Gym equipment serves a variety of purposes

June 1, 2013

Most people consider the gym a place to work out and relax, but to an elite group of like-minded fitness enthusiasts it’s a complex laboratory full of precision instruments, each with a specific job to do and a purpose to serve. Those of you who mindlessly go through the motions at your local gym might want to take the time to understand what is offered and how it would be beneficial to plug into your routine.

Free weights

Hands down the most beneficial fitness equipment ever invented, free weights continue to be the staple for fitness programs ranging from pro athletes to senior citizens wanting better quality of life. Free weights are great because they increase strength, balance, coordination and raw power, and can be the key component for fat-incinerating workouts. Free weights come as dumbbells and barbells and can be used to perform compound movements - exercises involving more than one muscle group, unilateral movements - exercises using one limb at time, or isolation movements - exercises that focus on one particular muscle.


The most beneficial part of exercises using cables is they automatically put the muscles under constant tension. This means the targeted muscles never get a chance to relax and therefore recruit more muscle fibers, yielding greater results. Free weights sometimes provide small rest periods between transitions, but cables keep the muscles burning and under pressure. Cables also offer more versatility and smoother movements than free weights and can be great for beginners and experienced lifters alike.

Kettle bells

The newcomer to the American weightlifting scene and a favorite of crossfitters, kettle bells offer a new twist on training. Kettle bells are bell-shaped iron balls with handles, used to perform ballistic movements to build strength, cardiovascular fitness and endurance. A kettle bell’s unique handle allows it to be swung back and forth using momentum and explosive strength and providing a completely different workout than more traditional weightlifting equipment.

Body weight exercises

Exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, dips, crunches and bird dogs are excellent examples of body weight exercises that would be a great addition to any program. Body weight exercises are very beneficial because they work groups of muscles at the same time, requiring balance and core strength, and can be done almost anywhere with minimal space. Most gyms provide pull-up bars, dip stations and floor space, so you can add almost any type of body weight movement to your program for a comprehensive approach.


Today’s technology offers endless types of machinery designed to provide workouts that target specific muscle groups while providing control and safety and a variety of different hand grips, foot positions and angles. Machines can be an excellent way to mix things up through controlled movement that puts little to no pressure on the joints and connective tissue. They are also great ways to increase limit strength for beginners before adding more free weight movements to their programs.


Once only used by physical therapists for rehabilitation, bands have made their way into the mainstream fitness industry and have become an important training instrument used for a wide variety of purposes. The great thing about bands is they are very low impact on the joints, and they provide variable resistance through a range of movements. If used correctly, they can work specific weaknesses of a particular lift like the top of the bench press or the bottom of the squat, making the trainee stronger and more capable of greater accomplishments.

Swiss balls

A unique to way to add resistance incorporating core muscles and balance is to use the Swiss ball with various body weight and weightlifting exercises. This Swiss ball is a firm rubber ball filled with air that comes in a variety of different sizes on which you can sit, lay or lean while exercising. The air in the ball forces your body to maintain balance, forcing core and smaller stabilizer muscles to spring into action, working areas of the body that otherwise would be neglected.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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