Well Equipped

There’s no place like home, as the old saying goes, especially if you want
a gym setup that’s tailored to your needs and readily accessible 24/7.
But with a ton of available equipment options, where do you start?
Simple—look for the types of hardware that will best help you
achieve your fitness goals.

April 2008

At first glance, it would appear that Americans are sweatin’ up a storm at the local gym. In 2006, more than 41 million people spent almost $16 billion on memberships and other services, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. But dig a little deeper and a different picture emerges: Out of those 41 million, only 17.6 million logged more than 100 days a year. Hmmm.

The rest of those gym members probably signed up with the best of intentions, but we all know that intent and action aren’t always in sync. There’s the usual excuses—no time, bad weather, my favorite TV show is on, etc.—but that doesn’t stop exercise from being a health necessity.
One answer is to set up a home gym with both aerobic (heart-pumping) and resistance (strength-building) equipment. Here are some basics to get you started.

Ellipticals

How It Works: Cross a treadmill with a stair stepper and you get an elliptical trainer. It gets its name from the pattern in which your feet move, as opposed to a stepper’s up-and-down motion.
Benefits: Provides a good cardio workout, especially if you use the arm handles, with less stress on touchy joints.

Workout Notes: Make sure the model you buy is matched to your stride length (some models will match it automatically). Keep your back straight and your weight evenly distributed over the heels and balls of your feet.

Weight Machines

How It Works: These devices provide calibrated resistance via either weight stacks or plates, or bands.
Benefits: Lets you lift weights in a controlled manner.
Workout Notes: Look for models that allow both leg and arm exercises. If you’re new to lifting, use a lighter weight until you get into a routine.

Treadmills

How It Works: An electrically driven belt provides the walking surface; most models offer elevation as well.
Benefits: Lets you take a nice hike or jog no matter what the weather is doing outside.
Workout Notes: If your knees are creaky, increase the degree of incline instead of your pace.

Free Weights

How It Works: Weights lifted without mechanical assistance. Benches—either flat, inclined or seated—allow you to perform a greater range of exercises.
Benefits: Helps you increase muscle tone, definition and strength. Remember, more muscle = higher metabolism = more calories burned.
Workout Notes: Proper form is important to avoid injury and get results (a personal trainer can help). For safety try to work out with a buddy who can spot you, making sure the weight doesn’t fall; a spotter bench provides extra security.

Balance/Core

How It Works: This category takes in a lot of territory, from stability balls to situp/back extension machines to Bosu trainers, which is a half-a-ball-on-a-platform.
Benefits: Exercising the small muscles in your body’s “core,” or trunk and pelvis, helps improve your balance. It also provides support for your spine, which helps stave off low back pain.
Workout Notes: As with other types of exercise, good form is important to target the right muscles. And stability balls aren’t as easy to use as they look, so get some professional guidance at first.

Stair Steppers

How It Works: Steppers come in two basic types, the moving stairway and the free climber.
Benefits: Provides a powerful workout for both your heart and your legs.
Workout Notes: Loosen your muscles with a five-minute warmup. Don’t lean on the rails or stay up on your toes.

Exercise Bicycles

How It Works: It operates like a regular bike, except that you don’t have to worry about falling off.
Benefits: It lets you burn calories without burning out your joints.
Workout Notes: It pays to pay extra; cheap bikes that use knobs to control resistance wear out very easily.

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