Buyers Guide To Home Fitness Equipment
In our sedentary world of Netflix and mobile phones it can be hard to get as much exercise as you need when you spend your work hours sitting behind a desk and then when you leave work the last thing you want to do is rush over to the gym. Whilst buying a gym membership, joining an exercise class or going jogging can work for some people others don’t have the time or just don’t feel comfortable exercising in front of strangers. If that’s true for you all is not lost because these days more and more people are buying their own exercise equipment for personal use.
There are a lot of fitness machines to choose from and your choice should be determined by what kind of exercise you enjoy and what kind of goals you are hoping to work towards. We can’t tell you what machine is going to work best for you personally, but we can offer an in-depth buyers guide to home fitness equipment so you know what your options are.
Before we get into the specific perks and features of each exercise machine there are a few general tips and points that you should know.
When you buy personal gym equipment you are making a long-term investment in your health and fitness, and you’ll need a machine that you can continue to use in the months and years to come. The machine you buy should help you improve, it should be long lasting, it should be versatile and it should have enough features to keep you busy and challenged. Most decent exercise machines aren’t going to be dirt cheap (although there are good budget buys out there) and it is always worth paying a bit more initially for a quality product rather than paying less for a machine that breaks and has to be replaced in a few months time.
It may sound almost ridiculously obvious, but when you buy personal gym equipment for your home you first need to make sure you actually have space for the equipment. Many exercise machines are quite bulky, are likely to take up a lot of space and some of them may be quite loud when in use.
Most products will list their dimensions and weight so it is important to look up this information, measure the location and make sure you have enough space to use the equipment easily and comfortably without inconveniencing yourself or anyone else.
As previously mentioned when you buy personal gym equipment you are making an investment. The last thing you want is to buy and receive your equipment only to find it is fault and broken and now you’re stuck with it because the company didn’t have a warranty.
Warranties are important for two reasons. Firstly a warranty will protect you against manufactured or accidental damages for the warranty period, so if your machine arrived faulty or was flimsily made the company will exchange or repair it provided you are still within the warranty period.
Secondly a warranty can be a good indication of the quality of a product. If something has a long warranty it suggests that the company who made it thinks the product is going to last at least the length of the warranty, because otherwise they would have to keep paying for repairs or replacements and would lose money. A product with a long warranty is unlikely to be badly made or have any specific design flaws and you are protected if it does, so it is always worth looking for when you are shopping for fitness equipment.
Many reputable companies will also offer a money back guarantee. This means that if you are not totally satisfied with a product you can send it back for a full refund within the guaranteed time period, although you will normally have to pay for the postage. Guarantees normally last about a month and they can help give you extra peace of mind if you’re not 100% sure of your purchase.
Set Up and Manoeuvrability
Home fitness equipment is normally quite bulky and heavy and so when it is delivered there is a good chance you will have to put it together yourself. Some companies will do that for you, but the majority of the time you will be expected to set up your machine yourself. They don’t tend to be too difficult or require too much experience, but it’s always worth reading customer reviews because they will comment on how easy it is to put the equipment together.
Fitness equipment isn’t famous for being light and when you buy a fitness machine for your house you’re probably going to want to move it into your desired location. The equipments weight should be available on its listing or website, but it’s also worth looking out for wheels or compact designs which will make it easier to manoeuvre the product around your home.
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basic things to consider and look out for when buying fitness equipment in general, let’s have a look at some specific machines and how they could help you on your fitness journey.
Home Fitness Equipment
Whether you love them or hate them you have to accept that treadmills really do work. They are very easy to use because there aren’t any complicated movements or extra settings to play around with; all you have to do is turn up the speed and start running. See below for common and beneficial treadmill features.
Treadmills one of the most natural exercise machines out there because they don’t simulate movement but instead you do actually run when you use a treadmill. If you’re not a fan of jogging outside that may be because the terrain can be uneven, hilly or slippery. Treadmills have a very even surface and so they take away the complications without limiting the actual exercise.
Treadmills normally come with a monitor that will display your progress and help you set specific targets. These digital monitors will show you how many calories you’ve burned, how much hypothetical distance you have covered and how much time you have been exercising, all of which are important especially if you have specific calorie burning goals in mind.
Work Out Programs
Most treadmills also come with pre-installed workout programs that you can follow to achieve specific goals and to vary your workout. These are especially important if you are exercising at home because they can help keep you on track and give you new ideas.
Treadmills are high intensity cardio machines that can help you lose weight fairly quickly. Depending on the length of your work out and the amount of speed you cover you should be burning between 60-120 calories per ten minutes which can turn into 500-600 calories an hour. As most sources claim you need to consume 500 less calories a day in order to lose weight an hours treadmill session should keep you covered providing you can run for that long.
Treadmills also allow you to practice HIIT. This is another approach of exercises which encourages you to vary the pace of your workout. You will walk/jog at a moderate level, then increase the intensity for about 45 seconds and then go back to the moderate exercise. Many health experts are now saying that HIIT can burn far more calories than exercising for a longer period of time but at a moderate rate, so it is worth incorporating HIIT training into your routine.
Improves Health and Muscle Tone
Whether or not you are jogging outside or running on a treadmill every time you start running you are strengthening your heart and improving your natural blood flow. If you are worried about cardiovascular health or you just want to get fit a treadmill can help you maintain a healthy heart and increase your overall fitness levels provided you start off slow.
Most decent treadmills will have an optional incline, and it’s definitely worth investing a bit more money in one that does because the incline can help you burn more calories, help you get fitter quicker and help you train for climbing hills or mountains.
Running on an incline will have a very beneficial effect on your overall fitness level because anyone who hates stairs will know that climbing or walking on a slope can be really exhausting. If you practice running on an incline even just a little each day you will soon be able to gallop up stairs and climb mountains like a pro.
Some treadmills that have been designed for personal use can be folded and stored away when they are not being used. This isn’t the most common feature but it is definitely something to keep an eye out for if you don’t have a lot of space or you just don’t want to clutter your house.
If treadmills aren’t really your thing you may feel more comfortable using a cross trainer. Cross trainers are another type of cardio exercise machine that simulates the motion of walking or running. They are low impact machines which makes them easier to use, but despite the fact that it may feel easier to spend ten minutes on a cross trainer rather than ten minutes on a treadmill you can actually burn the same or more calories on a cross trainer. Read on to discover more.
Just because cross trainers are low impact machines does not mean they are not effective. Cross trainers have a lower impact than treadmills because the leg pedals used in cross trainers take away a lot of the strain that could otherwise be placed on your legs, and therefore you are less likely to injure yourself on a cross trainer than a more intense machine.
As cross trainers are low impact you will typically find that you can use them for longer intervals without becoming exhausted. You may think that an exercise is only working if its causing you pain and making you miserable, but in reality the best types of exercise are the ones you can enjoy. Cross trainers are also beneficial for people who may be less fit or may have an existing injury because it won’t put unnecessary strain on your body.
When you use a cross trainer no matter how intense or how hard the exercise is you will still be doing the same movements. What will change is the resistance that you are pushing against in order to move, because the higher the resistance level the harder the exercise becomes.
Resistance levels vary but most cross trainers should have at least 10. When you first start using a cross trainer you will probably start off on a lower intensity, but as you improve you’ll want to increase your resistance level in order to keep giving your body a good work out. There isn’t much point in investing in a cross trainer that isn’t going to help you get fitter over time, so when shopping for cross trainers make sure you have enough levels to keep you busy for a long time.
The fly wheel is the heaviest part of a cross trainer and it helps the whole machine run smoothly. If it wasn’t for your fly wheel your pedals and hand bars wouldn’t move, so it is a pretty integral part of the whole thing. Different cross trainers will have their fly wheel in different locations; some will have the fly wheel at the rear of the machine, some will have it at the front and newer models may have two fly wheels on either side of the appliance.
Some users say that rear fly wheels help you achieve a high intensity work out without putting unnecessary strain on your legs, but others have found that fly wheels located at the front of a cross trainer makes it easier to move around as they tend to be lighter and more compact.
Heavier fly wheels tend to positively influence the rest of the machine because they tend to last longer and run more smoothly. Many experts recommend looking for fly wheels that weigh at least 10kg, so keep that in mind before you buy.
The stride length of a cross trainer refers to how far apart your legs can move during the exercise. As cross trainers come with feet pedals that move on their own or in conjunction with the handles the stride length can have an effect on the type of motion you can do especially if you are quite tall. Most cross trainers will include their stride length as part of the specifications, so always keep an eye out for it and if possible choose a cross trainer that lets you adjust the stride length.
Display and Programs
When you buy a cross trainer it will normally come with a monitor that can display your exercise progress in real time, i.e. it will show how many calories you have burned, how long you have been exercising and how much hypothetical distance you have covered. These have the same benefits in a cross trainer as they do in a treadmill because they can help you focus on and achieve your goals by keeping you up to date on your progress.
Cross trainers, like treadmills, also tend to come with pre-installed workout programs that can help you focus on specific targets such as weight loss, strengthening or focusing on specific muscles. When you are exercising alone it’s important to keep on track and these programs can help give you new work out ideas and keep your exercise regime focused and varied.
One of the best things about cross trainers is that you can use them to exercise your upper and lower body at the same time. Most cross trainers will come with moving handles which will move the opposite way to your legs, and if you use them during your exercise you can tone and strengthen your arms whilst improving your balance and co-ordination. Some cross trainers will also have sensors and/or buttons in these handles which can monitor your heart rate and help you control the resistance levels of your work out without interrupting the exercise.
You can also use a cross trainer to solely focus on your legs. Cross trainers will come with another set of smaller handles that you can hold onto to maintain your balance whilst moving your legs. This will make the exercise a bit harder but it will also go a long way in toning, strengthening and defining your leg muscles.
Exercise bikes are always a popular choice at the gym because they give your legs a good work out and help you burn calories whilst you can sit down and use your phone or watch the TV screens. For this reason they are also ideal for home use because it is very easy to multi-task on an exercise bike and you can use it whilst reading a book, watching a film or even using your phone or tablet.
Many people enjoy cycling outside as part of their lifestyle and it can be a great way of transportation and exercise, but it does have its downsides. When you buy an exercise bike for indoor use you are avoiding any adverse weather, uneven terrain, unnecessary injury and road dangers which can have a negative impact on traditional cycling.
When you are looking to buy an exercise bike you will come across a few terms such as ‘Spinner’ and ‘Recumbent’. These terms just refer to different types of exercise bikes, and you should know which is which before making a decision.
Upright stationary bikes work much the same as a regular moving bicycle. They have a small seat, you can stand up whilst using them, you sit in an upright position and you use bike handles to keep you balanced and work on your upper body. Because you have to sit in an upright position in order to use this type of bike it does put more pressure on your body, and because of the way the bike is laid out it can be difficult for a shorter person to use the pedals comfortably.
Recumbent bikes are a little different because they have a standard seat that you can use comfortably without having to worry about balance. The user is reclined and the pedals are a little further away from the body to alleviate pressure from the lower leg. Handle bars may be included in this model but they are not always necessary. Recumbent models are particularly popular with older people or anyone with an injury or less biking confidence because they take a lot of the pressure off of your muscles and joints and don’t require as much balance.
Spinner bikes may initially look similar to upright bikes, but you can normally tell them apart by their handlebars. These handlebars are normally more forward than in upright bikes so the user can bend over whilst exercising. The seat is normally adjustable and spinner bikes allow the user to complete more intense exercises than the other models.
Now that you know the difference between Upright, Recumbent and Spinner exercise bikes let’s look at some of their common perks and features.
Exercise bikes are particularly popular because they have a low injury risk and they don’t put as much pressure on your legs, muscles and joints. The motion of bike riding in itself is pretty easy and because cycling doesn’t put the same amount of pressure on your body as some other machines they are particularly suitable for older users and people who are new to fitness. If you aren’t comfortable running or using a rowing machine an exercise bike is a great alternative that can help you tone and burn calories without putting yourself at risk.
Cycling is a great way to tone up your leg muscles and focus on the lower half of your body. Most exercise bikes will have resistance levels in a similar fashion to cross trainers, so over time you will increase the resistance level and keep toning your calves, glutes and quadriceps over time. Whilst cycling does focus on your lower body you can still work on upper body conditioning if you use the handles bars that are included in many designs.
HIIT training is when you vary the intensity and speed of your workout in order to push your body and achieve better results. You will work out at a medium rate, then increase the intensity all the way for a quick 45 second burst, and then go back to the medium rate and repeat throughout the workout. This approach is thought to burn more calories and increase fitness faster because when you increase the exercise intensity all the way you are pushing yourself to the max and then when you slow down your body will still be burning excess calories in order to recover and repair.
HIIT training is pretty easy with an exercise bike because all you need to do is pedal faster and then reduce the speed. Cycling also means you can control the speed and intensity of your workout by your own motions rather than relying on the machine and so you can work within your comfort zone until you’re ready to take it up a notch.
Exercise bikes tend to be smaller and lighter than many other exercise machines as it is and so it is pretty easy to move and store them when not in use. There are also fold-able options which you can buy if space is a big issue, so all in all exercise bikes are a pretty big space saver when you compare them to larger and heavier machines.
Screen and Programs
More high-end exercise bikes are likely to come with a console display that you can use to monitor your progress. These bikes will also normally come with a few pre-programmed workouts that you can use to challenge yourself and achieve new goals, and especially with Upright bikes you can focus on lower body strength or toning your upper and lower body at the same time.
Rowing machines are another low impact form of exercise that works your entire body. Rowing machines mimic the real life rowing motion you would do if you were rowing an actual boat, and it works on several major muscle groups within your upper and lower body. It is also a great form of aerobic exercise and it will help strengthen your heart and lungs.
When you go shopping for a rowing machine there are a few different designs to choose from. Rowing machines work on resistance in a similar way to cross trainers and exercise bikes, and in rowing machines there are four different resistance types to choose from.
Air powered rowing machines are one of the most common designs that you will often find in the gym. You can sometimes adjust the resistance level manually via a control on the side of the wheel, but generally your pace will determine the resistance level and so the faster you row the harder it will become.
Air rowers produce an airy breeze that can really help cool you down during your work out, but the fly wheel attached can be a little noisy.
This type of rowing machine is targeted at experienced users because it mimics a real rowing experience and uses real water filled tanks to create the resistance you row against. If you are a serious rower or you want a high-end experience then water based rowing machines may be right for you, but they do tend to be more expensive and harder to use.
Hydralic rowing machines tend to be smaller, quieter and cheaper than their counter parts but they aren’t as smooth or advanced. Hydraulic rowers are great for beginners or those on a budget, but they may not work for more experienced users.
Magnetic rowing machines tend to be quite quiet and compact. You have greater control over these rowers because you can increase or decrease the resistance via the digital console, and if space is an issue most fold-able rowing machines will tend to be magnetic.
Now you have an idea of what options are available let’s look at some of the perks and features of rowing machines.
Rowing machines are a great source of low impact cardio exercise because as you are sitting and maintaining a natural and fluid motion you are not putting any excess weight or strain on your body. Unlike running, walking, dance, yoga and weight lifting when you use a rowing machine you don’t have to work with your own body weight in addition to the exercise machine and as you are not straining or putting pressure on your legs you are far less likely to get injured.
If you use your rowing machine incorrectly you can put unnecessary strain on your back, but as long as you look into proper form and technique before you start rowing it is unlikely you will hurt yourself.
Upper and Lower Body Workout
One of the great perks of a rowing machine is that it works your upper and lower body naturally at the same time. The upper body motion will help you work on your abs, biceps and pecks and you will also see your shoulders define and strengthen over time. Rowing is also a great way of improving your posture and strengthening your back which can help reduce back pain and back injury later in life. In addition to all this you will also strengthen your hands and wrists which is practical for every day tasks and hobbies like yoga.
Rowing also benefits your lower body. As you row you will primarily work on your quads, but your calves and glutes will also get a nice work out. Strong legs won’t only make you look great but when you work out your lower body you actually burn more calories and maintain muscles which will improve your metabolism. Rowing is also a great way of working on overall strength, balance and flexibility and holds many long lasting benefits.
Many rowing machines also come with a digital display to help you keep on track of your workouts and keep an eye on your progress. Like treadmills, cross trainers and exercise bikes the digital display on your rowing machine will show you the amount of calories you’ve burned, the amount of time you’ve been working out, your distance and in some cases your heart rate. Some machines will also come with pre-set work out programs that you can use to focus on specific goals.
Most rowing machines will come with a display but not all of them will. You may not think it’ll make a big difference, but digital displays are a really important way of watching your progress and keeping you motivated especially if you work out alone.
Seat and Weight
The length of the rowing machines seat rail can be a concern if you are tall because you want to make sure you can use the machine comfortably. Your weight can also be a factor because most machines have a maximum weight capacity and if anyone above that weight tried to use the machine they could damage it or themselves. Most exercise machines will display this information in their specifications, so it’s important to look this up before making a decision.
Vibration plates have become a popular alternative to more conventional exercise machines in recent years because unlike most other forms of exercise you don’t have to move as you use a vibration plate. When you use a vibration plate you step onto the machine, choose how strong or weak you want the vibrations to be and then turn it on.
You may be wondering how you can lose weight or improve muscle toning with a vibration plate if you’re not required to do any strenuous exercise, and how it works is quite simple. When you use the vibration machine the surface you are standing on becomes uneven and the vibrations are sent through your body. In order to maintain your balance your muscles contract and release at a faster rate, and so even though you yourself are not moving your muscles are working over time in order to keep your balance.
You can also adopt various positions and techniques on your vibration plate to work on specific muscle groups and some machines come with arm holds that can help strengthen your upper as well as lower body. See below for more information.
We have already seen that vibration plates can help you lose weight and get fit, but that’s not all. Vibration plates can also help you increase your bone density, improve coordination and balance, improve your circulation and even help with rehab treatment because the vibrations massage your muscles.
As you are not required to move around on the machine (although some exercises do call for squats and various positions) they are ideal for people who are new to fitness and unsure of their abilities as well as older people or people who have suffered injury in the past.
Oscillation and Tri-Plane Vibration
Some vibration plates use oscillation which basically moves your surface side to side like a sea-saw. Oscillation workouts focus on your lower body and are a great way of burning calories.
Tri-Plane vibration plates move in three directions; up and down, forward and back and side to side. Tri-Plane vibration is great for toning and strength and they tend to be more popular with experts and gyms.
Motor and Frequency
Your vibration plates motor and frequency range will determine how fast the plate can vibrate. The motor is typically measures in pulses per second, so for example if your machine moves at 70hz it will move 70 times a second. The higher your frequency is the harder your work out will be, so it is important to choose a motor that can achieve a higher frequency if you are going to keep improving over time.
Step machines are another great alternative source of cardio whilst they also train you for one of life’s most common and unpleasant tasks i.e. climbing stairs. Unless you are already super fit you have probably noticed that climbing a lot of steep stairs can be a workout by itself and many body builders, athletes and hikers climb stairs as part of their training. This is a pretty easy exercise to incorporate into your daily life, but if you want to exercise indoors and away from prying eyes a step machine can be a great way of gaining strength, losing weight and improving fitness.
Their are two main varieties of step machine, and they are as follows.
This is a more common type of step machine and most of the time it involves pushing down on the pedals whilst the rest of your body remains still.
Like cross trainers and exercise bikes step machines are a low impact way of working out. As you are supported by the machine and not putting too much pressure on your feet, ankles or legs the step machine is much kinder to your joints and is unlikely to result in injury.
Easy to use
Whilst step machines provide a good workout and can be really intense, the motion and machine in themselves are very easy to use get used to and don’t require a lot of skill or practice. If you have ever walked up a flight of stairs you are already familiar with the motion, so all you have to do is apply it to the machine. You are also unlikely to fall off or have to concentrate too hard and so you can use your step machine whilst multi-tasking.
Lower Body Workout
As you will be using your legs during your step machine work out you will be building muscle and toning your glutes, thighs and lower leg muscles. If lower body toning is a goal of yours this could be your ideal machine because it will concentrate on the most important parts of your lower body and help you look great in jeans.
Step machines often come with their own display monitor which will show you your progress and help you focus on your goals. Some of them will also come with a heart rate monitor so you can see how intense your work out is whilst making sure you don’t over work yourself.
Last but not least we have weight training. This is a massive category which covered arm machines, leg machines, squat racks, back machines, multi-gyms and dumbbells. Many people shy away from weight training because they think it’s too hard or they want to concentrate on weight loss rather than building muscle, but weight training can actually be incredibly beneficial for weight loss and your general health and well being.
When you build muscle that muscle requires calories in order to function and so the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn and therefore your metabolism will also increase. Muscles don’t burn as many calories as some people suggest but they do burn more calories than fat and they look a lot better too. Weight training doesn’t necessarily bulk you up (unless that’s the end goal) but it can help sculpt your body into a leaner shape and can help define your legs, glutes and abs.
There are a lot of different weight training options out there and it would take a whole other article to go through them all, but take a look below for some of your options.
Suspension training uses ropes or other suspension equipment to help the user work use their own body weight as resistance and work against it. It primarily strengthens your core and is a good way of improving overall body strength and one of the main perks of suspension training is that you are in total control of the motion and can adjust your position accordingly. Resistance training can help you increase body strength and lose weight, but it can become dangerous if you are not strong enough to use it or if it is used in the wrong way.
Free weight is a term that can apply to kettle bells, dumbbells or any weight that is not confined to a machine. As free weight training literally just involves you and the weight without any external apparatus many people think they are more beneficial and will give you better results, but they are also more likely to result in injury if used incorrectly or if you start out on a weight that is heavier than you are comfortable with.
Free weights can be used to make a variety of exercises more effective and they can be used to strengthen most areas of your body. Compound exercises such as squats, military presses, bent over rows and bench presses are especially effective because they work a lot of muscles at the same time and the weight increases the effectiveness of an already tried and tested exercise.
Free weighs allow for more natural movements, they can improve your balance, they tend to be cheaper and more portable than their mechanical counter parts and it is easy to start out with light weights and increase the load as you grow stronger and more confident.
Dumbbells are a great starter weight which sis basically made up of a weight plate attached to a dumbbell bar, whereas a kettle is a ball shaped weight with an attached handle. You can also purchase hand weights and over time you may want to invest in a weight bar and/or a squat rack.
Chest and Shoulder Machines
There are loads of weight machines out here that focus on your arms, chest and shoulders. Some of these machines include the chest press, low row machines and shoulder press and you can normally adjust the weight and seat until it if comfortable for your height and fitness level. These machines can be quite hard to start off with if you are lacking in chest and shoulder strength, but they can be a great addition to a more experienced weight training regime.
There are loads of leg machines out there that can help you focus on specific muscle groups and work on lower body strength. Adduction machines work your outer and inner thighs and can be used whilst you multi task as they require a fairly simple motion and not a lot of concentration, whilst leg press machines are great for your glutes and can help you progress quite quickly.
With many prices, models and options out there you are sure to find a leg machine that works for you, but keep in mind that leg machines are likely to just work the advertised muscle group and are not that effective for over all strength training or weight loss.
Our back is one of the most over worked parts of our body, but it is not something we tend to focus on. Many people can experience back pain and problems with posture later in life so it is a good idea to start working on strengthening your back now to avoid problems later on.
Our back is a vital part of our body as it is where the spine is located and therefore it is very important to keep safe when you do back exercises and never take on a weight that is too heavy. Various machines will work your upper or lower back and will involve different motions and routines so there are a lot of options to choose from.
Hopefully you have found this buyers guide to home fitness equipment helpful and you now have a better idea of the kind of machine or fitness regime that would work best for you. If overall fitness is your biggest concern it is best to go for a compound machine like a treadmill, cross trainer or rowing machine that will focus on upper as well as lower body strength, whereas if you want to focus on a specific muscle group you may find the more specific machines useful.