Welcome to the land of the free weights. The free weight area in the gym where you work out may be slightly separated by the rest of the club. Although it's not a "member-only" area, you may feel hesitant, especially if you do not know how much each piece of equipment weighs. The dumbbells are labeled, but when it comes to Smith machines and barbells you may need a cheat sheet.
The Smith machine you will notice right away. It is usually one of the tallest pieces of equipment in the room. The Smith machine uses a barbell that is held in a fixed position between two towers. The bar slides up and down the towers as you perform exercises such as squats, chest presses and shoulder presses. The machine keeps the bar stable as it travels up and down, which increases your safety. The barbell is a traditional one and weighs 45 pounds, however, the weight you feel when exercising is less. The bar balances on springs, which reduces the weight of the bar to almost nothing.
An Olympic barbell is 7 feet long. Both ends of the bar are 2 inches in diameter to fit Olympic weight plates that slide onto the ends. The part you hold is 1 inch in diameter. The weight of the barbell is 45 pounds. Some facilities offer shorter, 6-foot long Olympic barbells, which reduces their weight to 35 pounds, but the traditional 7-foot barbell is what you most likely will find.
A standard barbell is different than an Olympic barbell, and you may or may not see these at the gym. You'll be able to tell the difference right away, as the standard barbell is 1-inch in diameter along the entire 5- to 6-foot length and weighs approximately 10 pounds. The weight plates that slide onto the standard barbell have smaller holes than the Olympic plates.
Other barbells you'll see have fixed weights. Instead of sliding weight plates onto the ends as you do with the Olympic and standard barbells, a fixed barbell has the plates welded onto the ends. These barbells are labeled to eliminate the guess work. The fixed barbells begin at 20 pounds usually go up in 10-pound increments.
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.