Top 10 Gym Equipment for Weight Loss
For so many of us, we have wanted to lose weight at some point in life, unless of course, you are one of those hard gainers.

It can be daunting to know what to do and where to start.

On the one hand, you hear people talking about their new fad diets - whether it be Atkins, keto, or intermittent fasting. They swear by it, and often exercise takes a back seat to diet.

On the other hand, you may see bodybuilders and gym bros talking about eating whatever you want as long as you train hard - what we would call, "out training a bad diet."

However, the truth is that weight loss involves many factors. When we talk about losing weight, what we really are talking about is fat loss.

When you set out to lose weight your primary concern should not be the number on the scale. There are plenty of people who we would say have a relatively low weight that is not healthy.

At the same time, there are people who are relatively heavy and incredibly healthy.

The biggest example of this is many professional athletes whose body composition contains a much greater amount of muscle than the average individual, meaning for their respective height they are quite heavy.

This is one of the reasons why the BMI (body mass index) system is flawed, but we won't get into that. What we are really focusing on is fat loss.

The point is that weight loss is complex. However, let's try and simplify it by talking about two of the biggest factors - activity (or exercise) and food intake.

This is an oversimplification, but as far as food intake goes, the goal is to eat less than your body burns resulting in fat loss. This becomes much easier when you take control of your diet and really start to track how many calories you are eating. Oftentimes we have no idea just how much food we are eating until we measure it for a few days or weeks. Meal prepping and macro tracking are two great ways to ensure your weight loss journey is a success. This meal prep meal planner tool is a great place to start.

As far as exercise, again an oversimplification, but it has two primary benefits for losing weight and fat loss.

The first is to build muscle.

Stored muscle burns more energy than stored fat.

Why this matters is because energy comes from calories. The greater your caloric need the easier it is to be in a deficit. The easier it is to be in a deficit, the easier it is to lose weight.

The other benefit of exercise is the energy (or calories) burned during the workout.

The pieces of equipment below will be beneficial in a well-rounded exercise program for weight loss - with some being better at building muscle and some being better at burning calories during your workout. Plus there are a few that can be used for both.

We've got everything from cardio machines to free weights.

Let's jump right in.


1. Barbell

The barbell is one of the greatest pieces of strength equipment ever invented - so you know it had to make the list.

The barbell is incredible for building strength and muscle.

There's a reason the strongest people in the world use it as a primary training tool - from powerlifters to weightlifters to professional athletes.

Some of the best exercises here include squats, Romanian deadlifts, bent-over rows, and overhead presses. We call these movements compound lifts - meaning they use multiple large muscle groups which is great for building muscle. You can really get a full-body workout with the barbell.

With a barbell, you aren't going to be limited by weight.

What I mean by that is that one of the best ways to build strength and muscle is to continue to increase weight or resistance when lifting.

Even world record-holder deadlifters have not run out of room on the bar, so you never have to worry about that.

While the barbell does take up more space than dumbbells or kettlebells in a home gym, it is a great piece of equipment that rewards hard work and can help you lose weight.

Almost all commercial gyms will have barbells, so you can always get a feel for it there before making the leap and buying one for yourself.

So what should you look for when it comes to buying a barbell?

Barbells come in a few different shapes and sizes. The first difference is male and female bars. The male bar is 20 kilograms or about 45 pounds, and the female bar is 15 kilograms or about 35 pounds. Now guys, don’t be fooled, the barbell is not lighter just because men are generally stronger. In fact, many women can put up bigger weightlifting and powerlifting totals than men. The reason for the weight of the female barbell is more due to size. The length of the bar is shorter and the width is also smaller. This helps female lifters move better anatomically with this barbell. 

Now with that being said, many women use men’s bars without any issues. So for most people reading this, a men’s bar is fine. They are typically easier to find for purchase as well. 

The second thing to consider when purchasing a barbell is whether you want a traditional barbell or an Olympic barbell. If your goal is weight loss and building muscle, I would go with the Olympic barbell. The only difference here is that Olympic barbells are designed to perform the Olympic lifts - the snatch and the clean and jerk. If you are already buying a barbell, you might as well get one that allows you to perform the most exercise options. Traditional barbells are a little bit stiffer and don’t rotate as quickly. The rotation is really important for Olympic lift performance and safety. With all that being said, if you don’t see yourself ever performing the Olympic lifts, you are fine either way. 

A good barbell should last a lifetime. You definitely don’t want to skimp here.


2. Weight Plates

While a barbell is great, it only has so much functionality without - you guessed it - weight plates.

Weight plates are typically made of rubber or metal and slide onto the end of the barbell.

They come primarily in weights ranging from 2.5 lbs to 55 lbs.

Weight plates are what is going to allow you to get that progressive overload we talked about earlier.

For instance, let's say you squat once a week, and last week you did 225 lbs for 4 sets of 5 reps. This week you could do 235 lbs for 4 sets of 5 reps. This increase in weight from weight plates is really critical for building muscle - which is important in your weight loss journey.

If you are looking at buying weight plates for your home gym, I would highly recommend some sort of rubber plates. There are a ton of options here, but rubber plates will give you all the same functionality as metal plates; however, they can be dropped.

This is helpful if you want to do any type of Olympic weightlifting, high-intensity interval training, or functional fitness.

What should you look for in weight plates?

If you are looking at buying weight plates for your home gym, I would highly recommend some sort of rubber plates. There are a ton of options here, but rubber plates will give you all the same functionality as metal plates; however, they can be dropped.

This is helpful if you want to do any type of Olympic weightlifting, high-intensity interval training, or functional fitness.

If you have no intention of dropping weights and love the sound of steel plates rattling, metal plates work just fine too. 

The two main options for rubber are either crumb rubber or rubber-coated bumper plates. Both are great options and you really can’t go wrong here. Typically crumb rubber plates are a little bit cheaper and are black. These are oftentimes made from recycled tires. Rubber-coated plates look like a rainbow. Typically green plates are 25 pounds, yellow plates are 35 pounds, blue plates are 45 pounds, and red plates are 55 pounds. These look great, but function the same as the crumb rubber plates. Both types should last you a long time and provide you the resistance you need to build muscle and lose fat.


3. Power Rack

Okay, I promise we will move on from the barbell shortly, but it is important to have a power rack when using a barbell and weight plates.

A power rack allows you to load your barbell at certain heights.

For instance, let's say you want to back squat. You have a few options here. First, you can clean the barbell to your shoulders and then press it overhead and lower it on your back.

You certainly can do this, but chances are getting the weight to your back will be much harder than actually squatting it - so that kind of defeats the purpose.

Second, you can have two really strong friends who pick up the barbell and put it on your back. This could work but is not nearly as safe or pragmatic as our third option - the power rack.

When using a power rack, you can set the bar to the height you need, load the weight on the bar, and then unrack the bar to perform your desired exercise. This is especially helpful for squats, bench press, and overhead press.

Power racks have a couple of other big pros.

First, they often have built-in storage for your weight plates. This is helpful to keep plates off the ground or have to buy storage trees for your plates.

Power racks also often have built-in pull-up bars. Pull-ups are great for building your back and bicep muscle groups.

What to look for in a power rack?

The first thing here is knowing how much space you have. When building a home gym, space is crucial. Unfortunately, buying the wrong power rack can really eat up a lot of your space. 

Power racks come in all shapes and sizes. There are power racks that fold out from the wall, which is a huge space-saver, and there are power racks that could go from floor to ceiling and be as long as a car. It probably goes without saying, but if you are looking to build a garage gym, a smaller one is probably better. 

We mentioned some things to look for above (storage, pull-up bar). Another thing to consider is quality. You want to know that your power rack can handle all you can throw at it. We hope it never happens, but be sure your power rack can handle a missed squat. Most racks have safety squat bars that can catch the barbell if you fail a squat rep. This is really, really important for your safety so be sure your power rack has these.


4. Dumbbells

If you can only buy one piece of equipment, this might be it.

There are a couple of reasons why I say this.

The first is that one of the biggest limiters in home gyms is space.

Dumbbells are incredibly space efficient - and you really only need about two sets when you start out. Another reason I love dumbbells is that you can perform a ton of exercises with them - everything from squats and curls to deadlifts and farmer's carries.

Ideally, you would like to have both a barbell and weight plates and dumbbells. However, if you are brand new to lifting and trying to shed a few pounds of fat, you can get much of the same effects from dumbbells.

One of the things to consider is that eventually, your strength will pass that of the dumbbells - or you will end up doing 20-30 reps.

What type of dumbbells are best?

There are a few options here. One of my favorites is the adjustable dumbbell set. These dumbbells have one handle and an adjustable weight stack on the outside. There are many brands that sell these, but the principle is generally the same. What makes these great is that they take up the space of a large pair of dumbbells, but they provide you with a wide range of weights (typically around 5-50+ pounds). They do tend to be more expensive, but compared to buying each pair of dumbbells from 5 to 50 you’ll save quite a bit.

Another option is the traditional dumbbells. These typically come in metal or rubber coated. They both do the same thing, except the rubber coated might be a little easier on your floors - but unlike a loaded barbell, you shouldn’t be dropping dumbbells. 

Some argue that individual dumbbells feel better than the adjustable ones. This is probably due to the fact that adjustable dumbbells may move just slightly as you use them. All in all, dumbbells are dumbbells and you will be in good shape in whichever direction you go. Just be sure to get dumbbells, no home gym is complete without them.


5. Kettlebells

Kettlebells have many of the same similarities to dumbbells.

They are relatively inexpensive and have a ton of exercise options.

The biggest difference between kettlebells and dumbbells is that kettlebells are designed to rotate. Because of the shape of the kettlebell, they are much easier to swing.

This is great for kettlebell swings, cleans, and snatches. On the flip side, I would say that dumbbells are better designed for exercises like dumbbell bench press, bicep curls, and shoulder raises.

But at the end of the day, the two can be interchanged 90% of the time.

Kettlebells, along with dumbbells and barbells, will not only help you build muscle but can help you burn calories during your workout - ultimately helping you lose weight.

What should you look for in a kettlebell?

Kettlebells are pretty straightforward. There really isn’t much variation in styles here. The biggest thing to consider is what size kettlebell you will purchase. For most people beginning exercise, a 35 lb kettlebell is a great place to start. It’s a good weight you can do a couple of swings with and slowly begin to build up from and add reps. This is also a good weight to begin any type of goblet movement with the kettlebell (squats, lunges, etc.)

6. Jump Rope

Do you remember what it was like to jump rope on the playground?

Chances are that was the last time you attempted to jump rope.

Want to ditch the exercise bike or other cardio machines? It's time to break out that old rope and see what you can do. Jumping rope is one of the best forms of cardio you can do and it is a great way to burn calories.

One of the things to consider when choosing a workout routine is number one - your goals - but number two - what do you enjoy? This is one reason I like jumping rope, some people find it really fun, and I tend to agree.

Jumping rope should be viewed as similar to running.

It is not necessarily going to build a ton of muscle but is great for your cardiovascular endurance and burning calories.

When looking at jump ropes, you may think it is super easy - just buy a jump rope. But there are a few other things you may not have considered. Believe it or not, there are jump ropes designed for specific types of skipping. Some ropes are speed ropes built for quickness and often this means trying to get the rope to pass underneath your feet two or more times before your feet land again. Other ropes are designed for tricks and other ropes are heavy to give your arms a bigger workout. 

For most people, a jump rope that is closer to the category of speed rope is best. Especially, if you are just learning to jump rope, we want to keep it as simple as possible. The goal here is to lose weight, (and have fun), not be a world-class skipper. Also, be sure to check the website of the company you plan to buy a rope from. There should be some details on sizing and making sure you pick the right length rope. 

You certainly don’t want a rope that’s too short and hitting your shins or too long and hitting the ground way too early. 


7. Rowing Machine

You may not be super familiar with the rowing machine.

The rowing machine can be used for anything from a nice, easy warm-up to one of the hardest workouts of your life.

Similar to jumping rope, using a rowing machine is great for your cardiovascular endurance.

The rowing machine is one of my favorite cardio machines because you work your entire body, getting that full-body workout. When rowing you are driving with your legs and then pulling with your upper body at the end.

This can be helpful to balance out your exercise routine if you spend a lot of time on an exercise bike, treadmill, or other cardio machine.

You are still getting a very similar effect, but using different muscles with the rowing machine.

What should you be looking for in a rowing machine?

There are a few companies that make rowing machines. The overall goal of rowing against resistance can be achieved through any of them. Some machines use water as a form of resistance while others use fans or air resistance. At the end of the day, they all give resistance as you row. 

The most popular rowing machine is the Concept 2. It has a monitor giving you feedback on watts, pacing, distance, and even calories. However, don’t expect the calories to match up to what you actually burned. The calories on the Concept 2 are more like a measure of work. Because calories burned are dependent on the size of the individual, heart rate, and other factors, the machine cannot be all that accurate. Instead, you can use the calories to compare how much work you completed this week versus last or compare with a buddy in a workout challenge. 


8. Sled

I love sleds.

They have become popular recently and for good reason.

Similar to the rowing machine, a sled can be a warm-up or absolutely destroy you. Sled sprints are among the hardest exercises and will get your heart rate very high.

I still have nightmares from some sled workouts I have done while playing football.

Sleds are primarily used for a lower body workout, but they certainly work your upper body as well allowing you to get that full body workout.

Sleds can also be loaded very heavily and used for strength. You can walk forward, backward, or even sideways with each direction targeting a different set of muscles in your legs.

You can also attach a rope to your sled and pull it for a great back-strengthening workout. 

One of the best things about sleds is that they are very accessible to people from all walks of their fitness journey. Whether you are an elite athlete pushing 1000+ pounds or it’s your first day in the gym and you are looking to try something new, you can use sleds. Sleds are very low risk as well. Because the sled is supported by the ground and you are just moving it horizontally, as soon as you stop it stops. This is obviously much different than say a squat or bench press. If you stop exerting force against a squat, you will fail the rep - the same thing with a bench press. 

This added benefit makes sleds especially appealing to those new to working out. 

One of the only drawbacks of sleds is that they require a little bit of space.

However, if you have a driveway or even a sidewalk, there are sleds that can be used on concrete.

What type of sled is best?

This depends on your space. They have sleds that are incredibly small and lightweight. These sleds can still handle plenty of weight plates being added to them but are not going to be able to hold as much as the large, metal frame sleds. 

While size certainly does matter due to space in your home gym, sometimes bigger is better. This really depends on what you want to do with your sled. No matter which sled you choose you should be able to pull and walk laterally with it. The aspect of sleds you will miss out on with a smaller sled may be the push. The sled push arguably gives you the biggest exercise “bang for your buck” when it comes to the sled. 

For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose a sled that has handles or poles. Now, most sleds do, but just be sure the sled you purchase does. If space is a significant concern, you can go for one without and just attach a sled rope or strap to your waist and pull it while walking forward. This isn’t ideal, but can still work.


9. Sandbag

Sandbags are great for strength as well as getting your entire body working and your heart pumping. 

They typically come in weights ranging from 25 lbs all the way to 300 plus pounds.

Although, there is a strong chance you don’t need anything heavier than a 150 - unless of course you are trying to assert your dominance in your neighborhood and want to make sure all the neighbors know who is boss.

With a sandbag, you can perform exercises like cleans, squats, and carries.

All of which will work not only your legs but your core - just imagine bearhugging 100 lbs and walking with it. It’s quite an effective workout.

Plus, if you can carry a 100 lb sandbag, that bag of groceries is going to feel so light. 

What should you look for in a sandbag?

When purchasing a sandbag, you probably only need one. For a beginning male, we’d recommend probably 50-75 pounds, and for a female 25-50 pounds. This varies largely on your strength and exercise history, but these are good starting points. 

Sandbags come in all shapes and sizes. Some have straps and are long and some are shaped like a really fat pillow. The ones with handles will be easier to use for exercises like farmer’s carries or bent-over rows and the ones without handles will be better for holds, sandbag carries, and cleans. Either serves a purpose and there is no wrong answer here. 


10. Stair Climber

Have you ever tried climbing a flight of stairs at work or a ball game and gotten halfway up only to realize you are completely out of breath? 

Well, imagine that feeling for twenty or thirty minutes - that’s the stair climber.

While the stair climber is difficult, it provides a great workout and calorie burn.

If you are looking for a way to burn some serious calories and give your upper body a break, the stair climber can become one of your best friends. Simply, hop on, set the speed, and start climbing. 

If you have the space, this can be a great addition to a home gym, however, they do tend to be pretty big. Most commercial gyms have at least a few stair climbers in the cardio machine section. Be careful, though, you may find it difficult to walk back to your car after all those flights of stairs. 

The stair climber is one of the more effective cardio machines.

Also, if want to make sure you can climb stairs as you age and stay independent, climb stairs today!

When looking at stair climbers, you need to decide first if your home gym can hold them, as they are large. Once you’ve determined it can, you can consider things like the size of the steps, what type of monitor the stair climber has, and whether it is a commercial stair climber or not. A commercial stair climber is likely going to be bigger, but it will also be sturdier and built to last longer. 


Wrap Up

Remember no piece of equipment can guarantee weight loss or fat loss. Whether you hop on an exercise bike or do some pushups, the most important thing is to be consistent.

However, using these pieces of equipment as a part of a well-programmed gym routine is going to have you well on your way to success.

Remember to focus on your nutrition and eat not only the right foods but the right amount of foods to support your goals and you will be on the right path to support weight and fat loss.

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