Olympic and Standard Barbells and Dumbbells

Why Everyone Should Have a Set of Free Weights

With so much information on the market about products, exercise methodology, nutrition, supplements, etc., etc., it is easy to get confused about fundamentals. Not all new research or equipment is frivolous or unnecessary, of course. There are just some principles about the physiology of exercise and the fitness equipment used to achieve results that have not changed and are still effective.

Case in point-free weights. Real shocker, right? These have been around since the dawn of man in one form or another, but always seem to go through a phase of being minimized by the fitness industry at large when something 'new' comes along. Whether you buy into the latest craze or not, or even if you disagree with my observation, here is why everyone should have a good set of free weights:

-They are relatively inexpensive. The good thing about new trends is they seem to drive people to sell off their 'old' and 'useless' free weight sets. Better for those shopping for them.

-Progressive Overload and Comprehensive Training. There are rings, cables, suspension trainers and other resistance equipment on the market, but at some point, only a handful of exercises performed on these tools provide enough of a challenge to make your body adapt.

Free weights allow the trainee to progress at their own pace to a theoretically infinite level, and execute compound and isolation movements with precision for the whole body.

-Life Specific/Sport Specific. Nothing emulates moving objects in life like training with free weights. Sorry, but that's that. Other equipment such as suspension training is an excellent complement to free weight training for sports, but guess where collegiate and pro teams place training emphasis on? Yup, free weights.

What qualifies as a free weight? Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and any other inanimate object such as a sandbag, rock, atlas stone, etc. Bodyweight is generally considered just as effective as free weight, but for the average trainee, this is rarely true. While you can blast your upper body for a long time with bodyweight alone, eventually you need additional weight, and your legs are unlikely to reach maximum potential on just body weight training.

Maybe I've just stirred up the hornet's nest, but the bottom line is this: barbells, dumbbells or another form of free weights are essential to reaching maximum strength and muscle gains. That's why professional sports teams have used them for decades and continue to emphasize this training today.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Troy has a great reputation, and look at the price for 300# of olympic weights. Not bad. You would pay close to that for used. If this is out of the budget, check classified or look at year-end sportings goods stores sales. You can usually find some steals. I've listed these two sets, because a.) the handles on the plates are a  great convenience-no more pinched fingers or difficulty picking up off the floor. b.) Because there is something so cool, not to mention quieter, about the rubberized set. If you can afford it, you will love it.

This CAP 60# kettlebell is one of the better prices I've seen, and they have proven to be a quality manufacturer so far. Disclaimer:  I have not had a chance to try out their kettlebells, this is included as a good buy.

Dumbbells are essential. Ok, you can live without them, but it would be a mistake in my opinion. Now, whereas I think the Bowflex Selecttech's 552 and 1090 are great and worthy technology, which you can see here , they are expensive. A pair of spinning collar, adjustable dumbbells will do fine. Just do not waste your money on the rubber grip type below! 

They are cheap, but the rubber slips when the collars are tightened, and after a time it can crack and come off. Lame. Once the rubber is gone, there is nothing to keep the plates from slipping off. Spend a few more dollars on the all steel versions shown below and forget about it. If you need grips, maybe some bicycle grips or baseball bat wrap can help.



Now I could do an entire page on racks, benches, etc. The problem is, I don't have a bench and don't want one, so that's out. The floor works fine for me, along with some cinder blocks when I want elevation. However, I realize not everyone shares my love of laying on the ground to press, so if barbell bench presses are on your list, get a good bench, like the ones here:

While these are pricier than the average set you might find at a local sporting good's store, they are worth the price in terms of safety and quality construction. No to mention future strength gains. This is the bench selection you want if you plan on packing on heavy weight to your bench press.

Squats are a great exercise which must be done safely, and with any significant weight that means a good squat rack/s.

I've tried placing saw horses on top of cinder blocks, but I trembled each time I went under the bar, yikes! When I came across these I knew I'd found a compromise between safety and price. Most squat racks like these will set you back about $300-$600 or more. These are less than two hundred.

Points: It adjust from 30-60 inches, so if you insisted on having a bench for doing bench presses, all you need is a cheap bench to stick under here. Also, at 60 inches height, it is just enough to justify it as a squat rack, but may be too short for taller trainees. Sure beats saw horses though!

I have yet to find out where the company discloses just how much weight these can handle, but I'm not worried. I'm certain it's well over 300, and at this time I can't even squat that. Plus, it's made with a 2" steel frame, plenty solid.

These are a really good price for a 300# rubberized olympic weight set. A freakin' steal, really.

I will be the first to admit this is a bit pricey for a new standard weight set. However, I think every home gym should have one, and you get both your dumbbells handles and a barbell with it. The wonderful thing about this set is the grip plate. This little manufacturing trick should have shown up on the market years ago. It's not better than sliced bread, but it's downright respectable.

On another note, this is not the set I wanted to feature, which was at least $100 cheaper (new). The only thing I found close to this lower price was at Walmart, and the reviews were not so hot. Check out this nice CAP set, though, and shop through the available sellers for the best price.

More products to come.  Remember, no matter what equipment you buy, the most important factor is you...oh, and a set of free weights!