I got my first gym membership when I was in college. Our campus gym was far too outdated so we were able to get great rates at a new facility nearby.
It’s funny looking back, because I had absolutely no idea what I was suppose to be doing. I probably looked lost each time I went, but without any support or guidance I was. Or they just thought I was a “blonde” and always had that blank look on my face.
So I did the only thing I knew: hung out on the cardio deck and wasted time on a few machines. At least the machines had little graphics on them telling me what to do.
Thank goodness things have changed and you know now my feelings on machines. They suck… well at least 95% of them do. In fact, most gym equipment sucks and is just there to fill in the floor to make the place look a lot fancier than it really is. The Jacob’s Ladder… really? Have I ever mentioned that our gym at one of those crazy vibrator boards? You pushed a button and the whole thing shook like earthquake, apparently it was suppose to help you tone up. It just made me more aware of spots that jiggled.
Which is why I wanted to put this list together. I really am working on making it a habit to talk about the positive… so instead of listing out the top 10 worst pieces of gym equipment, let’s focus our attention on the best:
Top 10 Best Pieces Of Gym Equipment
1. Squat Rack.
Keep in mind: Leotard is optional
It’s more than just a tool for improving your squats. You can squat, deadlift, row, clean, and do pull-ups within. If you are aiming to get stronger with a squat this is how you want to do it! It helps to get the bar placed just right on the back, and with the safety side bars, you feel much safer going up in weight.
What… mirrors? Yup, they are there for a reason and it’s not to check out the hot guy working out right behind you. Use the mirrors to focus on your form, just by keeping your eyes locked on yourself you’re already working on it (keeping your head up and in a neutral position).
By focusing on yourself, you will have better luck at zoning out and having a great workout.
3. Assisted Pull-up Bar.
See, not all machines are terrible. This is one that I support 90%. Why not 100? Because, as you progress, it’s important to work towards not using it. I think sometimes we get comfortable and it’s like a pacifier from trying the real thing.
Before using the assisted, try to do at least 1 “real” pull-up. By doing this, one day you’ll surprise yourself as you pull you chin up and over the bar.
4. Medicine Balls.
I love medicine balls, but it seems as if I am the only one. They always sit their by their lonesome, collecting dust.
They are great for plyometric work like squat jumps/lunge jumps; great for turning a move from challenging to extra challenging (i.e. try push-ups with one hand on a ball); and great for core work like ball tosses, rotations, and slams.
5. Jump Ropes.
If your gym has a gym rope, use them.
Did you know that calories burnt per minute of jumping rope is roughly the same as running at a 6 minute/mile pace? It’s a serious workout and perfect for intervals.
If the idea of jumping in place bores you, make a fun playlist and jump for the length of a song. Rest and repeat.
Or of course follow this jump rope circuit!
6. Cable Machines.
As you pull on a cable, the resistance increases and when you’re done with the rep, you have to focus on allowing the cable to return to the starting position. Otherwise you’ll have everyone in the gym staring at you after the weight comes crashing down.
This form of exercise is great for rows (which is the most common use for them) but also core work. You’re core will work harder to stabilize and control the cable throughout the movement.
7. Free weights.
I don’t think I have to say too much about this except that dumbbells and barbells are the top dogs in terms of strength training. Don’t be afraid of them, walk up there, grab a set of dumbbells and take your workout up a level.
8. Aerobic Stepper.
I use the aerobic steppers all the time. And never for step aerobics. These are great for uneven push-ups and lunges; jumps like long jumps, box jumps and lateral jumps; and I always use them for squats. I place about 3 of the stackers under my tush to make sure when I squat I am getting the range of motion I want = the results I want.
9. Pre-weighted barbells.
The small barbells to the side or smack in the middle of your weights. They often range from 20 lbs to 100 lbs and go up in increments of 10. I love these for doing moves where you want the barbell feel and weight but not the size. Great for walking lunges (I don’t recommend doing lunges with a full barbell on your back!), rows and presses. They are a great tool for progressing as they can introduce the barbell feel to your body but because they’re about half the size can make it a bit more manageable and comfortable.
Over the past 2 months, I have really talked kettlebells up and for good reason. Balance training, core work, power and cardio all wrapped into one oddly shaped weight. If you’ve been nervous to try a few exercises using the kettlebells, don’t. You will love them! Of course get some tips here, here and here!
Did I leave something off that you feel should make the Top 10? What?
Is there anything on this list that you’ve never tried before?
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