When the grunting, groaning and machine hogging at your local gym pushes your limits, it's time to start using a home gym. The compact and efficient stacked-weight home gym is the "mini-me" of the big, commercial machines. Once you finish a set, the only sweat you have to wipe is your own. Many come with the "easy assembly" description. This is not exactly truth in advertising, but once you do set up your home gym, you'll be ready to go.
Most home gyms feature a steel frame to which different exercise stations are attached. An assemblage of weighted blocks, usually arranged in 10-pound increments, makes up the weight stack. Removing and inserting a metal pin adjusts the weight. Most stacked-weight home gyms do not have enough weight to turn you into a female Arnold Schwarzenegger, but some high-end models offer stacks with weights as heavy as 250 to 300 pounds. Do one to three sets of eight to10 reps of each exercise. Up the weight when you can do more than 12 reps. Don't fall for the "20 reps at light weights for spot reduction" myth. That type of workout is an exercise in futility.
An adjustable pulley system, combined with a selection handles, enables a variety of exercises. The muscle group you work depends on the low, middle or high attachment of the pulley as well as the type of handle that you use for the exercise. Place a straight bar in the lowest pulley position, and voila -- you're ready for a biceps curl. Take that same bar and move the pulley to the high position, and your lats rule the exercise, while your biceps provide assistance. Switch the handle and substitute it with a device that looks like an inverted V, and you have a triceps exercise.
The exercise selection depends on the equipment manufacturer, but most stacked-weight home gyms include a biceps curl, triceps extension, bench press, seated row, shoulder press, leg press, leg extension and leg curl. The machines come with manuals, but figuring out which muscles to use does not require an advanced anatomy degree. Pushing movements, such as the seated bench press and leg press, move the working limb toward the weight stack. Pulling movements, like the seated row, move your limb away from the weights.
Older home gyms are boring. They only allow exercises performed in a predetermined range of motion. That's so 1980s. Check out the newer models. These versatile machines enable exercises in different body positions and let you breathe some life into your old standby exercises. Trade in the benches and seats for stability balls, balance discs and balance boards. You'll multitask strength and balance while busting boredom and burnout.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.