Equipment and Gear Tips

Weight Training Equipment Tips

weight training equipment

Whether you work out at the gym or purchase workout equipment for your home, chances are pretty good that you’ll encounter some tough choices when choosing strength training equipment.

Equipment differs from free weights, as you sacrifice the balance that free weights can help improve or the consistency and ease of weight training machines. One of the inherent benefits of using weight training equipment, however, is that the smooth and regular motions of a machine help you learn proper form.

When used properly, weight training equipment also lessens the likelihood of a serious training injury.

But much of the good weight training equipment on the market is expensive, and investing in low quality equipment to save money can lead to injuries and improper form. More expensive equipment is not necessarily safer, but typically do offer additional features like:

  • Memory that can store workout statistics

  • Better durability to prevent breaking

  • Better support to keep your workouts comfortable

  • Higher weight ranges

Weight training equipment typically comes in two primary forms: machines and free weights. At a simplistic level, some individuals will tell you that machines are better for beginners while free weights are better for intermediate and advanced strength trainers. The situation is more complicated in reality, and the truth is that both machines and free weights have their own roles in the programs of strength trainers of all experience levels.

Free Weights

weight training equipment

There are two primary types of free weights: dumbbells and barbells. Dumbbells can be operated with either one or two hands, while barbells must be operated with two hands.

Dumbbells generally have weight plates permanently fixed to them, while the total weight of a barbell can be customized using removable weight plates.

The primary advantage of free weights is that they force you to work your stabilizing muscles during the performance of each exercise in order to maintain the balance of the weight.

If you didn’t work your stabilizing muscles, the dumbbells or barbell would fall out of its intended range of motion, potentially resulting in damage to the equipment or injury to your body.

Free weights are also highly versatile and inexpensive, since a relatively small set of free weights will allow you to work all major muscle groups with a wide range of exercises.

Free weights are also very simple, durable and portable in comparison to machine weight training equipment, meaning that you can easily carry them around and use them for years without worrying about breakage or parts wear.

Machines

weight training equipment

Machines are much different from free weights in that they’re each designed to facilitate a limited range of exercises, or even a single exercise. Machines are often considered ideal for beginning strength trainers because the weight travels along a predetermined path. This means that you won’t need to use your stabilizing muscles to maintain the balance of the weight.

Although this results in less of a total-body workout overall, it also means that reaching the point of muscular failure earlier than expected or losing your balance will not result in injury or damage to the equipment. It also means that you’ll need to be less conscious of the proper form for the exercise, since the form will be largely determined by the equipment itself.

Beginning strength trainers are thankful for this point, while intermediate and advanced strength trainers should have already mastered the proper form for each exercise.

Another advantage of machines is that since they don’t work stabilizing muscles, they’re better for targeting specific muscle groups while leaving other muscle groups alone. This advantage is highly pertinent to bodybuilders, who often target lagging muscle groups in order to achieve a higher level of muscular symmetry.

One final advantage of machines is that they rarely require the help of a spotter, or an individual who will assist you in lifting the weight once you reach the point of failure, and prevent you from injuring yourself in case you lose your control of the weight. This makes machines ideal for solo weight trainers who wish to train independently without increasing their risk of injury.

Other Free Weight Resistance Equipment

Although dumbbells, barbells and machines are among the most popular equipment for strength training, other forms of resistance equipment exist as well. One of these pieces of equipment is something to which everyone has access: your own body. Your body can be considered a free weight in the context of body weight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and much more. Body weight exercises are excellent because they can be performed anywhere with absolutely no additional equipment.

In fact, a strength trainer could potentially exercise all muscle groups using only body weight exercises, making them perfect for strength trainers on a tight budget.

Kettlebells are another form of resistance training equipment. Kettlebells are similar to dumbbells in that they can be operated with either one or two hands. They range in weight value from 5 to 200 pounds, and feature a round shape with a handle located at the top. Kettlebells are excellent for adding additional variety and challenge to your free weight training regimen.

weight training equipment

Yet another example of an affordable free weight is a medicine ball. Medicine balls range in weight from 2 to 15 pounds, and excel in the area of increasing core strength.

They’re also great for developing hand-eye coordination, as well as balance, flexibility, range of motion and general muscular development. Medicine balls are perfect for use with an exercise partner since they can be tossed back and forth in order to build explosive strength and coordination.

One final alternative to traditional dumbbells and barbells are elastic bands. Elastic bands are excellent for progressively stimulating the muscles because the level of resistance naturally increases as you stretch the band.

Other advantages of elastic bands include versatility, affordability and portability. A full set of elastic bands and related equipment (such as handles) can be had for less than $200, will fit into a simple duffle bag, and can be used to facilitate an extremely wide range of exercises.

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