A Full Body Machine Only Workout...That Works
Whether it’s about saving time with fewer workouts a week, you’re a beginner, you’re travelling and don’t have access to free weights, this is our favourite full body machine workout for all gym users.
The Full Body Machine Only Workout Guide
A while back I had some surgery and the docs told me to take time off the gym – nightmare, and then when starting to lift again, take it easy.
This meant, no deadlifts, no squats, and finding a workout that I could do a couple of times a week without feeling like I’m losing muscle mass, strength or the will to live.
I love the gym – and if you’re here, you probably do too.
Part of this, ‘not overdoing it’, meant only training a couple of times a week so it needed to be some type of workout which give a little love to each muscle group. That got me to settle on creating a full body machine workout, that I thought met my needs best. In doing so, I think I’ve found a great total body machine only workout which can be adapted to help you burn fat, gain muscle or just a great beginners workout. That beginner’s workout was what I did as part of my rehab, and here it is for you below.
If you like total body workouts in general, you might want to try these two bad boy next:
To the point
Jump to your preferred total body machine workout
This full body machine workout is focused on training all major muscle groups with recommendations on how you can hit whatever it is your goals are.
Your goals aren’t ‘train chest’, they are going to be – ‘get back into training’, ‘lose fat’, ‘gain muscle’, and this is the purpose of this guide. 3 slightly different workout approaches, to help you with what you want the most.
But don’t worry, we got chest covered 😉
As for the commonly asked question: “Do machines work?”, then the answer is yes, providing you train properly and don’t just go through the motions. This science on this is below.
“No differences were detected in the direct comparison of strength, jump performance and muscle hypertrophy.”
Lee and David, we’re the founders of Barbells Abroad, helped along with some copy skills from our trusty PT and writer pal Becky.
We have all been working in and around gym life for a decade plus and been lifting weights a hell of a lot longer than that. From starting a fitness focused food joint in Ibiza called The Skinny Kitchen* in 2014, scoring the best hotel gyms in the world, right down to reviewing anything from the best leg machines in the gym to the gym brands like Technogym – we are fitness nerds.
We don’t just write about gyms and what to do at them, we train ourselves too. That’s us in the pictures in this guide (Lee training at Golds LA’s top bodybuilding gym with sunglasses on like a helmet)
This machine only full body workout guide, is broken down into 3 goals.
- Total Body Machine Workout For Beginners
- Full Body Machine Workout For Muscle Growth
- Total Body Machine Workout For Fat Loss
That means you will want to approach the workout with a slightly different take, depending on your needs.
If you’re going for fat loss, we suggest you up the reps to 15, and aim to circuit the workout. That can be hard if you are jumping from station to station, so pick your timings. (At the gym we mean)
Move from exercises to exercise without rest until you complete one full circuit. Rest for 60-90 seconds at the end of each circuit.
For beginners or those who are looking for a rehab workout back into training, we suggest focusing more on slower reps, technique, fewer sets and focusing more on the ‘being at the gym’ moment. Don’t aim for world records.
For the muscle growth approach, we suggest the final set of failure for each exercise. These aren’t circuits but one complete station at a time. The final set of failure, should follow the Mike Mentzer 1 working set approach, which is essentially 3 sets, 2 of which are slow lighter reps. The 3rd set is a drop set, with continuing failure until the lightest weight is racked.
3 x Full Body Machine Workouts For Everyone
We have arrived, the waffle is over, these are our three favourite ways to hit a full body machine workout. You can use plate loaded machines, or pin selected, whatever you have to hand, and you’ll find many of these moves can be adapted to a cable column too, for when you don’t have a ton of choice.
1/3 - Full Body Machine Workout For Muscle Growth
Let’s start with the machine workout we care about right now, looking jacked. This full body machine workout leans towards hypertrophy which means muscle growth.
Hit each exercise with two ‘warm-up’ sets. Set 1, at 30% of your 12 RM, then set 2 at 60-70% of your 12 RM (Rep Max). Your 3rd working set should be at your 100% 12 RM with drops of 30% each time you fail. You will fail pain and a sensation you think you can’t lift another rep. When that happens, realise you’re lying to yourself and keep on going. If needed, start hitting partial reps before dropping the weight. It’s one set, so make it count.
Save the total body workout PDF below.
The 12 rep range is considered perfectly acceptable for hypertrophy, which is the fancy word for muscle growth.
Don’t take our word for it – read the science below:
2/3 - Full Body Machine Workout For Beginners
In this full body machine workout for beginners, we focus more on being present at the gym. They say it takes 21 days to begin to form a habit, but 60 or so to cement it. Fitness should be a lifelong commitment, just as brushing your teeth is and so I don’t want you to feel pressured into worrying about PBs, weights, failure etc.
I want you to ignore all those buzz words, and lets just focus on you being in the gym (or back there if this is for rehab).
The workout comprises two sets, one at 15 reps of a weight that feels comfortable, then increase the weight a touch and lifting with a cadence of 2 seconds up (or 2 seconds of force) followed by 4 seconds slowly lowering. Do the second set at 12 reps.
Focus on technique, focus on being there, focus on repetition speed. That’s it.
Why is this machine workout best for beginners?
This workout touches on all the major muscle groups. It doesn’t worry about bicep curls or other small muscle exercises that will offer limited value to a new gym users. You don’t want to spend a million hours in the gym or you’ll hate it immediately and you want to see changes quickly, so avoiding working small muscles and hitting ones 4 times the size is going to give you more bang for your buck.
This is why we think this option is best for beginners.
3/3 - Full Body Machine Workout For Fat Loss
Finally we arrive at my old favourite goal, losing fat. Training with Lee who has a year round great diet and a superhuman metabolism which seems to burn more calories laying down on his bed than I do working 12 rounds on a punch bag, does annoy me. But…I always try to stay 6 weeks from a six pack and it doesn’t take much to get those excess pounds off.
How do I know this workout is good for fat loss?
I’ve done leisure cutting (eg: losing weight for no real goal other than wanting to look diced for a holiday) a good few times and am doing it as I type this guide. So I like to think I know what I’m talking about.
For more proof – here’s me 21 days apart right now. I was 91.3 kg on the left, and 86.7 kg on the right. I will be aiming for 82-83 kg so another 8-10 lbs to go. Diet has a big hand, but making workouts bleed out calories as well doesn’t hurt.
Download this baby below….I mean below my own pictures, that would be weird otherwise.
Total Body Workout Info
That’s the 3 workouts, so lets talk about what muscles you will be hitting, as well as going over the moves in a little more detail.
- Quads (Teardrops)
- Glutes (Bum)
- Chest (Pecs)
- Back (Lats – Rhomboids)
- Biceps & Triceps (Arms)
- Delts (Shoulders)
- Erector Spinae (Lower Back)
Aim to work through each of these resistance machines, with one minute rest between the sets, unless you’re doing the circuit approach, in which case, don’t stop until you’ve done 1 of every move.
For the muscle growth focus, in the first two sets of each station, go slower up and down than you normally would. This means pick lighter weights and gradually find your ideal 12 rep range 3rd set weight.
(P) means primary muscle
- Pullover (Machine or Cable Straight Arm): Lats (P) – Rear Delts – Rhomboids – Core.
A great starting upper body movement, that targets the V of your back better than a pull up or pulldown, while also putting tension on your core, tops of your arms and the muscles that meet your rib cage. This has recently become one of my favourite gym moves.
Alternatives: Lat Pulldown
- Low Seated Row (or Cable Row): Rhomboids (P) – Latissimus Dorsi (P) – Biceps – Rear Delts. Following up a great back movement, with a horizontal pull, you are giving your upper posterior chain sufficient stimulus and even hitting the bicep a little too.
Alternatives: Any horizontal pulling motion or barbell bent row
- Chest Press: Pecs (P) – Triceps – Anterior Delts. With a bar you’d call it a bench press, on machines they tend to be called ‘Chest Press’. Most gyms, even a basic one will offer some form of chest machine. Horizontal Push complete.
Alternatives: Cable Chest Press (Set cables to chest level and stand or use bench)
- Shoulder Press: Delts (P) – Triceps – Pecs. While a shoulder press is never going to stimulate your chest as much as a horizontal push, it’s still going to get a light glazing. The triceps are brought into play for a 3rd machine of 4 and your delts will get worked heavily here too.
Alternatives: Cable Lateral Raise or Machine Lateral Raise
4 upper body moves, chest/back/tris/bis/delts – all getting some love. Now for the things most neglect….
- Leg Press: Quads (P) – Glutes – Hamstrings. The machine version of a squat. No workout for your lower body is complete without one or the other. This move incorporates such a variety and depth of muscle tissue it’s not only great for burning calories during the workout, it helps after too. It also helps release natural growth hormone and is just elite level important for your training.
Alternatives: Squats or forward lunges
- Leg Extension: Quads (P). You’ve likely tired your quads out with the leg press, so lets finish them off with a leg extension. It’s the tricep extension of leg movements and many a great bodybuilder has used sets of leg extension to build fantastic legs.
Alternatives: Banded chair leg extensions.
- Rope Pull Through: Erector Spinae – Glutes (P) – Hip Flexors – Hamstrings.
An absolutely underrated movement. It’s a form of deadlift I suppose, but with a great range of motion. Even the most sloppy hotel gym tends to have a cable column, so you can pretty much always guarantee this move can be completed.
Hold a rope with both hands between your legs, and pivot at the hips back up into an upright deadlift position. You should feel this in your glutes, which are the biggest muscle in the body. It also pre-exhausts the hamstrings a touch, meaning the final exercise is well positioned in the workout.
Alternatives: Deadlift with dumbbells or barbells
- Leg Curls: Hamstrings (P).
Many people neglect their posterior chain training, those are the muscles you can’t always see in a mirror. But don’t expect the ones you do see to grow well, if you miss out their buddies. Having used the hamstrings as a secondary muscle in the leg press, then hit them well in the rope pull through, this final move is a primary hamstring exercise and completes our total body machine workout perfectly.
Alternatives: TRX Leg Curls or using a leg extension facing toward the machine.
- Pullover (Machine or Cable Straight Arm): Lats (P) – Rear Delts – Rhomboids – Core.
Time Needed For This Workout?
You will get through this workout in approximately 50-60 minutes. The circuit may be more like 35-40 minutes.
Suggested Total Body Workout Playlist
- You can check out our Barbell’s Abroad Playlist on Spotify – but for a total body, I tend to do it when I’m focused on being a bit more lively in life and want to burn calories. That calls for something a little more uptempo, so I’m plugging in some Chase & Status right now.
Outro // Strapping Up
Doneski, you wanted a total body machine only workout, and I gave you 3. How’s that for a nice gesture. If there is anything I’ve mentioned in this guide that didn’t make sense, drop us a message on our insta @barbellsabroad and Lee the social media king will gladly help you out.
As always, our goal is to give you some tips based on what we have tried works for us. Everyone is a little different but we hope you got some value out of it.