There’s been a lot of fitness fads that have come and gone to separate fools from their money. Please feel free to (mentally) add to this list below
- Shake weight
- Thigh master
- Hawaii chair
Sorry if you’ve been sucked in by one of those. However, you should’ve known better.
And fitness gimmicks do sell for a while until people who use them realize they still look the same after using it, except they weigh less because their wallet is lighter. It’s a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The advertisers and inventors convince people there’s a short cut or secret hack to losing weight, six-pack abs or getting their best body ever. And after being in this game for a while, I haven’t seen many of these ‘hacks’ work.
However, in your local gym or sporting goods store, there lies equipment that will help you lose fat, gain muscle, get stronger and you don’t have to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery or even pay for shipping.
All that’s required is a little effort and choosingthe right tool for your job. Please choose wisely.
1. The barbell
The barbell, invented in 1910 and for 118 years and counting it’s been getting people stronger, leaner and sexier. That’s some staying power and it’s well past the gimmick stage. The barbell flat-out works.
When it comes almost every goal you want to achieve in the weight room the barbell is the answer.
Strength – Check
Muscle – Check
Fat loss – Check
The barbell performs a variety of lifts and is a tool that you can load up with any weight you need. The long bar allows you to vary your hand width too which can train muscles at various angles.
The barbell locks you into a single plain of motion, up and down and it has a limited range of motion with certain lifts like the bench press. Some barbells lifts have a large learning curve that require time,patience and coaching.
Because the barbell locks you into a certain range of motion and you can use a large amounts of weight, your wrists, elbows, shoulder and lower back will take a beating.
Here’s a fun fact from Google. The word ‘dumbbell’ originated in late Stuart, England. In 1711 the poet Joseph Addison mentioned exercising with a “dumb bell” in an essay published in The Spectator in 1711.
Dumbbells were used in ancient Greece to help their long jumpers jump longer (early form of power training) even before the word dumbbell existed. And like the barbell they’ve been around a long time because they work.
No matter your goal is, the dumbbell will help you get there. They come in various weights and in pairs, dumbbells can perform a large array of exercises and in various ranges of motion and in different body positions.
They are slightly less intimating than the barbell which makes them great for beginners and experienced lifters alike. And certain dumbbell exercises have a shorter learning curve than the barbell and are easier to perform.
Dumbbells can help strengthen imbalances that exist between side because you can lift them one at a time or both at the same time without the one side taking over for the other.
Finally, dumbbells are easier on the shoulders because they don’t lock in to a range of motion like the barbell does.
You often need different pairs of dumbbells for different exercises, which can get space consuming. And if you’re not training at a gym, the purchase of various pairs of dumbbells is expensive.
Dumbbells often come in 5-pound increments, which can be a big jump in weight, particularly for the beginner. And the larger and heavier the dumbbell, the harder it is to handle.
3. Weight machines
In 1948 Arthur Jones designed and built the first Nautilus machine, a pull over machine but he didn’t start selling and distributing this and other machines until the fitness boom in 70’s when machines popped up in gyms everywhere.
When you walk into most commercial gyms you’ll see various machines that train the body from head to toe because that’s what the public expects and pays for. You can sit down, relax and work the targeted muscle with any weight you want.
Machines are great for beginners because they’re easy to use and have written instructions for use which takes out the guess-work out. And because you’re sitting down, you don’t have to worry about balance and you can learn without stressing out.
A lot of machines travel on a fixed path (unlike dumbbell and barbells) which helps you lift with a minimized injury risk.
And some exercises can only be performed on machines like the lat pull down, leg extension, leg curls and the hip abduction/adduction. And because you can target certain muscles, machines are great for rehab to strengthen a weak or injured muscle.
Lastly if your focus is on muscle-building, machines take the smaller stabilizing muscles out of the equation which puts more emphasis on the muscle group you’re trying to work on.
If strength is your goal, you’re better off using barbells and dumbbells. It’s not like you can’t get stronger using machines, but there are better tools for this job.
Machines are not one size fits all proposition and if you’re too tall (over 6ft 2) or to short (5ft 4), you’ll have a tough time using some machines safely and correctly. Barbells and dumbbells don’t care how tall you are. 😊
However, the biggest knock on machines is your muscles don’t work like that in the real world, they only work muscles in groups. For example, leg curl machine and hamstrings.
When do you find yourself lying down curling your heels towards your butt in the real world?
4. Resistance bands
The first band was invented in Switzerland by Gustav Gossweiler. He patented his invention on May 28, 1895 in Switzerland and on June 26, 1896 in The United States.
Don’t you love Google?
They were mainly used in Physical therapy settings but become popular in the gyms around the 1980s. Now days, bands came in all shapes, sizes, lengths and widths and are found in most gyms and sporting good stores.
Bands are portable, cost efficient and you can train with them anywhere. You can perform a variety of exercises in various planes of motion and at different angles. They’re simple and easy to use too.
Because the resistance isn’t reliant on gravity like dumbbells, barbell and weight machines, training with bands is more joint friendly for the older adults or for those who are hurt.
Furthermore, resistance bands create “ascending resistance” which means the further the band stretches the harder is to lift and this will increase your work output throughout the full range of motion. Other tools mentioned don’t do that.
Bands can break if not properly maintained or due to wear and tear. If you’ve ever been hit by a breaking band, you know it doesn’t tickle.
And due to the ascending resistance, it’s difficult to measure gains and progress because it’s hard to figure exact poundage of the resistance provided.
If your goal is health and to stay in shape, resistances bands are great but if you’re looking to build serious muscle or strength, this is difficult to do with bands. There are better tools for these jobs.
Kettlebells were originally used in Russia in the 1800’s as a weight to measure grains and other goods. However, Russian vendors started swinging and lifting these kettlebells to show their strength and quickly recognized the health benefits.
Maybe the Russians realized they didn’t have to torture themselves with jogging in the cold.
You’ll find them in most gyms, all alone in the corner, unloved, and begging for you to use it. It could be your easiest pick up ever.
Dumbbells and barbells center the weight in your hand,but a kettlebell’s center of mass is about six to eight inches from the handle,and that can change depending on what exercise you’re performing. (1)
Why is that an advantage?
This makes exercises like press, rows, squats and carries more interesting by demanding more of your midsection because every repetition is a new adventure. And this burns more calories, which makes the kettlebell a great tool for fat loss.
And when you discover the power of the kettlebell swing you’ll bulletproof your backside, save your joints and yourself from boredom.Because let’s face it, cardio machines are not the most exciting thing in the world.
Kettlebells blend strength, endurance and power in to the perfect little package. There is no other tool is like this one.
Because this tool is different, there is a learning curve with some movements such as swings, snatches, Turkish Get ups and windmills. Seeking out a qualified instructor or learning the hard way are your two choices.
The kettlebells only come in certain weights and there is a big jump from one weight to the next, so strength becomes an issue,particularly for the pressing exercises. And the bigger the kettlebell, the more difficult it becomes to handle.
The unique handle of the kettlebell takes getting usedto and it can be hard on your hands and wrists.
6. Suspension training
Note– Although they’re various products on the market, I’ll be talking about the TRX.
The TRX was invented on the fields of battle by Randy Hetrick in 1997 as a method to keep in shape while getting shot at and in 2005 it started showing up in gyms everywhere.
The TRX is highly portable and you can train anywhere from the gym, home or even outdoors. It’s almost a gym in a bag. The exercise variety is wide, and you can move in all ranges of motion, train your body from various angles using just your bodyweight.
You can increase and decrease the intensity of some exercises by simply moving your feet closer or further away from the anchor point. And because of the nature of suspension training, the bodies stabilizing muscles are engaged which makes it a great tool for fat loss.
From trainer standpoint, it’s a tool I use to teach clients exercise basics such as squats, row and push-ups. Exercises are easily regressed at the beginning, so clients can get the hang of it and when they get more confident, exercises are progressed.
Due to the unstable nature of the TRX is not a too lyou would use for strength training. You can get stronger, but load becomes an issue for a lot of exercises. Some exercises are difficult, requires some hard learning and because of this your injury risk goes up.
You need to make a lot of adjustments ( handles, strap length and body position) when switching between different exercises which is time consuming and results in a loss of tempo.
And when it comes to leg training, you’re limited by the amount of exercises that you can perform.
Wow, that was long and thanks for sticking it out. You’re probably hungry, so please get yourself a snack but don’t go crazy.
Most jobs require different tools to get the work done and it is no different when it comes to your workouts. Mix and matching your tools will keep you progressing, keep your workouts interesting and your waistline happy.
If you need help matching tools to your goals, you can hit me up here.