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I am considering making a move to workouts at home. Would you have any suggestions on weight training equipment? I want to do this with a minimal investment, but be able to do full workouts without having to go to the gym. Any help would be appreciated.

I recommend starting with free weights since are economical and very versatile allowing you to perform a variety of different exercises. Admittedly, exercises may feel a bit wobbly the first few workouts if you are accustomed to machines. After a short time, you will feel more in control during the execution of free weight exercises.

First, I would suggest purchasing dumbbells with an adjustable flat to incline bench. Consider hex dumbbells with a dumbbell rack. If space is an issue consider investing in Powerblocks, Quick Dumbells, Hoist Quik-Change Dumbbells, or BowFlex SelectTech Dumbbells. If your budget is a factor, consider standard size spin lock dumbbell set. If you get hex dumbbells instead of plate loaded dumbbells, purchase a set of 3, 5, 8, 12, 15, and every 5 lb increment beyond that until you have enough weight to perform your heaviest exercise. Some specialty fitness stores sell magnetic microweights in 1.25 lb (0.5) kg to be placed at the ends of metal dumbbells. This can make it much easier to graduate to the next weight after you have performed 12 reps, for example.

Only after you have proven to yourself to stick to a home based program, expand your equipment to barbells. Decide to purchase an Olympic size barbell set (2" diameter) or a standard size barbell set (1" diameter). A 7' Olympic bar (45 lbs) is most common, but lighter 6' and 5' bars are also manufactured. In addition, purchase an EZ curl bar for lighter arm work.

A power rack or cage (half or full) can be convenient and versatile, particularly with an Olympic size barbell set. You can even purchase a rack that has a cable pulley (high and low) assembly built onto it. Cable attachments may include: lat bar, straight bar, curl bar, multi-exercise bar, stirrup handles, and ankle straps. Ankle straps without a buckle are more durable. If the budget permits, you can even find a free weight rack that has a smith machine combined. Finally, if you don't mind spending more, consider a Sled 45° Leg Press / Hack Squat Machine.

If you would rather purchase a machine, Consumer Reports Magazine (March 2001 issue) recommends Hoist Multi-Gym H210 ($1700). Body Solid Multi-Station EXM 1500S ($700) follows and was rated a CR Best Buy. Interestingly, Bowflex Power Pro XTL ($1400) was number 5 and Soloflex Muscle Machine ($1,195) was number 6.

Pictured: HF-985A Half Cage Ensemble. Image used with permission by Hoist.


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