Physical fitness is defined as a state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to participate in sports, occupations, and daily activities. Fitness equipment choices will, therefore, vary greatly depending on individual interpretation of what constitutes fitness for different lifestyles.
For example, the sport of golf entails much different physical demands than ice hockey. Likewise, occupational requirements for military operators and office workers vary greatly. Finally, even normal daily activities for energetic teens will be beyond the limitations of many octogenarians.
With these broad differences in mind, let’s look at a few ways you might go about achieving physical fitness for varying goals, and some of the different types of fitness equipment you might utilize.
Fitness Goal: Strength
Strength is my personal favorite type of fitness on which to focus. Keep in mind that acquiring one fitness attribute may come at the expense of others, and this is certainly true of acquiring great strength.
When I was competing regularly in powerlifting and was at my absolute strongest, my ability to sustain endurance activities like running for long periods of time was definitely limited. Balance be damned, I suppose, if you’re trying to lift a mountain.
Not all lifts are created equal when it comes to getting stronger. Compound lifts train far more muscle mass than isolation lifts and lead to much more substantial strength gains. Ergo, barbell back squatting trumps leg extensions for building leg strength.
If you really want to get strong in a hurry, you need less fitness equipment, not more. With only very basic training tools, you’ll be forced to focus on the meat and potatoes lifts that will pack slabs of muscle onto your frame. I recommend starting with only four pieces of fitness equipment for a basic strength training routine.
You’ll need a selection of weight plates and an olympic bar. Don’t skimp here. Buy good equipment and plan on it lasting for many years. IRON COMPANY’s urethane olympic plates with grips won’t rust or chip like cast iron, nor will they crack and peel like rubber coated weight plates. The IRON COMPANY 5150 20kg Olympic Bar is made from 195,000 PSI tensile strength steel for maximum protection against permanent bends and is completely coated in the most durable hard chrome armor plating available.
With its adjustable width and small footprint, the Body-Solid SPR250 Commercial Squat Stand can fit comfortably into any location with space concerns, such as a home gym or garage gym where space may be limited and a full squat rack won't fit. Constructed with 3"x3" 11-gauge steel and boasting a 1,000 pound weight rating, the SPR250 is a robust training rack. The optional Safety Spotter Arms—a wise investment if you ever plan to train alone—can be positioned in any of 22 holes spaced 1" apart along the lower portion of the uprights. Add a Legend Fitness 3100 Flat Utility Weight Bench to turn your squat stand into a bench press rack.
With these four pieces of fitness equipment, you’re all set for a basic strength and mass routine. Be sure to include a heavy dose of squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, overhead pressing, and rowing. Go ahead and curl too, since I know you will anyway.
Fitness Goal: Strength-Endurance
Hybrid fitness is the goal many people have in mind when they embark upon a training program. They want to be strong. They want to be able to run and jump. They want abs and a lean, muscular physique.
In short, they want it all. The problem is that having it all can be quite difficult to achieve. There’s a saying about serving two masters but not serving either one of them very well that sums up the challenges.
The elusive goal may not be unachievable though. Training methods like Crossfit do a good job of hitting the sweet spot between the strength and endurance worlds and striking the balance many adherents are seeking.
For someone like me whose strength-focused training has been grounded in regimented cycles that usually follow some sort of linear progression over a period of 8-12 weeks, hybrid training can seem a bit haphazard. There’s really no arguing with the results, however.
Those who have the fortitude to complete these grueling workouts may not end up as strong as powerlifters or with the endurance of marathoners, but they can often become quite accomplished at both. Think of them as decathletes, with mesomorphic physiques to match their athletic exploits.
If you have similar goals, your training isn’t going to be all about squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. Sure, you’ll still practice those lifts, but you’re also going to need a few versatile pieces of fitness equipment that allow you to move a little more freely and train a bit more aerobically.
IRON COMPANY’s Premium Powder Coated Kettlebells are an indispensable tool for a training program mixing both strength and endurance components. Movements like swings, cleans, high pulls, and snatches can be strung together creatively in laddered sets done for time that require both muscular strength and endurance to complete.
Moving one’s own body mass through space with traditional bodyweight exercises like push-ups and air squats has long been a staple strength-endurance training method. The CrossCore® Rotational Bodyweight Training System is a revolutionary piece of fitness equipment that opens up a world of possibilities for introducing new bodyweight movements into your training.
Perhaps as a way to differentiate from powerlifting, strongman competitions evolved over many years to emphasize the ability not just to stand in one place and lift heavy objects, but also to move heavy loads from one place to another in medleys that involve carrying, dragging, and pushing. As a result, a new kind of leaner, fitter, quicker, and more agile competitor emerged.
Eventually, many of the training methods of these new super athlete strongmen made their way to university strength and conditioning programs and Crossfit boxes, often via homemade equipment. The Legend Fitness 3400 Modular Push / Pull Weighted Turf Sled is a modern, well designed piece of commercial fitness equipment born from this early experimentation that gives you the ability to incorporate heavy pushing and pulling into your program and to experience the rapid improvement in work capacity this demanding style of training can confer.
Fitness Goal: Endurance
While “the pump” offers the ultimate workout endorphin release for many, others prefer the “runner’s high” that can be obtained by pushing one’s endurance training limits. The easiest, and probably most enjoyable, way of doing this is by getting outside for a long run or bike ride.
If you live in the Northeastern US like me, however, outdoor training might only be practical for a few months each year. Summer temperatures frequently exceed 90º with high accompanying humidity, while winters can see weeks on end where temperatures rarely rize above freezing. The porridge is only just right for a month or two each spring and fall.
This leaves three choices: tough it out, join a gym, or spring for a back-up plan. While some will opt for a gym membership, savvy exercisers with a little extra space at home may make the wise decision to invest in reasonably priced fitness equipment that mimics their favorite outdoor mode of endurance training and pays for itself in a few months.
The Spirit Fitness XT685 Light Commercial Treadmill packs a lot of value into a reasonable price point, including a non-folding platform base designed to stand up to the rigors of frequent running. Other features include a bright blue backlit LCD console, wireless heart rate monitoring (telemetric chest strap included), remote speed and incline controls, and Bluetooth compatibility with the SPIRIT FIT Mobile App to monitor and record your workout data.
If you’re willing to open your wallet a little wider, you can step up to the Assault AirRunner Manual Treadmill. The AirRunner runs on your energy, with zero electrical consumption and a low carbon footprint, and its curved surface sets even beginning runners immediately into proper running form.
Unlike motorized treadmills, there’s no inputting your desired speed and waiting for the belt to catch up or slow down. This machine conforms instantly to your desired speed the moment you change your pace, making it ideal for high intensity interval training (HIIT). Built-in transport wheels and a compact footprint makes the AirRunner adaptable to just about any training space.
If biking is more to your liking, Spirit Fitness offers comparably priced recumbent and upright bikes with many attractive features, the CR800 and CU800. Easy adjustments, bright LED screens, a turbo cooling fan, high density foam seats, challenging programs, 40 levels of magnetic resistance, and a generator powered console are standard on both models. The optional entertainment package features a modern 10.1" touchscreen display that allows you to watch TV, browse the web, and stream your favorite music.
Fitness Goal: All the Fitness!
For my money, fitness for a lifetime requires a true mix of strength, strength-endurance, and endurance training. I touched on this some in the strength-endurance section, but provided you’re not competing in a sport that requires a specific type of fitness, you should consider going even further in designing a “jack of all trades but master of none” program that exposes you to many different training methods.
Ideally, you’d spend about a third of your training time building each fitness attribute. If, for example, you had three hours per week to devote to training, you’d spend about an hour on traditional barbell lifts; an hour swinging kettlebells, pushing, carrying, and dragging, and practicing bodyweight exercises; and an hour on long slow distance (LSD) training in your target heart rate zone.
Of course, you could slant your program slightly toward your favorite type of fitness without sacrificing the other two completely. In my case, this would mean spending about half my available training time working on strength and a quarter on each of the other two types of fitness.
Regardless of exactly how you structure your training, think of the fun you’ll have collecting all the toys I reviewed above and becoming proficient with them in your own little home-based fitness equipment emporium.
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).