the correct technique. This is crucial not only to effective muscle training, but also to avoiding injuries. Strength imbalance can cause injuries, so strength train all of your major muscle groups equally by doing a few exercises for each major muscle group twice a week.