Weight Lifting Equipment

Guide to free weights

The decision to start a weight training program often leads to a dilemma: join a gym or workout at home? For the time-challenged fitness enthusiast, a home gym is often the better choice. If space and cost are also factors to be considered, a weight set will have some distinct advantages over a home gym machine. In fact, working out with hand weights and ankle weights might even be more effective. Consider this:

  • Using a weight set requires more balance and coordination than using weight machines.
  • Working with dumbbells requires you to recruit your core muscles for stabilization.
  • Hand weights provide a more versatile workout than machine training.
  • Ankle weights allow you to work your legs from different angles.
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Some ankle weights come in adjustable models, which allow you to increase or decrease the weight in half pound increments.

For your upper body, you'll need free weights, which are composed of either metal or a synthetic material. While the metal weights are more durable, they may damage your floor if dropped. Additionally, metal dumbbells require regular maintenance to prevent them from rusting. In contrast, hand weights made from plastic, acrylic, rubber or neoprene do not require maintenance. They'll do less floor damage if dropped, and the coating provides an ergonomic grip for beginners. However, the synthetic coating on these hand weights may degrade over time, which will require the weights to be replaced.

In most cases, free weights or dumbbells are an economical choice for a home gym. They take up a minimal amount of space and can easily be stored under your bed. However, if you have a number of people in your household that want to use the weights, you might want to consider a weight set, which includes a number of dumbbells of various weights. Don't forget a dumbbell rack to keep them neatly stored!

If space is an issue, consider the adjustable-weight dumbbells that let you add or remove additional plates to the end of the dumbbell bar. You end up with two dumbbells and a stack of weight plates, thereby saving space and money. A barbell works on the same principle, except the bar is much longer. While barbell training enables you to lift more weight, there are some disadvantages:

  • You can only perform exercises that use both arms simultaneously.
  • Barbell training limits exercise variety.

For example, you can use a barbell to perform a bench press, but there is no way to use it to perform a chest fly. You can also use a barbell for back exercises such as a bent-over row. However, if you'd like to work your rear deltoids by performing a reverse fly, you'll need to use a set of dumbbells. Additionally, while barbells and adjustable dumbbells save space and money, adjusting the plates for different exercises is time consuming.

The new, adjustable free-weight dumbbell systems might be the best option. These weight sets come with two dumbbells and incorporate some clever techniques for stacking and storing the connected weight plates, which can be adjusted quickly by setting pins in specific holes. Bowflex SelectTech and Iron Master Quick-Lock Dumbbells are two popular brands.

A weight training program will improve muscle tone, prevent osteoporosis and increase metabolic rate. Live strong and live well.

by Lisa Marie Mercer Sub Channel Steward Winter Sports

Weight Benches

The weight bench is a crucial piece of any home gym, and the right one can turn your home gym into a powerhouse no matter your budget or needs. The weight bench is a simple piece of equipment that can make or break the potential of your home gym.

A weight bench in its most basic form is merely a place to sit or lay down in preparation for weight lifting. Therefore, the bench needs to be both functional and comfortable. From the comfort standpoint, the bench should be long enough to accommodate any size of person in proper lifting form.

The bench padding should be comfortable enough to sit and lay back on but should be firm, as too much softness can cause instability in your lifting form. It is also good to consider a padding surface that is easy to clean and maintain.

The frame of the bench should be metal and sturdy, able to support a few hundred pounds, and should have an adjustable support on at least one end (this comes in handy for incline bench presses). The frame should also have built-in supports to hold weight bars with attached weights for bench presses (both assisted and unassisted). Bench pressing is a popular form of lifting, so a bench that can hold bench press bars is critical to any person looking to increase strength.

An added bonus on the perfect weight bench would be a leg support system so you can do weight-assisted crunches and stabilized curls. Another plus would be a bench that includes a built-in rack for weight storage, although the absence of this addition wouldn't affect the overall usefulness of the weight bench.

Overall, you want a weight bench that is durable and adjustable, with enough comfort and support to accomplish various weight exercises such as bench presses and free-weight exercises.

by Maxwell Payne