There are a bewildering variety of strength training tools on the market. And each of them is promising you the best results.
Weight training is one of the best methods of strength training! If you want to start weight training safely and effectively, with the best info, diet, and routines, check out the 5 Day Beginner Weight Training Course!
Here's a list of the most common pieces of strength training exercise equipment around. Choose the one that will give you the most bang for your buck.
You have a limited amount of time to workout (and lean how to use equipment), money, and space to exercise. You might travel a lot, run a crowded gym, or simply want to know what the best way to go about strength training is. Look over the different tools below, their pros and cons, and see which one fits you the best.
This is your essential guide to your own strength training. It tells you how you've been doing, how you are doing in comparison to that, and where you should go from here.
No matter what other strength training tools you choose, always bring a training log with you and record your workout. Anything you record is now measured, and you can work on improving it. This is a small price to pay for bringing a pencil and paper along to the gym.
It takes a bit of time to fill out your log, and keep you older ones sorted. And it takes a little time to plan your workout.
On a basic physical level, having a good pair of exercise clothes makes the physical act of exercising easier. Your movements are free, allowing you to do any exercise movement your want.
Also, having good shoes and clothing reduces you chance of injury. Especially repetitive injury, if you plan on making exercise a regular art of your life.
Finally, psychologically I know that it feels better to be in workout clothes at the gym. I feel out of place and awkward if I'm not in my exercise gear. This embarrassment is much more pronounced if you haven't regularly exercised in a while.
It takes a little time and money to find shoes, shorts, and a shirt that are suitable for the gym. Shoes can be especially expensive, but don't worry; the cheaper athletic shoes for less than $100 are fine. You really don't need the OlympicAthlete GX97 Super-Workout shoes, whose name is longer than their actual benefits.
Free weights like barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells will give your body an excellent workout. Since they are unsupported (unlike machines), free meaning unattached, they exercise your stabilizer muscles as well as your larger ones.
Virtually every gym in the world has barbells and dumbbells for you to use, so finding them won't be a problem. And it is fun to lift and toss around big bars and chunks of iron ;-)
It's easier to hurt yourself with free weights if you've never done anything athletic or active. You don't have much balance or kinetic feeling, so machines are probably a better starting choice.
Also, you need at least some basic instruction to use free weights. Machines are almost completely self evident, and personally adjustable for your height/weight/build.
Finally, if you want to use kettlebells they are somewhat hard to find. If you really want to use them or other more esoteric free weights (clubbells, indian clubs, etc.), you'll need to get them yourself - which is expensive.
Strength training machines, such as the Smith Machine for squats & presses and Nautilus machines, are easy to use. You need much less training than free weights, and they are perfect for targeting one muscle or muscle group for rehab or strength.
Also, it's easy to alter how difficult a machine exercise is. You just change the placement of a pin, rather than wrestling with big iron plates to alter how much weight you're working with.
Like I've said before, machines help support your body and/or the weight you're working with. Which means your body does less work, and you don't get practice supporting unattached weights.
And unless you have access to machines at the gym, they are expensive! Buying a barbell, kettlebell, or set of dumbbells for your house can cost several hundred dollars, but most machines cost thousands.
You always have your body. No strength training tools are more convenient than simply using your body weight for push-ups, squats, burpees, or whatever you want to do.
And you body is free! No buying weights or machines - you've already got your strength training exercise equipment, so just start working out.
Increasing the difficulty of body weight exercises is difficult to judge. It's much easier to put 5 more pounds on a bar, and really see that and realize your progress, rather than raising your feet a little more for your pushups.
There're always heavy strength training tools around for you to work with. Rocks, logs, cars, barrels, sandbags, ropes, chains, anvils, flipping tires, heavy sledgehammers…
If you really stretch your imagination you can find stuff around you to work with. And it's fun to wrestle with heavy, weirdly-shaped stuff.
You normally need a base level of strength before you start working with these big, heavy, awkward objects. Otherwise it is very easy to hurt yourself.
Also, awkward objects don't normally come in incremental weights that you can progressively work up to. You can fill sandbags and barrels with increasing amounts of sand to do that, but logs, anvils, cars, and many other things you just have to plunge into at the weight of the one you're working with.
Sorry, there is none. No silver bullet.
If you're traveling a lot, doing body weight exercises is good. If you're an advanced lifter, barbells and awkward objects are probably your game. If you're just starting out and haven't done anything physical before, machines are the strength training tools for you.
Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!
"About 2 weeks ago I read all the ab strengthening stuff on your site because I decided I wanted to be strong, instead of having a lot of belly fat. So I started eating healthier, running, exercising, you name it - everything your site said to do to help. Now I am noticing a real difference! Thank you for making this. :D xD" ~ Julia
[This calorie calculator is] the most useful tool on the web that I can find… Also, I compared the calories calculated by your calculator to the calories calculated by the treadmill at my gym, and they're within a couple calories of each other, so yours is as accurate as we're going to get. REALLY AWESOME TOOL. I love it and depend on it. Thank you sooooo much for making this available." ~ Galit Sharon Marcus
Thank you very much, I was too lean before 2 years (55 Kgs), after the gym now I'm 72kgs, all the muscles have developed... when someone hand shakes with me it can be squeezed easily, they're making fun of me! ~ Tamil Arasan