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Free Weights Buying Guide

Free Weights Buying Guide
Free Weights Buying Guide

Getting Started

The best home gym should also include a few (or a dozen) free weights. Free weights come in all shapes and sizes, but all serve very specific purposes. Free weights are an essential part of what fitness trainers call "functional" workouts, or workouts that involve real-life physical activity outside of the gym. Activities such as moving around furniture or doing heavy yard work require upper-body strength training that can more easily be accomplished with free weights.

When most people think of free weights, they tend to only associate the term with simple dumbbells. However, free weights come in a variety of forms and can be designed for more than just upper-body exercises. If you choose to use free weights, you can exercise every muscle in the body.

The added benefit of incorporating free weights into a workout lets you exercise with weights in a way that closely mimics real life, allowing you to alter your exercise pattern to best target specific muscle groups. As there is a real-life application for all types of free weights, consider them to be part of your home gym essentials. Improve workouts by including the use of free weights in your daily exercise plan.

Types of Free Weights

Dumbbells

DumbbellsA dumbbell is a common piece of workout equipment. Dumbbells are inexpensive and easy to use with very little complication to them. In addition, dumbbells typically come in single-weight increments and a standard dumbbell set usually ranges anywhere from 5 lbs. to 25 lbs.

The main benefits of dumbbells are their ability to build muscle strength, increase mass and help with bone density. Although primarily for upper body, you can use a dumbbell for multiple purposes and they make great additions to whole-body workout plans. Dumbbells are a crucial part any home gym. If you're stuck deciding which dumbbells or dumbbell sets to purchase, consider the following factors: number of weights in the set, weight range, coating (if any), whether the dumbbells are fixed weight or adjustable, and the amount of storage space required.

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Kettlebells

Kettlebell WeightsMany home gyms unfortunately leave out kettlebells. Indeed, these weights tend to get avoided in the gym as well. Nevertheless, kettlebells are excellent weights designed to help those looking for intense cardio workouts, strength building, weight loss and mass increase. Their design is uniquely different from barbells and dumbbells. Some call the kettlebell, particularly when combined with the "kettlebell swing", one of the best pieces of exercise equipment. It's safe to say that muscles from your posterior upward reap the benefits.

When searching for a good kettlebell, your main concerns will be weight and design. Opt for a weight fitting your current strength level (for men just starting, around 35 lbs.; women, about 18 lbs.). As you build up your strength, you will also notice your weight increase. For design, focus more on getting traditionally-designed kettlebells.

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Barbells and Weight Plates

Barbells and Weight PlatesA mainstay in both home gyms and professional gyms, barbells have long been a great way to build muscle strength and mass for upper body workouts. Your main benefit is going to be heavy weight training, so keep in mind that barbell lifting is not necessarily for real beginners. Barbells typically focus on significantly more weight and are not recommended to use without a partner or spotter, especially when you're using heavier weights. If you're looking to do power grabs and snatches, you'll need to build up your strength with a barbell over time.

Many people will compare barbell weights to dumbbell weights. Barbells are much better for leg workouts and those who have built up more strength. When searching for the best barbells, consider what type of bar you want (powerlifting, Olympic, hybrid), bar length, diameter and weight, yield strength (the total weight limit for the bar), tensile strength, center knurling, and finish. Note that in many cases, you'll have to buy the bars and plates separately.

Weight plates are a necessary addition to your barbells. As we mentioned, you'll often need to buy the weight plates separately from the barbells. Weight plates come in a large range of weight levels, and should be purchased in weight pairs (e.g., two 10 lbs. weights). Weights are placed on the barbell equally, so the same amount is on each side. When purchasing weight plates, consider easy handle holes, bar fitting (1 or 2 inches), and finish.

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Curl Bars

Curl BarsA somewhat modern take on the traditional barbell, curl bars are designed to help take weight off your wrists as you lift. This allows you to reap the benefits of barbell lifting while taking the strain away from your wrists. You'll increase how much weight you can lift and extend the amount of time you can lift each session. When looking for a curl bar, consider the same features you would with a normal barbell. Keep in mind that curl bars often hold less weight and are less likely to be designed for Olympic weights.

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