Whether you are focusing on strength building, weight loss, or cardio, there is gym equipment that can help.
Regardless of your personal goals in the gym, whether that be increasing your strength or losing weight, equipment can be a powerful tool. While bodyweight exercises are useful in their own right, adding the best gym equipment into your workout can enhance the progress towards your goals. Read on to learn about what gym equipment is best for each of those specific goals.
Common misconceptions about burning calories
Before diving into the most effective gym equipment to use for achieving your gym goals, it’s important to make a distinction regarding calories. Many beginners often assume that to lose weight, they should focus exclusively on cardio and stay away from free weights and gym equipment. However, this is an inaccurate assumption.
While it’s true that standard cardio will generally burn more calories in a single workout session than weightlifting, it doesn’t mean you should stay away from weights. The human body burns calories both when active and at rest, but cardio primarily targets active calories burning. Increasing your resting energy expenditure, which is how many calories you burn at rest, can be done by building muscle mass.
This is due to the fact that muscles burn more calories at rest than some other tissues. In fact, studies have shown that weightlifting can result in a marginal 9% increase in resting metabolism in men and a nearly 4% increase in women. While this may not seem like a lot, studies have also shown that weightlifting will burn more calories in the hours after a workout session than cardio.
Therefore, no matter what your gym goals are, integrating the best of both strength and cardio gym equipment is the most effective way to hit your mark.
Effective gym equipment for all workouts
Using the best gym equipment available to you is only half the battle. Pushing yourself every workout to hit new personal records and reach new heights should always be at the top of mind. Use the following list of effective gym equipment based on workout type to enhance your training and surpass your limits:
The best gym equipment for strength building
When focused on muscle strength training, there are two general strategies: muscle growth and simply strength increasing. The former relies on inducing hypertrophy in your muscles, which is essentially the breakdown of muscle fibers so that they repair themselves thicker, thus increasing muscle mass. Strength training, on the other hand, focuses on improving the amount of load your muscles can handle, and improving the overall strength of your muscles.
Hypertrophy workouts rely on more reps and less weight, whereas strength training relies on fewer reps with more weight (typically around to above 85% of a single rep max).
Regardless of the path you choose, the following equipment can be used to tackle these strategies:
Free-weights are some of the oldest pieces of gym equipment in existence and dumbbells are an extremely useful tool in the gym. They can be used to bolster upper body workouts, lower body workouts, and even core workouts, depending on your goals.
Some examples of common dumbbell exercises include:
- Dumbbell bench press
- Dumbbell fly
- Overhead shoulder press
- Goblet squat
- Lateral shoulder raises
- Overhead Tricep extensions
- Russian twists
The exercises listed above are just the beginning. Free-weights can be so impactful for your workout due to the fact that they activate a large number of smaller muscles responsible for stability. Using other machines may not activate these smaller muscles due to the support they automatically provide.
Barbell bench press
An absolute classic machine to use in the gym for strength training is the barbell bench press. In general, barbell workouts can have strong benefits for your gains as they still tend to activate the stabilization muscles mentioned above. Additionally, utilizing different variations of the barbell bench press, such as the close grip vs. wide grip, can allow you to focus more on specific muscles in the chest.
For beginners, start with just bench pressing the bar to get a feel for the movement before putting weight on. As a side note, some gyms may not offer the barbell bench press, but may include a smith machine. This can be used as an alternative.
Those who are aiming to target their lats and overall back muscles shouldn’t skip out on hitting the lat pulldown machine. Most lat pulldown machines will offer two different grips: one with your palms facing forward when clenched and one with your palms facing in towards each other. This allows you to focus on slightly different back muscles.
To maximize the benefits of this machine, think of your hands and fingers as handles gripping the bar above your head. Rather than pulling the handles down with your arms, focus on engaging your back and treating your arms as being latched onto the handles for support.
When it comes to the best gym equipment for versatility, the cable machine is hard to beat. As with free-weights, cables can be used for upper body, lower body, and anything in between. A unique feature of cable equipment is that your muscles are always under tension from the cables at all points of an exercise’s’ motion.
Some sample cable exercises that are great for strength building include:
- Cable face pull
- High/low cable fly
- Cable bench press
- Cable lateral shoulder raise
- Cable Tricep pushdown
- Cable Bicep curl
- Cable kickback
Generally, mixing cable workouts with free-weights is an excellent combination that can help you max out your time under tension for your muscles.
Finally, the squat rack is another versatile tool that you shouldn’t be afraid to use in the gym. While the name seems to imply that just squats are to be performed with this equipment, most racks also have a platform for deadlifts. For gyms without barbells, feel free to get creative and use the squat racks bar and plates for barbell rows or even barbell bicep curls!
Picking out the best gym equipment for targeting strength building is challenging, but the above pieces of equipment are a great starting point for both beginners and advanced gym-goers.
The best gym equipment for weight loss
If losing weight in the gym is your goal, fat burning is the name of the game. To that end, the best gym equipment for this goal will be equipment that allows for more dynamic, rather than static, movement. However, don’t forget to incorporate some of the above strength training equipment into a weight loss workout as well:
An often-underutilized gym equipment item is the jump rope. Excellent for training both cardio and your lower body, jump rope exercises can burn fat quickly. In fact, jumping rope can burn 200-300 calories in just 15 minutes. For some, jumping rope can seem like a tedious exercise, so spice things up by switching legs while jumping, changing your pace, and other fun strategies.
In the event your gym doesn’t have a jump rope available, box jumps can be an effective alternative. Those of you who are even more adventurous may also consider working your way up towards a double swing of the jump rope in between single jumps to increase cardio.
Similar to dumbbells, kettlebells are useful free-weight equipment with incredible versatility. Using kettlebells allows you to target the smaller stabilization muscles and potential fat you may not have burned from using other types of equipment.
Commonly performed exercises include:
- Kettlebell swing
- Kettlebell shoulder press
- Kettlebell squat and press
- Kettlebell lunge and press
- Kettlebell high pull
The above exercises are sure to get you breathing while also activating multiple muscle groups, which is an ideal combination for burning fat.
Perhaps one of very few bodyweight focused pieces of equipment on this list are TRX Bands. The weight you will be reliant on moving is your own self, which is what makes this equipment some of the best in the gym. Due to this, TRX Bands place a huge strain on your core, as well as supporting muscle groups, which can help promote fat burn.
Common movements include:
- TRX Bicep Curl
- TRX Tricep overhead extension
- TRX chest press
- TRX raised crunches
- TRX raised plank hold
- TRX chest fly
Bodyweight training certainly has its merits and the TRX Bands can capitalize on these benefits to increase the positive effects.
While the rowing machine is primarily a cardio machine, it earns its place on the best equipment for weight loss due to its fat burning potential. This potential stems from the fact that a rowing machine engages both the upper and lower body in addition to the core. This maximizes your workout potential and increases where fat burn can occur.
The best gym equipment for cardio
Finally, cardio is a fantastic way of increasing your aerobic endurance while also stimulating moderate lower body muscle growth. Utilizing the best gym cardio equipment is a crucial strategy for topping off your strength training or weight loss workout.
Take advantage of the following three machines to enhance your cardio today:
The treadmill is one of the oldest pieces of gym equipment on this list, but it still stands as one of the best. There are a multitude of treadmill workout types you can use to enhance your cardio skills and fat burn.
One such workout is the speed endurance workout which focuses on running hard for one minute before taking one-to-two for rest, then continuing for an extended period of time. Adding a treadmill work out as a light warmup or cooldown for your workout can be an excellent strategy.
One piece of cardio equipment that will have your legs burning and heart rate elevated in no-time is the stair climber. By increasing step speed or the incline on the stair climber, you can target different parts of your lower body and even your core. Aiming for lower speeds and longer stepping times (~30 minutes) can be an excellent way to improve endurance.
Finally, the stationary bike is a classic piece of gym equipment that has stood the test of time. For cardio workouts, the stationary bike can quickly get your heart rate elevated while also giving you a great lower body workout and fat burn.
One sample stationary bike workout targeting weight loss could be:
- Warm up lightly for 5-minutes
- Ride at high-intensity for 30 seconds, medium-intensity for 30-seconds, and easy-intensity for 60 seconds
- Repeat for 3 rounds
Mix up your stationary bike workouts to ensure you are always pushing your body to new heights! Keep in mind that equipment from both the cardio and strength training sections can, and should, be used to bolster weight loss training.
Building the perfect workout using gym equipment
Avoid forgetting that despite your specific goal in the gym, a well-rounded workout will include equipment that targets strength training, weight loss, and cardio. The above equipment is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless machines and various other types of gym equipment that can be used to enhance your workout, and everybody has their favorites. Find what is most comfortable for you and focus on perfecting your technique before moving on to the next piece of equipment.
How TTP Fitness can help you reach your goals
Nothing can be achieved without dedicated effort. It’s one thing to read information off the Internet and begin to understand how you can take those first steps towards your goal, but it’s something else completely learning how to implement that knowledge. That’s precisely where TTP Fitness can help.
Even if you can’t get to the gym, our expert trainers can help you achieve your goals by combining nutritional education, workout plans, and hard-to-beat inspiration. If you’re ready to elevate your gym training to the next level, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule your free session and get your transformation started!