What to Do With 4 Intimidating Pieces of Gym Equipment

Some feel right at home in a room full of machines resembling medieval torture devices and weights three times their own size. But the rest of us? Well, let’s just say that gymtimidation is real, people. And I don’t know what you do when you’re feeling intimidated, but I live by a little law of life that goes like this: Fake it ‘til you make it.

Now, here’s the thing about faking it: Since you don’t actually know what you’re doing, you tend to miss out on quite a bit. So it can work out just fine in certain situations (pretending you care about your S.O.’s parents’ dog’s lineage to drive home their great first impression of you; embellishing your experience on a résumé; claiming the baking credit for dinner rolls that you really picked up at Acme), but when your results are directly tied to knowing what you’re doing, it doesn’t exactly work too well. See: Getting results at the gym by faking it ‘til you make it.

That’s where WE/FIT trainer Alana Messina comes in: We got her to dish on the oft-ignored gym equipment that you should totally be using. Oh! And we also included a few exercises, so once you pick up said gym equipment you don’t have to fake it. Check ‘em out below.

1. Kettlebells


The kettlebell can be used as a total-body strength and conditioning tool. It’s actually a super accessible piece of equipment, Messina says, because there are many different weights to choose from.

“It can be intimidating to pick one up for the first time—but these bad boys are so versatile, so don’t be afraid to experiment!” she says.

Start with the basic kettlebell swing. Just make sure to hinge at the hips, using the force of your hips to power through the swing, rather than squatting, she says.

Two other moves to try: Turkish get-ups, which build total-body stability and strength, and single-arm overhead walking lunges, another great total-body exercise.

2. Pullup bar

Pullup Bar

If you’re shaking your head “no” at just the mention of the pullup bar, I am with you. But the good news, as Messina notes, is that this intimidating piece of equipment can be used for more than just standard pullups.

As Messina says, “Even if you can’t do a pullup”—my hand is raised—“grip strength is super important for overall health and helps you move past lifting plateaus. Try hanging from the bar [called a dead hang] and working to increase your hang time.”

Another move Messina suggests trying as you work up to a pullup is a reverse pullup. In this move, you use a step or a bench to climb into the top of the pullup position, and then use your arm and back muscles to perform only the lowering portion of the exercise.

3. Stability ball

Stability Ball

I’m mostly afraid to use stability balls in public for fear of rolling off of one. But let’s just all admit that this has happened or will happen to us at some point in our gym life and IT’S FINE.

Okay, now that we’re over that fear hump, Messina says stability balls are great for way more than crunches, which is why they shouldn’t be ignored.

“I use them for pikes, which are great for core strength and balance, and also for Bulgarian split squats—try placing the top of one foot on the ball and using your front leg to lunge,” she suggests.

4. Jump rope

Jump Rope

This elementary school staple is not to be looked down upon now that you’re a grown-up: Jump ropes help to “develop cardio health and challenge your coordination and agility,” Messina says.

Try incorporating different styles of jumps in 30-second intervals: jumping from side to side, high-knee jumps, single-foot jumps, double-unders. “You’ll sweat it all out and feel amazing,” Messina promises.

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