The Best Strength Training Equipment of 2017

best strength training equipment

Introduction

​Although I have no plans to grow bulging biceps, I do incorporate strength training into my home gym. According to the Mayo Clinic, people naturally lose lean muscle mass as they get older. What this means is that unless I do some weight training to counteract this muscle loss, the percentage of fat in my body will slowly rise. I would rather have muscle, thank you. Strength training also has other benefits besides maintaining my muscle mass. It's a calorie-burning activity that helps keep weight in check and increase bone density. This training can even help with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, back pain and depression. Although I shared many moms' fears of turning into a hulking muscular monster, months of training has only added definition to my shoulders and tightened my abs (a little). Plus, adding weight training equipment to my home gym is pretty easy because it tends to be smaller and cheaper than massive cardio machines.

Dumbbells

As home gym equipment, adjustable dumbbells provide the variety of big exercise machines in a small package. These little bars with weights on each end can be endlessly adjusted for each exercise. Human Kinetics estimates that the majority of people can complete most exercises with a set of 5 lb to 70 lb dumbbells. I don't think I can even lift a 70 lb dumbbell with one hand, so it may be less weight for women. The range of exercises that you can do with dumbbells is huge. Most people think of dumbbells as being an arm workout, but doing squats with dumbbells is a great calorie burner too. Storing dumbbells is easy and buying them is a lot cheaper than a weight training machine like a BowFlex.

Dumbbells also provide some health benefits that weight training machines do not. They build independent motor skills because it's more complex to move two arms independently. Dumbbells are also free weights, which means that you have to stabilize your body using your muscles when you use dumbbells. Even a bicep curls works out your abs as you try to sit up straight. Dumbbells are a pretty basic home gym accessory, but there are a few different options.

Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells

With cast iron plates and a chrome handle, these dumbbells are solid. The Yes4All can be purchased in various maximum weights, starting at 40 lbs and ending at 200 lbs. Each dumbbell has 3 lb and 7.5 lb weight plates. The weights are locked into place with a little star collar. 

best strength training equipment

Changing out the weights is simple, but it isn't very quick. People who need to be able to change weights quickly (like fans of P90x) might not like this design. If you buy a 60 lbs or less version, it's easy to purchase more standard weights, but the 105 lb and heavier version are a non-standard bar size that is slightly too big to accommodate additional weights. Yes4All are basic dumbbells for a reasonable price, but what stands out is the excellent five-year warranty.

PROS

  • 5-year warranty
  • Simple design
  • Heavy options (105 lb and 200 lb)

CONS

  • Non-standard bar size above 60 lbs
  • Slow to change out
  • Lock requires regular re-tightening

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair)

If you need to change weights quickly for P90X or other home workouts, these might be the dumbbells for you. Instead of removing weights from each side, the handle is inserted into a variety of weights. Then you twist a dial to what weight you want. When you lift up the handle, the right number of weights are attached. 

The BowFlex dumbbells can adjust the weight from 2.5 lbs to 52.5 lbs. These are also the most space-saving option because you won't end up with cast iron weights scattered around the living room. It's all stored in a neat little rack. This convenience comes at a price because these are the most expensive option. The Boxflex does come with a two year warranty, though.

PROS

  • Quick adjustments
  • No weight math required
  • Space saving

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Dial takes getting used to
  • Can be bulkier than other options

Kettlebells

Adjustable kettlebells offer many of the same benefits as adjustable dumbbells. Both types of equipment don't take up much floor space and yet offer a wide variety of exercises. Even though adjustable kettlebells and dumbbells are similar, I like having both because you can do different types of exercises. Kettlebells are good at mimicking real-world lifting exercises. You wouldn't pick up a heavy box like you would pick up a dumbbell. However, practicing kettlebell lifts does prepare you to shift heavy objects. Like dumbbells, the free weight movement of kettlebells also builds additional stabilizing muscles (which makes it even easier to pick up that heavy box). Kettlebells also often incorporate swinging motions, which challenges your balance. When you add kettlebells to your home gym, you allow yourself to do a huge variety of exercises without taking up too much space or spending too much money.​

Empower Kettlebell

This sky-blue kettlebell was designed for use by women. It's one of the only ones that I've found in a feminine color. If you've never used a kettlebell before, the Empower might be a good option because it comes with a workout DVD. There is a click mechanism that you use to add or remove weights from the bottom. As a warning, it can take some time to get used to how the shape of the kettlebell changes as you adjust the weight. 

strength training

When you change weights, the overall size and balance point of the kettlebell shifts. Because the mechanism for adding weights is mechanical, I would want to have a good warranty on this kettlebell. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a warranty, which likely means there is none or it's limited.

PROS

  • Three weight settings
  • Workout DVD included
  • Feminine color

CONS

  • Size changes with weight adjustment
  • Click mechanism can be finicky
  • No or minimal warranty

Powerblock Kettle Block

The Powerblock Kettle Block reminds me of the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells because both of them use a stand to determine how much weight to add. Unlike the Bowflex, the Powerblock does not have a dial. Instead, there are colors coordinated to different weights. You insert the safety pin in the color of the weight that you want to use and then lift the kettle black from its stand. 

strength training

One nice thing about this design is that you have more 4 weight options instead of 3. There is also a 40 lb option if you are in better shape than I am. While it's a bit bigger than the Empower and takes up more space, it does come with lifetime warranty.

PROS

  • 4 weight options
  • ​20 lb and 40 lb version
  • Lifetime Warranty

CONS

  • Pricey compared to others
  • Stand takes up more room
  • Size changes with weight adjustment

CAP Barbell Vinyl Coated Cement Kettlebell

If you want a cheap option for adjustable kettlebells, you can buy multiple sizes of the CAP kettlebell. It's not really adjustable, but buying multiple sizes is an option if you have space to store them. If you're not sure that you like kettlebell workouts, this may be a good option to test it out and see if you're willing to invest in more sizes or an adjustable kettlebell. Heavier versions of the CAP kettlebell are massive because concrete isn't that heavy. The vinyl can get slippery as you sweat, so hold on tight.

strength training

PROS

  • Simple design
  • Cheap option
  • Wide handle

CONS

  • Vinyl can be slippery
  • Heavier versions are huge
  • Takes up space if multiple versions are purchased

Medicine Balls

​Medicine balls, which first appear to be heavy basketballs, are an ancient and versatile exercise tool. Often weighted from 2 lbs to 20 lbs, medicine balls are sometimes used for rehabilitation from injuries. As you heal, you can progress from lighter balls to heavier balls. As an exercise tool, they offer something that dumbbells and kettlebells do not, the ability to bounce. Hurling medicine balls at the wall and then catching them is an entertaining exercise. It also develops explosive power and trains your balance. If working out alone seems boring, you can also use medicine balls with a partner or group. Throwing and catching medicine balls at various angles, as you would in a circle, help to target and build different muscle groups. Cheap and small, medicine balls are easy to add to a home gym.

Rep Soft Medicine Ball / Wall Ball for CrossFit Workouts

Touted as perfect for CrossFit workouts, the Rep Fitness medicine ball is squishy to the touch. Although most medicine balls are firmer, like a basketball, soft balls are less likely to cause injury when thrown. Each synthetic leather Rep Fitness is 14". While this is larger than some others, many people like the consistency in size as you increase in weight. 

strength training

The balls are different colors depending on the weight, which ranges from 4 lbs to 40 lbs. The Rep Fitness ball comes with a 30-day guarantee and a 2-year warranty.

PROS

  • Soft
  • All options are 14"
  • Up to 40 lb option

CONS

  • More expensive option
  • Slippery when sweaty
  • Larger than other options

AmazonBasics Medicine Ball

This ball is appropriately labeled AmazonBasics because it gives you all the basic functionality for a low price. With a textured rubber finish, like a basketball, the AmazonBasics range from 2 lbs to 20 lbs. They can be more bouncy than expected if you are accustomed to a soft medicine ball like the Rep Fitness. They can also be a bit harder to catch on the firmer surface. You can't dig your fingers in. 

strength training

I recommend doing soft bounces against the wall for the first few times to get used to it. Though the AmazonBasics seems pretty sturdy, I was disappointed that they did not appear to have a warranty.

PROS

  • Simple design
  • Cheap option
  • 5 weight options

CONS

  • Bounce more than others
  • Only up to 20 lbs
  • No or limited warranty

Valeo Medicine Ball With Sturdy Rubber Construction And Textured Finish

The Valeo medicine ball is similar to the AmazonBasics with a textured rubber finish. It also comes in 2 lbs to 20 lbs. Like the AmazonBasics, the size of the ball changes as you increase in weight. Again, I couldn't find a warranty for this product, but it seems pretty sturdy. My friend said that it could split if thrown too hard. It's not made for "slamming," which requires a different type of soft, non-bouncy ball. 

strength training

As a generic medicine ball, it works pretty well, but it's a bit more expensive than the AmazonBasics and doesn't provide any additional features.

PROS

  • Simple design
  • Easy to travel with
  • Smaller option

CONS

  • More expensive than AmazonBasics
  • Only up to 20 lbs
  • No or limited warranty

Conclusion

​​Strength training is a great home exercise option because the equipment tends to be cheaper and smaller than cardio equipment. Dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls can help you get in shape by burning calories, utilizing stabilizing muscles and promoting lean muscle mass. Plus, it's fun to swing kettlebells and throw medicine balls and get to call it "exercise."