Weight training equipment encompasses both traditional free weights and the machines that have arisen to supplement and replace them in the past half century. Let’s say we want to make a simple yet effective home gym, what do we need? There are some pieces of equipment we could do without and still work, if not every muscle in the body, every major muscle and every muscle group.
Free weight equipment includes portable, “infinitely” adjustable implements, such as:
All the other, more complicated, structured devices with cables, belts, levers, guide rails, etc. are what we call machines.
Addressing which equipment one “must have” to train with weights is, in part, addressing the question of free weights versus machines.
Machines can build some size and strength but free weights can easily match these qualities and further develop the body’s toughness and durability, that is, solid core musculature, muscular density and inter-muscular coordination (fluidity), flexibility and joint stability. Free weights achieve this by making a person use all the smaller, supporting muscles that they perhaps didn’t know they had. The rigid range of motion common with machines does not demand anywhere near as much involvement of the ancillary muscle areas contributing to balance and to control as do free weights.
Their ease of use and their ability to isolate specific muscles are some of the good attributes of machines; but, more often than not, machines are more specialized and less versatile. In other words, they are nice to have but we could do without them.
The common use of certain equipment among aesthetic (i.e., bodybuilders) and strength (i.e., weightlifters, powerlifters, and strongmen) athletes provides a basis for saying that there is certain equipment we “must have” to train.
The barbell is indispensable to both powerlifters and weightlifters needing to train squats, bench presses, deadlifts, snatches, and clean-and-jerks later performed in competition. Moreover, nearly everything a bodybuilder can do with a complete set of dumbbells, they could do with a barbell and set of plates. For facilitating the performance of principal, compound movements, the barbell is king.
The plate set is a necessity to go with a barbell as most weight trainers will, at some point, want to add and adjust resistance.
The adjustable angle bench is so versatile, whether for seated incline dumbbell curls or for bottom-start bench presses in a power rack, bodybuilders and powerlifters alike would be grieving if their gym were to be lacking this bench.
The adjustable power rack is a vital piece of hardware for powerlifters and darn handy for bodybuilders and weightlifters. From good mornings to heavy partial squats to rack pulls to pull ups to bent-over rows to military presses to deadlifts, the power rack, even if less than ideal in some cases, accommodates all.
That’s it! The bar, weight plates, adjustable bench, and power rack are the four pieces of weight training equipment permitting the broadest, most comprehensive range of training options to deal with every muscle in the body using the least amount of equipment. Of course, additional equipment would be very helpful; but, this is the weight training equipment we “must have” if we were limited in our choices.