The best piece of exercise equipment is the one you’ll use
Freeweights doesn’t just mean dumbbells. Barbell and plates would also be considered freeweights. Anything that isn’t connected to a machine via pulley. As @DaveWh points out, since the weights are unattached, you need to balance the weight with your whole body, recruiting a lot more stabilizing muscles. If your goal is injury avoidance, then this is something you really want. General strength building of the whole body. The problem with the “home/multi gym contraptions” is that they generally go for muscle isolation work. This can lead to muscle imbalances (strengthening some muscles, but the smaller supporting muscles remain weak) which isn’t desirable. Another problem is the way these muscles are developed. For example a seated leg extension is designed to strengthen the quadricep, but do you ever need your quadriceps when you’re sitting down pushing your legs up? Ideally what you’re looking for is compound muscle movements that mirror the real world. Take a look at the squat, which works nearly every muscle in your body and perfectly mirrors the movement of picking a heavy box up off the floor. Yes, you need to be conscious of technique so that you don’t hurt yourself, but it’s not that hard and very learnable (and there are tons of books and youtube videos available).
Before you commit to a bulky piece of equipment that you’re not sure you’ll use, I would recommend doing some reading first. Here are a couple of books to get started:
This book shows you the technique and proper biomechanics of the major lifts (which to be honest are all you actually need for general body conditioning). So, this book is the “how” of barbell training.
This book gives you an introduction to strength training for someone “off the couch”. Diet, motivation, mindset, structure and workout programming to get you started.
You can buy all the equipment in the world, but honestly all you really need is power rack, a barbell and a set of plates. It will not only be better for you, it’s likely a lot cheaper and take up less space than buying the contraption you’re mentioning.
I understand the frustration with the gym, I plan my weight lifting more around the convenient gym hours as opposed to when it makes the most sense due to that. In your case however I would recommend finding a barbell gym with an experienced coach and do that for ~2-3 months. Once you get started and gain some confidence you’ll learn how to do it safely. Also if you’re a total beginner than I doubt the loads would be high enough to really cause much damage. Usually isolation machines only give the illusion of safely but can create really dangerous imbalances.
After I canceled my gym membership, I bought this product and it has been working for me.
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Yep. I have a 40lb kettlebell, 40lb dumbbell, and a set of rock rings. That does it for me.
I tried the squat rack but disliked the idea of the weight being above me in case I slipped, etc. I have gone for a a deadlift hex bar. This allows me to pick up and then very much the same exercise as a squat. I also use a weight jacket which helps with keeping the weight centred.
For more stabiliser work I do single leg squats with bar bells and the weight jacket.
I have always had issues with squats and deadlifts, and just tried deadlifting with the hex bar and problem solved.
Thanks for all the advice everyone. I’ve decided to put on hold a multi gym whilst I try and find a local trainer /coach who understands that not all people who want to do weights wants to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ll then decide on what to do after trying that route. I had a lower back problems for 30+years after a series of car accidents in my rallying days and they only cleared up when I retired and took up cycling. I’m scared stiff of them reoccurring if I do weights incorrectly.
Always Free Weights for me. You end using more muscles with Free Weights as you need to control the weight yourself instead of having a machine do it for you!
While I can see exceptions, say Squats for example… If I can still lift the weight over my head for a squat… well having no upper body strength being a cyclist… I’m calling that an Upper Body Workout too!
That’s a prudent approach. FWIW, I had a Bowflex many years ago and the exercises were just so restrictive in movement that it sat and ultimately it went. Free weights (kettlebells etc) really are the way to go and despite the misconception, by lifting isn’t going to make you “bulk up” like a bodybuilder. People work really hard to make those gains. The big advantage is you work all muscles in compound movements including all the little stabilizer muscles, which are the ones that tend to cause grief rather than the large ones.
Trust me, you’re not going to start lifting weights and wake up one day looking like Arnold by accident. Kind of like how someone isn’t going to ride their bike for 5 hours a week and end up beating Froome up Alpe d’Huez.
Sounds like the best way to go about it for sure. As others have said, lifting weights isn’t going to turn you into a bouncer. Body composition is 90% diet, you’ll only grow muscles if you feed them … a lot. I lift heavy (for me) at my home but since cycling is my primary focus, my body never have the calorie surplus to gain size. So I gain strength and definition, but not bulk. Good luck with the trainer.
I like to do a couple of months at the gym during the winter (starting next week) spent lifting weights (think bench press, squats, dead lifts, lunges, pull ups, etc.). Then I transition to using my TRX straps (I actually bought a knock off brand because I felt $100 for a set of straps was a bit pricey) which I have set up in my garage next to my trainer. I have four different full body workouts setup on an app on the phone (fit notes), generally try to get in 1-2 workouts per week. I think it does a LOT to keep up general strength, especially your core.
I love the hex bar dead lift. When I did conventional dead lifts I had a problem arcing my back to deal with the weight being in front of my center of gravity. The hex bar solves that problem.
Best decision i ever made was to ditch the monthly gym membership and build my own garage gym. The up-front cost is a bit steep but it pays off in the first year depending on your membership dues.
I got one of these:
and then outfitted it with a good barbell, some bumper plates, some rings and a 30# med ball and box. Can do basically every major movement with it without issue. Have since added a landmine plug for the bumper plate and some bands.
Love just being able to roll out there and bang out a quick workout, turn the music up as loud as i want, and not have to wait for any pieces of equipment.
sounds like you should spend some time and focus on proper form. Moving to a hex bar isn’t going to address your form, and the chances of you lifting heavier with poor form and hurting yourself goes up exponentially when you don’t address the fundamentals.
I’d love to see pictures of people setups. I am traveling now but at home have:
About 250lbs of bumper plates
Resistance bands (good for mobility, stretching, warmup, pull-up assistance for visitors)
35,45,62, lb kettlebells
I really love using the kettlebells and use the rings fairly often. Ring dips are fantastic for strength for mtb as they build strength and tons of stability.
Olympic barbell is so versatile though, especially for lifting heavy. Deadlifts, cleans, squats, and so much more. Investing in some coaching for the weightlifting was some of the best money I’ve spent so I think going that route is a good idea before just buying the equipment.
For what it’s worth, I have had back problems in the past too. I worry a lot about form, but I’ve found that doing deadlifts with good form and a challenging weight usually leaves my back feeling better than before, and over time as I have been consistent with deadlifts (and squats) I have been more comfortable, more able to maintain good posture, and overall less worried about my back.
I look at it like any other kind of training stress: some stress is good to disturb homeostasis and trigger supercompensation, while too much stress causes damage from which you can’t recover. Since my back problems were caused by my back being too weak for basic activities, maintaining homeostasis was not a recipe for healthy living, but at some point in the future it will be (and the degree of difficulty to disturb homeostasis will incur more risk).
On the other hand, early on in my back problems I started doing yoga, and would happily recommend it too. There is a yoga class and adaptations to the poses appropriate for just about everyone, with lots of opportunities to progress over time and do quite a lot to improve posture and ‘core’ strength in ways that will protect your back outside of practice.
Sure, you can see mine here: Let's see your paincave!. It’s a Rogue Power Rack with barbell, bumper plates, dip horns, landmine and row handle. I can’t do everything, but I can do 100% of what I need to.
Clearly you haven’t been on Instagram and noticed the new fitness crazy! The gym isn’t that bad of a place.
Not sure how much space you have?
You can use a Smith Machine:
Functional trainers such as Lifefitness
Competitor to Lifefitness
Also, TechnoGym’s weird contraption (this is all over France and European Hotels)
IT is not my fave but it works and fits in a small space.
As others pointed out the racks have safety systems:
I don’t like TechnoGym per se, but their home training system isn’t bad. Compact and gets a lot of function in a small space.
If you we have convinced you to go with a rack with safety spotters, I would go with Rogue. I did after looking at all the options and having teenagers I didn’t want to get hurt. The downside, is the anchoring system limits where you can locate the rack.
I would look at getting a 3 way bench regardless of choice:
Kettlebells are splendid as well:
I go to the gym and use my home gym. So, I feel your pain on heading to the gym and dealing with knuckleheads. However, I am usually there for a couple hours during kids practices. Thus, have no choice. When they are not at practice, I prefer just to walk to my garage and get my lift on.
Good luck M8!