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Strength training is all about exercising to develop your muscles and help you become stronger. The benefits of strength training go far beyond just making your muscles look like Popeye as it can benefit your general stamina, your ability to recover from injury and the efficiency with which you burn calories.
Strength workouts are most effective when you use alongside cardiovascular exercise, thus creating a complete body workout. Resistance is important in weight training as this builds anaerobic endurance. Resistance makes the muscle work harder giving you an effective strength training workout.
Weight training is the best known way to build resistance in to your strength training. You can either isolate a muscle or there are some weight exercises that will work multiple muscle groups. When you are strength training you will be completing your exercises in what is called sets and reps. "Rep" is short for repetition and refers to how many times you lift the weight. A "set" is how many 'groups' of repetitions.
Below we highlight a number of key pieces of equipment that will help you build strength.
A free weight is thus called as the weights are free from any enclosure. You will also see them referred to as hand weights, barbells or dumbbells. There is an ongoing debate around whether free weights are better in strength training than weight machines. It is generally accepted that free weights don’t restrict movement which is great for building strength but it can also cause injury, so beware.
So what should you consider when buying free weights? Check the quality of what you are buying, the old saying about you get what you pay for is so true here. Think about whether you want to buy weights that are set at a particular weight or whether you want to be able adjust the weight. Buying adjustable weights can be useful if you are starting out and will want to build up to heavier weights. They can also be more versatile if you want to use different weights for different exercises. Think about storage of weights; remember that a lot of accidents happen from falling weights. Another consideration is whether to buy metal or synthetic coated free weights. Metal tends to last longer whilst rubber coated weights require less maintenance.
Along with free weights a weight bench is a pretty essential piece of strength training kit. There are lots of different benches to choose from, so what should you consider? First of all, think carefully about all the exercises you do and may want to progress to doing. This will govern the type of bench you choose from FID to Flat bench.
A flat bench may be fine for you but some exercises will require an incline or decline bench. Some benches come with weight rack storage which can be great if space is limited. Do check how much weight the bench will take and finally do look at the accessories you can get with your bench. As you develop your free weight training some of these accessories could become more important.
Multigyms offer a range of different components to it so you can carry out a range of different exercises with it. Most will include the weight lifting that is so important in strength training. So for example most have a leg press. Most of these models rely on a pulley system so you can adjust the level of weight required. Another feature worth looking out for is a bench that is detachable, thus giving you more flexibility. You may also find that some multi gyms even have a cardio element to them, although you will find that these are more expensive.
Finally when buying a multi gym do check how well it is manufactured, look for steel frameworks and solid welds. What are the advantages of a multi gym? The main advantage is that they are safe, you don’t require a spotter and therefore injuries are minimised. Many allow you to carry out a wide range of different exercises and as they have a fixed path of motion your direction is very controlled which can be useful for beginners to weight training.
Squats are a great way to build muscle. A squat rack is essentially a rack with pegs in it at various heights so you can rest your barbells on it. It mainly helps your lower body by allowing you to perform heavy squats. What should you look for when purchasing a squat rack? The first thing is to buy high quality as lightweight steel can move when you are using it, which is not great. So check for strong stability and sturdiness. Look for adjustable barbell latches and safety bars. And finally, before you buy do check the space you have available, these tend to be bigger pieces of equipment and also check that your home floor will take the weight.