The best way to choose exercise equipment that can help you look your personal best is to prioritize your fitness goals and wisely strategize so that your workouts will fit into your lifestyle. Since the American Council on Exercise recommends targeting all of your muscle groups to develop a strong, balanced physique, your freedom of choice doesn’t have to be limited. Exercising with a variety of equipment can prevent progress plateaus and keep your workouts fresh and challenging.
Exercise variety can spice up your fitness life. Cross-training by using different equipment to perform fat-burning cardiovascular exercise can keep workouts fresh and prevent overload injuries, according to Dr. Edward R. Laskowski, Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. Treadmills can simulate running, while elliptical machines, which place less stress on the knees, hips and back, efficiently train your upper and lower body simultaneously. You can also set most elliptical machines on reverse to more intensely target hamstring and calf muscles. Stair steppers, rowers and stationary bikes with incline or resistance features also provide effective cardio workouts that can burn body fat and tone muscles.
There isn’t a cookie-cutter recipe for fitness success. The Mayo Clinic’s Laskowski advises that your fitness level, personal preferences and ease of accessibility should all factor into deciding which equipment will be best for you. Exercising with free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, requires body stabilization that builds core strength. Machines with easy-to-adjust weight stacks or machines with racks that are manually loaded with weight plates help ensure proper form and facilitate full range of motion for your joints. Some of the best machines for strength-training include the lat pulldown for back and biceps muscles, the shoulder press machine for deltoids, the bench press for chest and triceps, the leg press for quadriceps and hamstrings and multipurpose cable towers that enable you to train several muscle groups with various cable-pulley attachments such as handles, ropes and bars.
Portable Exercise Equipment
Fitness DVD star Ellen Barrett advises that some of the best workout equipment is portable and affordable. She recommends versatile foam rollers for muscle massage and core strengthening, jump ropes for ready-to-go cardio sessions and adjustable-weight dumbbells or resistance bands for strength-training. Ankle weights, balance discs, stability balls, medicine balls and kettlebells -- cast iron balls with handles attached at the top -- are also easy-to-use types of exercise equipment that won’t take up a lot of space if you’re going to work out at home.
To stay on track, use heart rate monitors, step-counting pedometers and other forms of personal activity-tracking equipment to gauge your progress and help keep you motivated. Many general exercise and sports-specific trackers can measure calories burned, distance, pace and time. Some technology-based clip-on or bracelet trackers can also be linked to Web accounts so that you can easily manage your personal data and access your health and fitness information.
Don’t do too much too soon. If you’re going to use exercise equipment to strength-train or perform cardiovascular activities, weight loads, speeds and workout intensities should be compatible with your fitness level. Before exercising, consider health concerns and injuries and consult with a health care provider to determine the best types of equipment for you.
- MayoClinic.com: Are Elliptical Machines Better Than Treadmills for Basic Aerobic Workouts?
- GetFitYou.com: What Are Some of the Best Exercise Equipment for Weight Loss?
- MayoClinic.com: Weight Training: Free Weights vs. Machine Weights
- FitnessMagazine.com: The 5 Best Machines for Women
- Women’s Strength Training: Your Guide to a Sexy and Fit Body
- Shape.com: How to Build the Perfect Home Gym
Bari Auerbach writes a fitness column and has won trophies in fitness shows. Since graduating from Florida International University in 1984 with a degree in communications, she has written for national clients; interviewed dignitaries and celebrities for magazines; and has covered topics including business, politics, fashion and food.