Tame the FreeMotion Machine and Never Look Back

If you’re going to get cut, you need to love doing it. Goals aren’t met by dreading the same old grind using the same old machines or weights day after day. That’s why you need to become friends with the intimidating-looking but easy-to-use FreeMotion machine. It’s just waiting for you to come on over and tame it.

What the Heck Is It?

You may have seen cable machines at your gym with various attachments such as ropes and short bars. A FreeMotion machine – the tall apparatus with long “arms” – is designed for the same purpose, but with even more options. They’re designed for real-life ranges of motion that we use every day – bending, rotating, pulling, pushing, squatting, reaching, and anything else you can think of. FreeMotion machines use swivel pulleys that allow your joints to move along multiple planes instead of forcing an unnatural, fixed path of motion; they feel similar to using free weights.

Fixed-isolation machines, such as the seated biceps machine, can force certain joints to be immobilized can put too much stress on the joints that are moving. Plus isolation machines are engineered for the average user, so many times you just can’t adjust it adequately to fit your body.

It was only a year ago that I decided to try a FreeMotion machine for the first time. Having returned to the weight room after a few years off, I was totally unfamiliar with these machines and thought they looked rather intimidating. One day, I felt compelled to find out about them. It was time to push myself outside my comfort zone.

How Do You Use This Thang?

I decided that the adjustments were the scariest part… I could figure out the rest. So when I saw an approachable-looking guy on a FreeMotion machine, I walked up to him and said, “How do you adjust this thing, anyway?”

He showed me two simple adjustments – one to move the arm vertically and one to move the arm horizontally. I raised my eyebrows, pleasantly surprised. If that was all there was to it, then I could surely handle it. I couldn’t wait until he was done so I could start using it.

When he finally did leave I ventured over and was happy to see that the machine had pictures of exercises right on it – now I could even look like I knew what I was doing! I studied the pictures for awhile and started with a low weight. (Adjusting the resistance is like any regular cable machine – use pins to add or remove plates on the weight stack.)

I’m in Control, You”

I moved the arm up and down by gripping it with one hand and pulling out the knob with the other hand. When the arm was in the proper position, I let go of the knob to lock it into place. On this particular machine I could also move the arm horizontally by stepping on a lower lever (the newer machines have both levers located near the upper-middle part of the arms). Some FreeMotion machines do not allow the arms to move right or left; you can only move them up or down. Also, FreeMotion machines typically only have one type of attachment, a D-shaped handle. I find that I can do most everything I need with this type of handle.

Why do you want to move the arms up or down? Just like on a regular cable machine, you can put the handles at the bottom for biceps curls or abdominal crunches (for example), or at the top for cable crossovers or triceps pushdowns. You can also position the arms towards the middle for side-to-side wood chops, rows, or chest presses. FreeMotion makes many other machines that target specific muscle groups, so if you see these in your gym, be sure to check them out.

Loyal and Spoiled

Honestly, these days I don’t know what I’d do without this piece of equipment. I use it every time I go the gym. And when the regular cable machines are occupied, I can usually find a FreeMotion machine to do the same exercise.

The next time you’re in the gym, walk right over to the FreeMotion machine. Take charge of it! Look for the exercises located right on the machine and practice adjusting the arms. Use a low weight and get used to the motion. Push yourself to try this machine and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Check out the FreeMotion web site for exercise ideas or any number of other web sites for specific exercises.

10 thoughts on “Tame the FreeMotion Machine and Never Look Back

  1. I’m new to weight lifting. I started doing it about 2 months ago after a running injury left me wondering “What do I do now?” I was worried about gaining weight and needed to do SOMETHING. It was intimidating at first but I learned how to use the machines and I saw immediate progress!

    Recently I started to think about using the freemotion weights. I looked at them with fear and nervousness because only ripped body builders were using them….and they looked complicated! But they really aren’t and they have pictures on them with exercises!


    • You rock, Lisa. You’re transforming your body with weights, and trying new machines is a big part of that. They really DO look complicated, but I’m so glad you figured out like I did that they are easy and awesome. Thanks for writing and keep up the great work.


  2. I’ve never seen one of those… But we’ve got these nifty cable machines that are different from the “old school” ones – my trainer showed me all these variations – combining lunges/chops or squats/rows with the cables. I love ’em cuz sometimes I like to hide out in a corner and, lets face it, the pins are easy to adjust LOL Thanks for sharing!


    • I bet the cable machine you use is similar. Some of these machines are not real intuitive! Love cables, though, and they’re generally easy to use and so versatile. I love combining moves – thanks for mentioning that!


  3. One of the best things about these is that there is literally no limit to the exercises one can do and even create. They are safe, malleable, and easy to use. The sky is the limit…


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