Choosing Your Training Equipment - dummies

By LaReine Chabut

In fitness magazines, health clubs, and DVDs, you often hear weight equipment referred to as resistance equipment. Resistance is a word you need to know. Resistance is an opposing force, like a weight or gravity; in order for your muscles to get stronger, you must work against resistance. Resistance equipment is actually a more accurate term than weight equipment because you can build muscle without using weights at all.

For example, rubber exercise bands don’t weigh more than a couple of ounces, but they provide enough resistance to strengthen your muscles. The terms resistance training, weight training, strength training, and weight lifting are often used interchangeably.

Keep in mind that understanding how to train your muscles is like studying a new skill. You aren’t born with this knowledge, in spite of the fact that you were born with a body. Many people have the misconception that because they live in a body, they know how to train it. You’ll benefit significantly by taking the time to study and acquire the skills from qualified professionals.

Finding out how to use equipment properly is an early step in this process. Take your time. Be patient with yourself. Soon, you’ll be lifting like a pro.

Resistance training equipment falls into many common categories:

  • Free weights: Free weights include dumbbells, barbells, bars, and weight plates. These come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and weights.

  • Machines: Weight machines generally include a seat, a cable or pulley, a variety of weight plates for adjustable resistance, and movable bars. Similar to free weights, machines vary widely in design. Newer machines come equipped with programming features and provide feedback while you’re training.

  • Resistance bands and tubing: Rubber bands and tubes provide opportunities for strength training any time and any place. Bands are flat and wide; tubes are round. Cheap, lightweight, and portable bands and tubes are the training tool of choice for frequent travelers. Latex-free versions are available for people with allergies.

    [Credit: Photograph by Zoran Popovic]
    Credit: Photograph by Zoran Popovic

The figure shows the band butt blaster.

Although not strictly in the category of resistance-training equipment, the following tools provide a means to enhance your weight-training programs:

  • Balls and foam rollers: Add balls and foam rollers into many exercises to provide an unstable surface on which to work. Incorporating this element of instability increases the difficulty of the exercise by requiring the use of deeper abdominal and back muscles.

  • Body weight: Your body may not feel like a training tool, but use your own body weight to provide effective resistance in a number of exercises such as the squat and lunge and the push-up.

  • Yoga and Pilates: Yoga and Pilates aren’t styles of weight training; however, many yoga and Pilates moves involve challenges that strengthen muscles. The particular advantage of many of these exercises is that they also involve flexibility and encourage the development of strength, balance, and coordination through movement patterns.