Weightlifting Equipment Guides and Reviews
Weight training has become one of the most popular forms of exercise on the planet. Its popularity is growing daily, causing the weightlifting equipment market to explode.
Below we will look at the essential weightlifting equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, cable machines, dip stations, home gyms, inversion tables, leg press machines, Smith machines, squat racks, and weight benches.
To help you navigate the market and find the equipment that will best meet your needs, we have set up comprehensive weightlifting equipment buying guides and reviews.
You’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much involved in
Being such a versatile piece of fitness equipment
We’ve reviewed cable machines separately to more
Calisthenics is a hugely popular style of fitness workout
Recent advances in resistance training technology
If you suffer from lower back pain (LBP), it’s reassuring
Whether you’re looking to tone up, gain muscle
Despite having a larger footprint than most home gyms
Smith machines are excellent for exercise variety, strength
Together with dumbbells, a weights bench is one
You’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much involved in buying a new barbell. Most people believe a barbell is just a straight bar that takes some weight plates. This is true, but there is more to it.
The truth is that barbells have a similar number of differences to any other piece of fitness equipment. To get the best result, you’ll need to find the type that best suits your training style.
For example, the barbell you use for deadlifts can be very different from the one you use for bicep curls and shrugs.
What Are Barbells?
A barbell is a long metal bar that can be fitted with weights at the end. It is designed for 2 handed exercises and usually with a large amount of weight.
What Barbells Should I Buy?
To figure out which barbells are the best, take a look at our barbell reviews.
Overall, it will depend on what type of exercise you want to do.
Doing deadlifts require much more weight because you train a large muscle group, so you’ll need a bar that can take full-sized Olympic weight plates. It also needs to be long enough for you to load all the weight you need.
On the other hand, shrugs are mainly working your upper back and your traps. For this, you should focus on a specific movement, for example, hands at your sides, bar in front of you, or bar behind you.
While a standard straight bar will be perfect for front and rear shrugs, you would be better off with a trap bar when lifting the weight with your hands by your sides. The trap bar would be similar to how you would lift with a pair of dumbbells.
Only once you’ve taken all of the below mentioned into account will you be on your way to choosing the perfect barbells for your chosen exercises.
The main things to consider are:
- Bar diameter
- Knurling pattern
- Locking collar style
- Weight plate compatibility (standard / Olympic)
- Bar length
- Shape (cambered/straight/trap bar/EZ-curl)
- Weight capacity
Dumbbells are a very versatile piece of fitness equipment. It’s not surprising that dumbbells have proven to be one of the most popular additions to a home gym.
Due to the popularity of dumbbells, many fitness companies have put their own unique spin on the dumbbell design. With so many options on the market, it can be challenging to know which dumbbells are right for you.
What Are Dumbbells?
A dumbbell is a short metal bar that can fit weights on both ends. It is designed for single-hand use and is normally used in a pair with one dumbbell in each hand.
What Dumbbells Should I Buy?
The first thing that you should consider when buying dumbbells is the material. Depending on where you work out, one material will be better than another. For example, if the floors are easily damaged, you will need to take extra care.
This gives you two options: buy interlocking floor tiles to protect the floor at an additional expense or buy neoprene-coated dumbbells that provide a much softer outer shell than the cast iron versions.
Unfortunately, neoprene dumbbells are not available beyond a few kilos. So, if you’re looking for heavier weights, you’ll need the rubber-coated hex variety.
CAP Barbell is one of the most dominant names in strength training equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, and squat racks. This can be a good place to start looking but have an idea of the sizes you need before starting your research.
For example, CAP’s cast iron hex dumbbells cost between $5 and $250+ for weights of 5 lbs to 120 lbs.
If you’re short on space, it’s worth reading our adjustable dumbbell buying guide, where we have in-depth reviews of all the latest sets.
If you have complete control over the equipment that goes into your gym, including enough space and budget, then a cable machine is your best option.
Cable machines are also popular for commercial gyms due to their high build quality and durability. This is echoed by the lengthy warranty (lifetime for most of the XMark cable equipment).
You can use a room planner tool if you’re unsure if you have the space for multiple cable machine workout stations. Most companies now have advanced room planner tools for checking your area online.
Room planners that we’re most familiar with and use ourselves are:
What Are Cable Machines?
Cable machines consist of a vertical steel frame with a stack of weights that is connected by a cable. The cable then runs through a pulley system and out to one or multiple handles. By pulling the handles, you lift the weights.
What Cable Machine Should I Buy?
We’ve reviewed cable machines separately to more conventional home gyms.
To find out more, read our cable machine reviews.
This also includes some functional trainers, such as the XMark XM-7626, which offers an impressive 200 lbs of weight plates in both of its stacks and a lifetime home warranty.
Some of the machines we review will create resistance via a locking pin and weight stack system, whereas others will allow you to load weight plates onto plate pegs, such as with the XMark XM-7618.
These are typically machines you invest in if you have a bit more space, as you won’t be able to perform the same range of exercises as most multi-gyms. However, using a cable machine, you can often perform these exercises with a higher weight.
Calisthenics is a trendy style of fitness workout that uses only your body weight as resistance.
This training style has been around for thousands of years, but it has now gained mainstream attention through social media and YouTube.Videos show entire workouts for your back, chest, arms, abs, and other body parts using nothing but your own body weight.
Dip stations provide you with the perfect platform to use in your calisthenics workouts. It works for dips, crunches, pull-ups, leg raises, and a wide range of other exercises.
What Are Dip Stations?
Dip stations consist of steel bars that surround the user’s body, usually in a “U” shape. It is designed for the user to hold onto while doing the dip exercise.
What Dip Station Should I Buy?
Read our dip station reviews to find out which station is right for you.
One of the first things to consider is the weight limit. The weight capacity on dip stations will vary, but even some of the low-priced entry-level designs can still support up to 300 lbs.
True dip stations like the XMark XM-4437 tend to have a higher weight capacity than the taller power towers. Power towers combine the dip bars with a pull-up bar for added workout variation.
This is likely due to the added height, which is certainly something to bear in mind when you’re choosing between a dip station and a power tower for your own home gym.
Some of the better-known brands include XMark Fitness, Bowflex, Iron Gym, Weider, and Body Solid.
The more basic entry-level designs are available for under $100, with most priced between $100 and $150. For the high-end premium designs like the Bowflex BodyTower, you can expect to pay anything from $200 up to $400+.You can find dip station reviews for every fitness goal and budget in our comparison table, which is frequently updated with the latest designs.
Recent advances in resistance training technology have resulted in a whole new range of compact and affordable home gyms.
As for the type of resistance, you can now choose between plate-loaded, selectorized weight stack, Power Rod, resistance band, and body weight trainers, to name a few.
What Are Home Gyms?
A home gym is a versatile and compact exercise unit where you can perform many different exercises. These machines are built to fit in your home where you have some space available.
What Home Gym Should I Buy?
The number of options can be overwhelming if you’re looking to buy a new home gym system. There are so many different models, so where do you start?
Here at USA Home Gym, we have compiled a comprehensive buying guide to help you choose the best machine for your needs. The buying guide includes the best-known brands, different resistance types, design features, and gym systems to help you find a suitable machine.
Read our home gym buying guide to find your machine today.
You can also read our home gym reviews to see which machines are rated the best.
We ensure that our buying guide is frequently updated with the latest developments and that it includes information on the newest home gyms as they hit the market.
Some of the brands we review include Body Solid, Bowflex, Marcy Fitness, Powerline, Gold’s Gym, Weider, and Total Gym.
If you suffer from lower back pain (LBP), there are simple solutions, and things like surgery are almost always avoidable.
Depending on your discomfort level, you can improve your overall back health with a program that includes physical therapy and inversion therapy.
Most inversion therapy routines consist of several short sessions, like 1-2 sessions daily of 10 minutes each. An inversion table at home allows you to conveniently fit these sessions into your daily schedule.
What Are Inversion Tables?
Inversion tables are used for inversion therapy, also referred to as spinal traction or just inversion. The inversion table is a bench with hinges that make it rotate. You secure your feet to the bottom of the bench, then rotate the bench so that you hang inverted from your feet.
What Inversion Table Should I Buy?
Inversion tables are surprisingly affordable. A few designs start at the $100 mark. From there, they move up to around $400 for top-of-the-line inversion tables that include some basic accessories.
Regarding design variety, you won’t have nearly the same number of options compared to other exercise equipment like exercise bikes or elliptical trainers. However, you still need to look out for some key features.
It’s also important to know the company’s reputation for customer service in terms of responsiveness to inquiries and upholding warranty coverage.
Our recent inversion table buying guide covers everything you need to know about buying an inversion table. It also includes a shortlist of the top 10 tables to buy right now.
You can also read our inversion table reviews.
Alternatively, we’ve also put together a comparison table containing all of the inversion table reviews we’ve written on USA Home Gym.
Both the guide and comparison table are updated regularly.
Whether you’re looking to tone up, gain muscle, or increase strength, the leg press is one of the best exercises that you can include in a lower-body workout.
The footplate size allows you to make minor alterations to your foot placement to emphasize the stress placed on a specific part of the muscle. This enables you to fully develop different muscles like your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
What is a Leg Press?
A leg press is a weight training exercise where you push the weight away from your body using your legs. A leg press machine allows you to train in this exercise. Usually, it consists of a seat with a footplate in front of it, and then weights are loaded onto it.
What Leg Press Should I Buy?
To find the best leg press machine for your needs, read our leg press reviews.
Some of the home gym models that use weight stacks for resistance will include a leg press as one of their stations, but this tends to only be on the high-end commercial models.
Stand-alone leg press machines tend to be a more popular option, particularly for commercial gyms. A specialized leg press machine has a better overall design and allows much heavier weights to be used.
Even with the 2:1 ratio that some cable-driven leg press stations offer, you’re looking at a total resistance of up to 420 lbs. This is in comparison to plate-loaded sled designs, such as the Bodycraft F660, which offer up to 1000 lbs+ of resistance.
The F660 is also one of the designs that double as a hack squat machine for a heavy-duty leg workout that’s completely safe, even without a spotter.
Plate-loaded leg press machines aren’t the most compact option, but you can be sure you won’t grow out of them within a few years as your strength increases.
There’s a relatively small number of companies producing this kind of heavy-duty strength training equipment. You can find reviews for all of the latest designs in our leg press comparison table.If you want to check out some of the leg press machines that accompany home gym systems, it’s also worth looking at our comparison of home gyms.
Despite often having a larger footprint than most home gyms, Smith machines will often support a much smaller number of exercises.
A big benefit is that many designs now combine the safety of a traditional Smith machine with a variety of other workout stations, such as a pec fly, high and low cable pulleys, and even free-weight barbell exercises.
The Marcy MD-9010G is an excellent example of this. It provides you with all of the features we just mentioned, plus a high-quality FID bench and weight plate storage for less than $1000.
What Are Smith Machines?
A Smith machine is a weight training machine consisting of a metal frame with a barbell fixed within steel rails. This allows for safe vertical movement when training.
What Smith Machine Should I Buy?
The best way to find a Smith machine that will suit your needs is to read our Smith machine reviews.
Smith machine prices can vary a lot It’s not uncommon to find Smith machines / functional trainer combinations costing over $4000. This tends to be for very high-end equipment, such as the Inspire Fitness Scs System.
This provides you with everything the MD-9010G does, but with additional features like internal safety rails, height adjustable cable pulleys, and a high cable lat pulldown station.
If your budget allows it, Smith machines can provide a much wider variety of upper and lower body exercises than most squat racks and power cages. The only downside is you won’t find the same 1000 lbs+ weight capacities. Most Smith machines are capped at around 500 lbs on the bar.Leading brands include Marcy, Inspire Fitness, Valor Athletics, and Body Solid. Full reviews for their Smith machine systems can be found on our comparison page.
Squat racks are the best alternative to a Smith machine. Smith machines are excellent for things like exercise variety, strength, and safety, but not everyone will have the space or budget for such a piece of equipment.
That’s not to say squat racks and power cages are simply a low-cost alternative to Smith systems. In many cases, they offer a higher weight capacity, have a smaller footprint, are more dynamic, and are much easier to move around if needed.
What is a Squat Rack?
A squat rack, also called a power rack, is a piece of weight training equipment that functions as a mechanical spotter. With a squat rack, you can safely perform barbell exercises using free weights. It works similarly to a Smith machine, but the barbell is not fixed, so it allows free movement.
What Squat Rack Should I Buy?
Feel free to read our squat rack reviews to find the squat rack that is perfect for you.
When you’re researching the benefits of various squat racks, you’ll generally find three main types of design:
Free-standing squat stands – These are a pair of upright posts that are height adjustable and sometimes offer safety bars, e.g. – Valor Fitness BD-9.
Safety squat rack – This style usually offers an open front for use with weights benches and provides a much more stable base for heavier barbell exercises, e.g. – Valor Athletics BD-6
Power rack – Slightly outside the scope of what a squat rack offers, this style is often the safest option for lifting without a spotter. Power racks come with a higher weight capacity but also a larger footprint, e.g. – Valor Athletics BD-7
Valor Athletics is among the best-known names in the squat rack and power cage industry. They have an excellent customer service record and a large product catalog that includes all three of the above-mentioned rack styles.
XMark Fitness also has some impressive designs that offer a high weight capacity and lifetime warranty, such as the XM-7619.
Cap Barbell offers some of the most competitively priced squat rack and power cage designs with its ‘FM’ collection for anyone on a tight budget. Their FM-CB8000F model is a bestseller, but it’s worth bearing in mind the 300 lbs capacity on the bar catches.To help your selection process, we have done in-depth reviews for squat racks from each company mentioned above. You can find all of our detailed reviews via our squat rack comparison table.
Together with dumbbells, a weights bench is the most popular piece of fitness equipment used in home workouts.
With hundreds of different types of weight benches on the market, how do you decide which design will be most beneficial to your fitness goals? That is where we step in to help with detailed reviews and buying guides.
What Are Weight Benches?
Weight benches, or weight training benches, come in many different shapes and sizes. In essence, it is a bench that is used for various weight-training exercises. It is mostly used for sitting or lying down, but its uses are nearly endless.
What Weight Bench Should I Buy?
Our weight bench buying guide has some of the best benches on the market.
You can also read our weight bench reviews to see for yourself what makes a good weight bench.
There are essentially just two main types of weights bench: fixed and adjustable. A fixed bench is a simple flat bench that’s often very affordable but lacks exercise variety.
Then you have the adjustable weight benches, which we can break into three categories:
- Combination trainer
- Standard adjustable
There’s a large range of weights benches with options for every budget. They start with options like the Confidence Fitness Adjustable Bench, which usually retails for under $80 and includes barbell supports and a leg developer. Towards the high-end options, you find commercial models from Powertec, Star Trac, and Body Solid that routinely cost over $800.
When it comes to the high-end models of weight benches, the type of resistance usually changes from a standard or Olympic barbell to a plate-loaded setup.
These are still true weights benches, but they are often referred to as leverage bench press machines or multi-press workbench.
Adjustable FID benches tend to be the most popular choice. Many of the XMark Fitness designs are highly recommended from their customer reviews on Amazon and other e-commerce sites.
XMark Fitness specializes in benches between $200 and $400, so if this is outside your budget, you should look at some of the designs from Marcy, CAP Barbell, and even some of the higher-rated models by Pure Fitness.To save you time, we’ve already reviewed dozens of these benches from all price categories. You can find a link to each weights bench review in our comparison table or discover some of our favorite designs in the weights bench buying guide.