Weight training equipment comes in different shapes and sizes to accommodate a large variety of exercises and to target specific muscle groups of the human body. If you're getting into weight training it's best to familiarize yourself with weight training equipment, in order to get an idea of what you should be working with to achieve your specific goals. Knowing what's out there in terms of equipment is also important if you plan on building a home gym.

Here's an overview of the types of weight training equipment that are used in gyms and bought for home gyms.

Types of Weights

When it comes to equipment there's a lot of choice, but the types of weight training equipment out there can be classified into four categories:

  • Free weights
  • Weight machines
  • Body weight equipment
  • Accessories

Free weights

Free weights are among the most basic forms of equipment and do not involve any kind of mechanism. This is the "back to basics" type of gear that requires you to support exercises with secondary muscle groups (those that you're not directly targeting with the exercises), which is said to be one of the major benefits of free weights. Free weights can be subdivided into specific weight training equipment.

Dumbbells are the most popularly used free weights out there. They're basic and compact but not necessarily easy to use as they require a certain level of skill. Dumbbells come in pairs, either as a fixed weight or allowing you to vary the amount of weight on the bar, making it a very versatile piece of kit at low expense. It's possible to complete an extensive weight training program working with dumbbells and they're usually at the core of any weight training setup.

Barbells are larger free weights that are more often used by more experienced and developed weight training enthusiasts and body builders. As with dumbbells the construction is simple: A bar with weights on either side. Barbells are significantly larger and hold more weight and are often used for popular exercises such as the chest press (pushing the barbell up with your arms when lying down on a bench) and squats (lifting the barbell with your whole body from squat position, with the weight resting on your shoulders).

Kettlebells are relatively new and are increasing in popularity. These free weights resemble a canon ball with a thick handle grip and are used more or less like dumbbells. They're said to give a different feel to weight training exercises and this kind of weight training equipment could come in handy when you need some change to your regular training program.

Weight machines

There's a large variety of weight machines out there, both for commercial use as well as for home gyms. Weight machines usually depend on a mechanism which allow you to lift a stack of weights by pulling or pushing a handle or bar and transferring that energy through a system of cables and pulleys. A varying load of weight can be selected by placing a pin in the desired placement in the stack of weights.

Having the ability to increase the amount of weight to work with for your weight training exercises helps you build up resistance as your progress in your weight training program. Weight machines are also flexible in that they can be adjusted to suit different body types. They also usually provide a clear illustration of their correct use and posture, although it's always advised to get professional assistance from a certified trainer.

Weight machines are usually considered to be a good starting point for beginning weight training enthusiasts and intermediate trainers, because they provide guidance and support, maintaining balance and allowing you to focus on controlling a specific muscle group. Weight machines are easier to use than free weights and also add a degree of safety to your weight training exercises. They're also built to enable you to lift greater amounts of weights, which can be very beneficial if you really want to push yourself on specific muscles.

Body weight equipment

Not all weight training equipment requires you to manipulate weight to build strength and muscle mass. Body weight equipment refers to the type of training gear that allows you to use your own weight to provide resistance in specific exercises.

A good example is the chin up bar, which requires you to pull yourself up with your arms and exercises your biceps and triceps mainly. Another example is a crunch machine, which is a simple metal frame that helps you with your abdominal crunches. Finally, although not used very regularly by weight training enthusiasts, gymnastic rings can be a great tool to perform a large set of exercises. With a set of rings you can do pull ups, dips and muscle ups for example.

Weight Training Accessories

Free weights, weight machines and body weight equipment don't make for a complete gym. Certain accessories are a must have and are just as important as the equipment you work with directly. A good weight bench, for example, is essential if you want to be able to exercise properly and safely with free weights, whereas accessories such as a stability ball will provide a bigger challenge to your weight training regime and help you tone up muscle quicker. Finally, resistance bands (elastic) are used by women who use weight training equipment simply to tone rather than to build up muscle mass and are often part of a home gym.

Learning about weight training equipment

Although one type of weight training equipment may have clear benefits over another, most weight training programs are based on a combination of free weights and weight machines. It's important to prepare yourself by getting to know the weight training equipment you'll be working with, but also if you're planning on buying equipment for a home gym.