Exercise

Best Exercise Equipment

Ever walked into a gym and felt overwhelmed by the rows of different exercise equipment to choose from?


Or maybe you want to set up your own home gym, but there’s so much hype and false claims being made about each piece of equipment that you’re not sure what to believe.

Well what you don’t want to do is waste your time or your money.


So here’s our guide on how to choose the best exercise equipment for fun, effective workouts you can actually enjoy.

How To Choose The Right Exercise Equipment

Knowing how to pick the right exercise equipment will not only save you time, money and, energy, it will also ensure you get the best possible results from your workout.

So what do you need to look out for when selecting which exercise equipment to use?

Well deciding which exercise equipment to use depends on a variety of factors. Such as,your personal fitness goals, your current level of fitness ,how much time you can dedicate to working out, and whether or not you have any existing injuries you wish to avoid aggravating.

Do you want to shed some pounds? Pack on muscle? Increase your strength and endurance? Or perhaps you’d like to tone up and sculpt a beautiful beach body? The goals you set for yourself will determine which exercise equipment you should use. You also need to ask yourself if you’d rather work out at home or at the gym.

While some equipment is designed to help improve your cardio and burn off fat, other equipment is designed to help you develop muscular size and strength.

But regardless of what your goals are, the best exercise equipment to choose is always the one you’ll enjoy using the most. Especially when you’re embarking on a new exercise program. It’s a good idea to test out a couple of machines and equipment first to see which ones you’re most comfortable using.Otherwise you’ll just get bored and lose interest.

And since you won’t be using the equipment regularly, your goals will remain far away on the horizon.

Also, if you want to prevent muscle imbalance and a false feeling of  progression and confidence , it’s important to mix it up and not to overuse any one piece of equipment. One study suggest that if you want to stay engaged with your workout and enjoy the long-term health benefits, variety in the type of exercise you perform is just as important as the exercise itself.  

By simply taking the first step and joining a gym, you’re much more like to increase your activity levels and make improvements to your health. Especially if you have a fitness partner to go with to keep you company. Studies show that exercising with a friend or family member can boost your performance and make it easier to stay motivated during your working out.

Prefer to exercise at home? That’s fine too. Access to home exercise equipment can lead to significant weight loss and improved cardiorespiratory fitness due to the enhanced likelihood of long-term participation in exercise. So just having exercise equipment available in your home means you’re far more likely to workout.

Cardio Training Equipment

Cardio training raises your heartrate and breathing,boosts your metabolism, and puts your body into fat burning mode. It’s also been well established that regular cardio exercise can combat depression and relieve stress and anxiety. It’s a great way to boost your mood, raise your self-esteem and improve the quality of your sleep.

Regular cardio training will help you lose weight, burn off fat and strengthen your heart. But the benefits don’t stop there. Studies have found that cardio exercise helps control your blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes, and have established a link between regular exercise and a reduced risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

If you don’t exercise regularly, you’re putting your health and the quality of your life at risk. In one study, researchers demonstrated that poor physical performance and  lack of exercise, especially as you get older, can actually increase your risk of dementia.

Experts recommend that you should engage in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, and that you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.

For cardio training you want to choose equipment that uses large muscle movement to increase your heart rate and respiration and speed up your metabolic rate so you can burn off that unwanted fat and improve your cardiovascular health and endurance.Pick equipment that you can enjoy,use comfortably and that allows you to progress naturally at your own pace. Most cardio equipment will even allow you to measure your workout, track your progress, and keep count of how many calories you’ve burned.

Suffering from an injury? Some machines are gentler on the body and designed to prevent any injuries by being low impact on certain muscles and joints. It’s all about selecting the equipment that feels right for your body and moves you quickly towards achieving your goals.

So what is the best exercise equipment to choose for a great cardio workout?

Treadmill

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Running outdoors is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and burn calories. But if you live in an urban environment, running may not be that pleasant because of traffic and poor air quality. And sometimes the weather just doesn’t allow it. That’s what makes a treadmill so convenient. A treadmill allows you to walk, jog or run indoors regardless of the weather or your surroundings.Walking or running on a treadmill strengthens and tones your hamstrings, quadriceps, shins, calves and glutes.

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or just looking to lose weight, the treadmill works to improve cardio health for all levels of fitness.Each time you step on the treadmill you strengthen your heart, and as your heart grows stronger, you lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and depression.

Also, the terrain isn’t as challenging.Because you’re walking or running on a treadmill instead of hard asphalt or concrete, you reduce the impact on your knees and joints and limit your chances of suffering an injury.

Tracking your progress is especially important if you’re working towards a weight loss goal. With a treadmill it’s easy to measure your workout and monitor your progress. Distance, calories burned and heart rate can all be tracked.

Even walking on the treadmill is enough to reap the health benefits. Studies show that regular exercise on the treadmill can even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Tip: To burn off more calories when walking on the treadmill,  set it at an incline since walking against gravity increase the difficulty and requires you expend more energy.

However, the lack of scenery and fresh air when exercising on a treadmill can lead to boredom and a loss of interest. Running outdoors has a greater impact on your psychological well-being. That’s why it’s important to switch up your exercise routine and avoid doing all your running on the treadmill

Best For: Both beginner and advanced exercisers who want to lose weight and strengthen their heart.

Elliptical Machine

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The Elliptical Machine is a low impact exercise machine that mimics the movements of walking, running and cross-country skiing without putting any excessive pressure on the joints. It’s intensity and ease of use means it’s well suited for beginners and for older people suffering from joint pain. The Elliptical Machine uses both the upper and lower body. It works the legs, chest, shoulders, back and arms and you can complete a workout in as little as 20 minutes. You simply stand on top of the pedals and grab the handles, then move your legs in a gliding back and forth motion.

It’s a good way for all ages and fitness levels to increase their stamina and cardio capacity while improving their balance and mobility.

According to one study the average person can burn upto 400 calories in just 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which is similar to that as a workout on the treadmill. However, due to the fact that you have to use both your arms and your legs, the elliptical machine increases your heart rate more, which means you can burn more calories and fat with less effort.

Best For: Quick effective cardio workouts that burn calories without any heavy impact on the joints

Stationary Bike

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There are two types of stationary exercise bikes. An upright bike, which is similar to a regular exercise bike, and a recumbent bike which allows you to sit behind rather than above the pedals. Recumbent bikes provide greater support for your back and so are a good choice if you suffer from back pain.

The stationary bike is a low injury risk to the ankles and knees, and is easier on the body compared to a treadmill. It’s easy to use and is an effective way to build up your cardio fitness,leg strength,lose weight and burn off fat. However, since you’re sitting down and don’t need to use as much energy, you burn fewer calories.

Interval training is the best way to maximize a cardio workout on the bike. For example, you cycle for one or two minutes as fast as you can, followed by a one-minute rest interval to recover. A 30 minute workout on the stationary bike can burn upto 255 calories at moderate intensity and upto 391 at high-intensity for the average person..

And as one particular study demonstrated, just 15 minutes of pedaling on the stationary bike is enough to boost your mood and reduce stress.

Why we love this piece of equipment is so obvious: it helps reduce knee and ankle injury, offers greater assistance in pedaling action, and helps users to develop an ideal pace for better fat burning and toning.

Best For: Low injury risk exercise to boost your mood and relieve stress

Rowing Machine

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The rowing machine is a full body workout that’s great for weight loss since your body has to work the entire time and so it’s hard to slack off.It’s an excellent low impact way to burn calories and shed fat, without causing excessive wear and tear on the joints.

Rowing uses every major muscle group in the body. Your back, shoulders, arms, core and legs are all put to work. It’s fantastic for building and toning your muscles while increasing your stamina and endurance at the same time.

The average 155 pound person can expect to burn approximately 260 calories for a 30 minute workout of moderate intensity or 316 calories for a high-intensity workout. However, the rowing machine has a greater learning curve than the stationary bike and treadmill. For an effective workout, and to avoid any possible injuries, proper technique is essential. So it’s not the most suitable piece of exercise equipment for beginners or those who suffer from lower back pain. When using the rowing machine you should keep your back straight at all times, never straighten your legs all the way and don’t lean back too much when pulling.

Best For: Full body workout that will melt fat and tone your muscles

Strength Training

Strength training is an essential component of a balanced fitness program. You increase your muscle size and endurance by overloading your muscle fibers until they slightly tear. This forces your body to repair the fibers and results in an increase in muscle size and weight-lifting ability.

Weight training is a safe and convenient way to provide the resistance needed for overloading the muscles. Strength training uses resistance methods like free weights, weight machines or a person’s own body weight to build muscular strength.

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But strength training not helps you to gain more muscle, it also increases your metabolism so you can burn more calories and keep the weight off for good. Resistance exercise even slows the muscle loss that naturally occurs with age. Studies indicates that inactive adults experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle per decade and accumulate fat much more easily. While another study showed that engaging in strength training can increase bone density, reduce the risk of osteoporosis and can also combat heart disease, arthritis and even type 2 diabetes.

You should perform strength training exercises at least twice per week and choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 reps. One study suggests that one set of high-intensity resistance can be just effective as 3 sets for increasing muscle strength. If you’re just starting out, help from a qualified fitness trainer can be invaluable in learning how to use proper form and technique to avoid injury. And remember, you should always rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group to allow your body to recover.

So which type of strength training equipment should you choose? Free weights or resistance machines?

Free Weights vs Resistance Weight Machines

Free Weights

A free weight is a type of weight training equipment , such as a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell, that doesn’t limit the range of motion with which you can use it. They allow you to train functional movements that translate into real world activities, such as lifting, pushing and pulling. And give you complete freedom to move around rather than being locked into a specific range of motion or pattern. Their versatility means you can train anywhere and  keep your body guessing by performing a wide range of exercises with endless variations.

While resistance machines isolate a specific muscle, free weights enable you to perform  compound exercises that uses a group of muscles at the same time. Compared to resistance machines, they’re a more effective way to build overall muscular strength and size because your body has to use every single muscle to keep the weight stabilized to maintain balance.

Due to the complex movement, steep learning curve and high-level of skill that’s required, free weights can be quite daunting to beginners. Not to mention that some of the most effective exercises using free weights require a spotter to assist you. And if they’re done incorrectly with poor form, can result in a serious injury.

So if you don’t want to end up hurting yourself, proper form and technique is critical, which is why it’s important you seek out the help of a qualified fitness trainer.

Resistance Weight Machines

Resistance machines are designed to help you isolate and work on a specific muscle. You can learn to use them quickly. They’re safer since no weights can fall on you. And because you don’t need to be accompanied by a spotter, you can train alone and lift heavier weights without assistance. Also, if you’re using resistance machines , it’s easier to work around any injuries you may have.

If you don’t have the money to hire a personal trainer resistance machines are a great way to build muscular strength by yourself.

So if you’re new to the gym, and don’t know how to properly use the free weights just yet, you should go for the resistance machines.

Kettlebells

So what are kettlebells?

Well a kettlebell is a cast-iron ball with a handle attached to the top. To build strength you swing and lift the kettlebell for resistance to develop your muscles.  

Kettlebell training is a great way to improve your strength, power and posture while also working your cardiovascular system.A study by the American Council on Exercise showed that the average person can burn 400 calories in just 20 minutes with a kettlebell workout.

Most kettlebell workouts target your core, arms, legs and back. They provide a versatile and portable workout that can be used both indoors and outdoors. They’re cheap to buy and you can use them anywhere. Hundreds of different exercises can be performed using kettlebells that will develop your strength, stamina, and improve your cardiovascular health, as well as enhance your mobility and stability. Although if your goal is to simply pack on muscle, you should be aware that researchers in one study found that muscle gain is greater with weightlifting than kettlebell training.

Kettlebells offer quick and enjoyable workouts that combine cardio and strength training.

However, when starting kettlebell training it’s important to work with a certified kettlebell instructor, as injuries are common if you don’t have good posture or form.

Best For: Short workouts that combine cardio with strength training to help you burn calories, build functional strength, and improve your balance and flexibility.

Dumbbells

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A short dumbbell workout can have a positive impact on your mood, boost your memory and can even make you more attentive.

Using dumbbells allows you to add resistance to traditional bodyweight exercises such as the lunge or squat. And since the muscles you work depend on the exercise you’re doing, every major muscle group can be targeted.They require greater coordination and stabilization of your core and limbs than resistance machines and offer an increased range of motion that ensures you work both sides of your body.

The size of the dumbbell you use depends on both your personal fitness goals and your previous experience with weight training. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with lower weights and work your way up gradually. So choose a weight you can lift for about 12 to 15 reps for one or two sets.

If you happen to be experienced with lifting weights and have been training for more than a year, use weights that allow you to complete about six to eight reps per set. Researchers found that heavier weights and lower reps produce the greatest strength gains.

Best For: Those starting out a strength training program, either at home or at the gym

Barbell

A barbell is a long bar with weights attached at the end. It’s commonly used for heavy weight training in bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting and is ideal for those seeking to achieve maximum strength.

As researchers in one study proved, most people can lift heavier weights using a barbell. It’s simple to use and with a bit of instruction, learning the basic lifts won’t take long.  And since you can always add more weight to the bar, unlimited progression is possible.

However, it’s not just bodybuilders that can benefit from using the barbell. The results of another study proved that if you’re feeling stressed, lifting weights at a low to moderate intensity with low reps can actually decrease your anxiety levels.

Best For: Lifting heavier weights to gain maximum strength

Dip Stand

Dips are one of the most effective exercises to quickly build and tone strong triceps. To use the dip stand you stand between a pair of dip bars, grasp each bar with your hands and push your body up so that your elbows are locked and your feet dangle. Then you bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor.

Dips are a form of bodyweight training that works your chest, shoulders, arms and back.. With bodyweight training you use your own bodyweight as resistance to improve your aerobic fitness and develop muscular strength.  You should avoid performing dips if you suffer from any shoulder pain,as the exercise will only aggravate it.

But the dip stand allows you to work more than just your triceps. You can also work your abs with leg raises or you can perform chest dips by leaning forward. Or if you want to increase the resistance, you can add weight with a dipping belt.

Best For: Building and toning strong triceps

Pull Up Bar

The pull up bar works your arms, shoulders, chest and back. To use the pull up bar you hang from a suspended bar and pull yourself up using your own bodyweight as resistance. It engages your entire upper body and works several muscle groups at once to help you sculpt that v-shaped physique.

In a classic pull up, you grip the bar with your palms facing away from you, while when you’re performing a chin up, you grip the bar with your palms facing away from you.

Chin ups are considered easier than pull ups and hit your pecs and biceps harder. However, your traps are more active during a pull up. You can perform many different variations of exercises to target different muscles groups at a range of intensities using the pull up bar.

For example, the narrower the grip the more it will train your biceps. You can also hang and perform leg raises or even perform pull ups and chin ups by your fingertips if you want to focus  on building your forearms.

Best For: Developing your entire upper body for a v-shaped physique

EZ Curl Bar

So what’s the difference between an EZ Curl Bar and a straight bar? Well an EZ curl bar is usually lighter, has a slightly bent shape that resembles a ‘W’, and has angled grips in the middle which are designed to take the strain off your wrists to provide movement that’s more natural and comfortable than a straight bar to.. You’re wrists, forearms and elbows are all in a safer position to prevent any injuries.

Used to target smaller muscle groups such as your biceps and triceps, the EZ Curl Bar can be used for squats, barbell front raises, bicep curls and curl bar tricep extensions. And is often used in combination with the preacher bench for preacher curls to the target the wrist and biceps.

Best For: Isolating the biceps safely without putting excessive pressure on the wrists

Weight Benches

A weight bench is used in combination with a barbell, straight bar or EZ Curl bar to build strength in your shoulders, arms and chest.

Different benches come at different angles. There’s a flat bench, incline bench, decline bench and a preacher bench. By changing the angle of the bench you’re also changing the position of your body and the muscles being emphasized.

So which is the best? Well ultimately, that’s a matter of preference and depends on which muscles you wish to focus on. Let’s take a look at the different benches.

Flat Bench

The main exercise performed on a flat bench is the bench press, which is where you lie back and press the weight upwards, usually with the assistance of a spotter to help prevent an injury. With the bench press you can build strength, power and stronger bones to fight off osteoporosis. The flat bench press is the best exercise for overall pec development, as it works the upper and lower pec evenly. But shoulder injuries, particularly the rotator cuff, and injuries from overuse are quite common.

Best For: Overall development of the pecs

Incline Bench

The incline bench focuses more on the shoulders and the upper chest area just below the collarbones. The incline press is safer on your pecs, shoulders and places less stress on your rotator cuffs, which is a common injury when using the flat bench, due to the angle of the bench.

Studies have shown that the ideal angle for the incline bench press is 45% degrees. And that if you want a well balanced, tone looking chest performing both the incline and flat press is necessary.

Best For:  Developing strength and muscle in the shoulders and upper chest with less stress on the rotator cuff

Decline Bench

Now a decline bench is tilted toward the floor, so that when you perform a chest press you emphasize the lower section of your chest, tricep and shoulders.

You should be able to handle heavier weights when the bench is at a decline so the decline bench press is a better exercise if you primary goal is strength. It places less stress on the shoulder joints and is easy to rack and unrack, making it a safer exercise. You should set the decline bench between a 15 and 30 degree angle to get the most muscle activation.

Best For: Since you can lift heavier weights using the decline bench, the decline bench press is the best way to reach maximum strength

Preacher Bench

The preacher bench is an angled bench with padding for your elbows. You sit on the seat of the bench with your arms and torso rested against a pad that supports your upper arms while your armpits rest just above the edge of the pad. It gives you more stability so you can complete more reps and since your upper arms are planted firmly against  the pad, you’re not able to use your body for momentum. It’s used in tandem with an EZ Curl Bar to perform preacher curls and forces you to truly isolate your biceps, particularly your inner biceps.

Best For: Isolating and increasing the size of your inner biceps

Lat PullDown Machine

The lat pulldown machine mimics a pull up. It features a padded seat, thigh supports and a long bar hanging from a rod. You sit on the seat, hook your thighs under the support pads and pull the bar down to your chest. The lat pulldown machine is easily adjusted according to your strength and is good for beginners and heavy set individuals who have yet to master the pull up, as it doesn’t require a lot of agility or coordination.

So what’s the best way to grip the bar? Well as one study showed,  to get the most out of the lat pulldown, you’ll want to hold the bar with an overhand grip to ensure maximum activation of the lats and that a wide grip is more effective than a narrow grip.

And as another study demonstrated  pulling the bar down in front of your face or neck is far more effective than pulling the bar behind the neck.

Best For: Beginners and heavier individuals who don’t yet have the strength or agility to use the pull up bar

Pec Deck Machine

The pec deck machine consists of a seat, back and two levers protruding from behind the seat. You sit down, place your forearms against the levers and you pull your arms toward each other and then release to activate your pecs.

This exercise is great for isolating the pecs and inner chest. It’s considered an isolation exercise since only one joint is used, and because the machine acts as a stabilizer, no real stabilizing muscles are needed. So it’s best to mix it in with the bench press and push ups.

A study found that the pec deck is one of the most effective chest exercises, activating the pectoralis major nearly as much as the bench press.

Best For: The most effective way to build chest size and strength

Cable Machine

A cable machine consists of a weight stack that’s connected to cams and pulleys. You simply pull on the cables to lift the weights. If you’re new to weight training, or if you’re working out alone, a cable machine provides a good, safe workout with little risk of injury.  They’re often used for injury rehabilitation and by athletes looking to specifically isolate one muscle at a time. By adding the resistance of a cable machine to your exercises you can burn calories, build core strength and generate more power.

Some exercises you can perform on the cable machine are the upright row, cable squat, incline

chest press and double cable curls.

Best For: Adding resistance to your workouts in a safe way with little risk of injury

Hyperextension Bench

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The lower back is one of the most important muscle groups in the body and strengthening it can lead to significant gains throughout the body.

The hyper extension bench is the most efficient piece of equipment to strengthen and build the lower back. It’s a core machine that targets the lower back, abdominals and glutes. Your core and abdominals are put to work throughout the exercise to keep your torso straight.

Using the hyperextension bench can lead to improvements in your squats and deadlifts. It’s a great core exercise to help you manage or prevent back pain and help you improve and maintain correct posture.

Best For: Strengthening your lower back and core muscles

Smith Machine

The smith machine has a barbell attached that uses twin rods to move it up and down in a straight line. It maintains stability so you can focus solely on lifting, which makes it easier to use than a bench press and more suitable for beginners. For example performing squats on the smith machine removes any need to maintain balance. But this can lead to a feeling of overconfidence which will affect your performance on the free weight squat or bench press.

Because it works in a fixed pathway, it forces the joints to move in a way they may not to move.

It encourages poor form, makes strength imbalances worse and can cause injury by restricting natural movement. And as the results of one study established, the free weight squat is a more effective exercise for muscle gain.

Best For: Beginners who don’t yet have the coordination or strength to perform a squat or a bench press

Leg Curl Machine

Do you want to build bigger and stronger hamstrings? Well researchers have found that the leg curl is the most effective way to increase hamstring strength.

The leg curl machine is a piece of exercise equipment that allows you to perform leg curls, which involve flexing the lower leg against resistance towards your buttocks.

Depending on the machine you sit or lie down with the pads behind your ankles and curl the weight up.

Best For: Building muscle and strength in your hamstrings

Leg Extension Machine

The leg extension machine targets your quadriceps, which are the muscles on the front of your thigh. You sit on the machine with your knees at a 90 degree angle and your ankles behind the pads. Then you lift the weight until your legs are almost straight, however, you should always keep a slight bend in your knees to protect the joint from excessive wear and tear.

Because the leg extension machine applies constant ACL tension, people with ligament injuries should avoid this exercise.

Best For: Isolating the quadriceps for muscle and strength gain

Calf Machine

The calf machine can be seated or standing. For the seated calf machine you sit down with the pads over your thighs at a 90 degree angle at the knees. Then you lower the weight slowly until you are at full extension, pausing for a brief moment before slowly raising the weight by using the balls of your feet. Don’t use your toes.

To use the standing calf machine you fix your shoulders under the bar, stand on the calf block on the balls of your feet, and slowly lower your heels until you feel a deep stretch. Make sure to keep the slightest bend on your knees then slowly raise them again until you’re back in the starting position.

The calf machine works your entire calf. Your calf consists of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the visible muscle you can see on your calf and it works to extend your feet and point your toe. The soleus is the smaller muscle that’s underneath the gastrocnemius which also works to extend the foot and provide stability to the knee joint.

Performing calf raises is an effective way to rehabilitate an injury to the Achilles tendon.

Best For: Crafting rock solid calf muscles or for recovery from an injury to the Achilles tendon

Leg Press Machine

Some leg press machines place your body in a declined position with your head lower than your body while others place your body in a horizontal position. At the beginning of the exercise your knee and hips are bent at a 90 degree angle. You place your feet flat against the platform, then you extend your knees to push the platform away from the body until your legs are straight. You hold the position before bending your knees to bring your legs slowly back to the starting position.

Unlike most resistance machines that isolate a specific muscle group, the leg press machine is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups. The leg press works all your lower body muscles and strengthens your knees and hip joints. The primary muscle group targeted is the quadricep at the front of the thighs.

Now if your goal is muscle growth, it will interest you to know that the squat is a more effective exercise than the leg press. But if you suffer from an ACL injury or from joint pain in your knees, the same study showed that the leg press is a safer exercise due to the lack of ACL force. It’s considered a relatively safe alternative for strength training  with free weights because your spine and body is supported throughout the exercise. It’s suitable if you’re training alone as it requires less balance and reduces the risk of lower back injury.

Best For: Developing total lower body strength and size when training alone

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6 Comments

  • The best exercise equipment is really very little at all- a yoga mat, a pair of rotating pushup handles, and an ab roller. Also, a pair of gymnastic rings hung in a basement, garage, or from a tree.

    That is really all that you need- the important thing is the knowledge of how to properly exercise using your own body as resistance! Perfectly Paleo Exercise is the ebook I wrote about it, but it’s also all available on my website and podcast, Paleo Quick Tip of the Day.

    I used to use equipment, but learned how to do much better without it.

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