Has building muscle become a priority, or at least something you’re looking to add to your current fitness routine? If you’re new to lifting, there’s a lot to learn, and countless pitfalls that new participants can easily fall into without the right guidance. Every day, week, or month it seems like there’s a new lifting/training trend sweeping across gyms globally, and it can sometimes take a discerning eye to differentiate between useless fad and something worth investing time and resources in.
Of course the list is miles too long to consider including every single piece of home gym and fitness equipment, but category by category we’ll be looking at a range of options in a variety of price points to help you make decisions and purchases that are best suited to your goals.
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Weight Lifting Equipment—Where To Start
If you’re starting the process from the ground up, you’re going to want to start with some basics above all else in order to start getting a feel for lifting, as well as correct pacing and form. Which specific unit you end up with will have to be narrowed town based on your space and budgetary restraints (if there are any), but these are the key categories that we would prioritize as you start building out your own collection of weight lifting equipment.
We always suggest starting with fundamentals, and a set of dumbells will let you build a good beginner routine for most muscle groups. As a suggestion, get yourself into a gym and attempt a range of different dumbbell exercises in order to gauge what weight range will be most useful. Your best bet is to get a fairly broad range from a reputable brand so that you can add more weights as time goes on. While there are “adjustable” options out there that can do the trick, we tend to lean towards fixed weight dumbbells so long as space isn’t a make-or-break criteria.
Choosing the Right Dumbbells
Though a simple category in the grand scheme of things, there are still some criteria to consider and some features better suited to some than others.
Grip design: A bit of a personal preference, those with softer hands will be better served with dumbbells that have rubberized grips. If you already have tougher hands, then solid metal will be fine, but ever here you have choice—some grips are textured and others aren’t. The former is generally the preference, especially for those who sweat when working out. Clammy, sweaty hands won’t give you a very good grip on smooth polished metal, after all.
Rubberized weights: Rather than personal preference the choice between exposed metal and rubberized coating is a practical one to avoid damaging your workout space. If you have mats down in your home gym, solid metal weights are fine. If you’re working out on a hardwood or tiled floor, the rubberized coating on some dumbbells will be enough to protect your floor from inadvertent dings and dents (though you still need to be careful when setting your weights down).
Adjustable Workout Benches
Having the weights handy is a good start, but you’re going to need a bench in order to assume the wide variety of positions required to get in a proper workout. It’s an odd category, as you’ll see benches for sale online for under $100, and over $1,000. Not all benches are created equal though, and similar to other fitness equipment like treadmills and exercise bikes, quality construction goes a long ways, and you don’t want to waste money buying the cheapest thing you can find. Here’s some criteria that we make sure to look at.
Weight/Stability: Generally speaking the lighter (and cheaper) the bench, the less stable it will feel, which can be disconcerting as you start pushing weight. As you start learning the ropes/getting used to training at home, the last thing you want to be is distracted by any wobbles or movement in your workout bench.
Adjustment: Incline, flat, upright—different lifts require different angles, so you’re going to want a bench that can cover all your bases. One thing to watch for, once inclined or upright, not all benches have adjustment for the seat portion. Especially when doing incline chest press or flies, this is less than ideal.
Padding: A bit of a no-brainer here. You’re going to be spending a lot of time on this bench, so you want to ensure it’s well padded. Upholstery is also key, as you don’t want your bench to wear through within its first few years.
All Strength Training
Self-contained and portable unit
More than 300 exercises possible
Unlimited number of work-outs possible
A little pricey up front
Requires some assembly
Requires space to perform the movements
NordicTrack Fusion CST Pro
Unbelievable volume of workout options
Real-time trainer-control over your machine
Terrific bio-feedback component
Might be too much for the average person
Privacy and online security are a concern
Price and annual membership might be much for some
ProForm Carbon R7 Rower
Integrated tablet included
Live trainers can control your machine
Very reasonable price
Requires high-speed Internet connection
Privacy and Internet security a concern
Requires space in an area with Internet connectivity
Force USA G12 All-In-One Trainer
More than 300 exercises in one machine
Heavy, commercial-grade structure
Numerous safety features
The price might be an issue for some
The machine will be tough to move once assembled
Some instruction required
Force USA MyRack Folding Power Rack
Great selection of optional attachments
Solid enough for nearly all lifters
The unique sizing means competitors' attachments might not fir
Constructed from 12-gauge instead of 11-gauge steel
Attachments must be purchased separately
Force USA - Monster Ultimate 45 Degree Leg Press Hack Squat Combo
Four exercises in one machine
Usable with or without spotters
Easier on knees and back than barbells
1,000 pound weight capacity
User must adjust the machine for different exercises
The machine takes up a lot of space
Cost of unit doesn't include necessary weight plates
Requires adequate flooring
Compact & Easy To Store
Low Impact Workout
Resistance Bands For Upper Body Workouts
Low Weight Capacity
Resistance Bands Only Add Minimal Tension
Easy to use
Practical weight range
6 kettlebells in one
Expensive vs. other adjustable kettlebells
Occasional noise from metal shifting (normal for category)
Sole Fitness CC81 Cardio Climber
Quite Large For Climber
MaxiClimber Vertical Climber
Maximum Stride height (compared to other climbers)
Sturdy and collapsible
Workout timer - the other models on the market don’t seem to have one. You might use it, you might not, but it’s a nice option to have.
I don’t like the Pedal Texture. Sometimes I would like to just hop on barefoot, but the pedals have a texture that you wouldn’t want to stand on barefoot.
No resistance. I know you have to spend a lot more to get a climbing machine that adds resistance, but I wish this were a feature.