When it comes to choosing exercise equipment, the landscape is confusing to say the least. What type of training will you be doing? Strength training, endurance training, and bodyweight training all have different equipment requirements. Even after you’ve narrowed down the type of training, you have many categories of equipment to choose from with advantages and disadvantages to each, including free weights, exercise machines, resistance bands, push/pull sleds, odd objects, and others.
In an ongoing and seemingly never-ending pandemic, perhaps a more useful way of thinking about the various exercise equipment choices available centers around where you’ll be training. Sure, it’d be nice to visit your local gym and use commercial exercise equipment, but that may not be possible right now. Not to worry though, as there are many different residential exercise equipment choices available to fit most budgets. Let’s take a look then at a sampling of what’s out there so that you can make more informed choices about your training needs.
Before you jump to the conclusion that residential exercise equipment is inferior in quality to commercial exercise equipment, you should understand the purpose for which each is designed. While commercial exercise equipment is designed to take a pounding by many users from the time the gym opens every morning until it closes late in the evening, residential exercise equipment does not need to withstand that sort of continuous pounding.
Though some may simply want a top end power rack constructed of 3”x3” 11-gauge steel, for example, such robust materials are certainly not necessary in the typical residential setting. In fact, a beefy rack like this might even be a detriment in a home gym, because it will be so difficult to move around.
To really get a sense of the differences, let’s compare two Body-Solid racks. First, we’ll look at the Body-Solid PPR500 Powerline Premium Half Rack designed for home and garage gyms. It features 2" x 2" 14-gauge steel frame construction and a 700-pound weight capacity that will be more than adequate for all but elite level powerlifters. With a footprint that measures 50.2" L x 50.9" W x 83" H and a product weight of 113 pounds, you won’t need an airplane hangar to house it or a forklift to move it.
In contrast, the Body-Solid SPR1000 Commercial Power Rack is fully commercial rated. Built like a tank, it’s 3" x 3" 11-gauge steel frame construction is designed for high use and heavy duty training, as reflected in its 1000-pound weight capacity. When assembled, it will occupy a space measuring 81" L x 53" W x 90" H, and the person who can move this 391-pound beast without help can probably skip the gym altogether for a while.
We’ve all heard the advice about choosing the right tool for the job, and it certainly applies when choosing exercise equipment. Either of these racks would be an excellent purchase choice, provided it was utilized in the appropriate setting.
Let’s take a look now at one of the most popular exercise machines found in both commercial gyms and serious home gyms, the lat pulldown / low row. Go to any well-equipped commercial gym, and you’ll find a selectorized lat pulldown similar to the Legend Fitness SelectEDGE 1120 Selectorized Lat Pulldown / Low Row Combo in heavy use. This particular unit features a two-position seat that makes switching to low rows quick and easy. With aviation-grade cables, a steel tower shroud, and 250-pound weight stack, this monster weighs in at a staggering 982 pounds. At $3,105, it’s also going to be priced well outside the budget of even very serious home trainers.
Enter the Legend Fitness 3136 Plate-loaded Lat Pulldown / Low Row. Okay, so you’ll have to sit on the floor to row instead of on the fancy seat, and you’ll have to load plates instead of simply adjusting a pin in a weight stack. You’ll also have the envy of every garage gym in the neighborhood at a much more budget-friendly price of $1,156. Use it regularly, and your lats and mid-back might also be the neighborhood’s envy.
You might think that power racks and exercise machines are unique in that there’s a level of complexity to their design that makes a sliding scale of choices from low end to high end inevitable. When it comes to weight plates and dumbbells, however, perhaps you think they’re “just weights” and that there couldn’t possibly be such a wide range of price points. Not so fast, my friend. Even with training tools as seemingly simple as weight plates and dumbbells, there’s a fair amount of variability.
At the low end of the spectrum you’ll find plates like CAP Barbell’s Charcoal Cast Iron Standard Barbell Olympic Plates. These bargain-priced plates are commonly found in garage gyms, school weight rooms, training studios, and even commercial gyms. Their 2" center holes will accept any Olympic-style bar with 2" diameter sleeves. They don’t include gripping handles or any type of impact resistant coating like more expensive weight plates, but they’re durable and will provide years of service.
If you own a high-end commercial facility or simply want the best product available, you’ll go with IRON COMPANY’S Urethane Olympic Plates with Grips. These premium plates are constructed from high-grade cast iron cores, covered in odorless and impact resistant German polyurethane, and include a functional 3-hole grip pattern that allows for easy loading and unloading. Because of their ability to outlast iron and rubber coated plates, urethane weight plates are the number one free weight choice of commercial gyms and military bases. Urethane can even be laser cut for custom logos and branding opportunities.
As you might guess, dumbbells and kettlebells follow a similar pattern when it comes to pricing and quality. Though still a substantial investment because of the high cost of materials, you’ll find offerings like CAP Barbell’s Gray Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells and IRON COMPANY Premium Powder Coated Kettlebells toward the bottom of the pricing hierarchy. Before you write these products off, however, realize that for decades cast iron represented the gold standard in quality exercise equipment. Only in recent years have higher end rubber and urethane coatings become widely available outside the best equipped strength and conditioning facilities.
If you want the best, however, you can have it by stepping up to IRON COMPANY’s Urethane Solid Steel Dumbbells. Each solid steel dumbbell head is precision cut and bored for an accuracy within +/-1.5% of its stated weight. Solid steel handles are milled from high tensile carbon steel that’s heat treated for added strength and plated with a durable hard chrome finish that won't flake or peel. Handles are then press fit completely through each head and fully welded on the outside for the most durable structural integrity. Heads are fully encased in the thickest, hardest wearing German polyurethane available. Likewise, IRON COMPANY's Urethane Competition Kettlebells feature similar best-in-class quality, including smooth, hard chromed steel handles for workouts that are much easier on the hands compared to the more abrasive texture of cast iron.
Now that we’ve seen a glimpse of the wide range of residential and commercial exercise equipment available for strength training, let’s take a look at probably the most popular piece of endurance training exercise equipment, the treadmill. When evaluating treadmills, the myriad of choices available means you can spend as much as you would on a car if you want.
The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to find a high quality home fitness treadmill. The Body-Solid Endurance T3i Treadmill packs many excellent features, including tread belts that are guaranteed for life, a low maintenance deck, a multi-point shock absorption system, and a 2.2 HP continuous duty motor, all at a budget-friendly price of $1,499 that’s ideal for home users.
At a little more than twice the budget price, you can step up to the Body-Solid T150 Commercial Treadmill for $3,500. For the extra investment, you’ll be getting a more robust 4 HP motor that supports running at speeds up to 12.5 mph and all-steel welded construction that can stand up to heavy use in light commercial facilities like police and fire department gyms, hotel fitness centers, apartment complex gyms, rehabilitation clinics, and government facilities.
Nearly doubling your investment again to $6,495 gets you into the commercial grade treadmill universe with the SportsArt T645L Performance Series Club Treadmill, a model built for all day use in dues paying facilities that features a powerful 4.0 hp AC Servo motor, spacious 22”x61” running surface, and a maximum weight limit of 450 pounds. Club members will benefit from the variety of workouts and fitness tests with speed, time, calories burned per hour, distance, and heart rate featured on the LED display screen.
As previously stated, when it comes to selecting exercise equipment, it all boils down to choosing the right tool for the right job. That means knowing who will be using it and how often and then selecting accordingly within budget. With the widest selection of quality products available, rest assured IRON COMPANY has the right equipment to meet your needs.
About the Author: Visit Chuck Miller's website for more of his writing on a variety of topics, including his strength training book, Inside the Mind of an Iron Icon (foreword by IRON COMPANY featured writer, Marty Gallagher).