Buying Free Weights and Kettlebells for Your Home Gym

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Why free weights?

The beauty of free weights is their versatility. Unlike resistance machines that are typically designed to target one particular muscle group, with barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells (spherical weights with a flat base and thick handle) you can get a full body workout from the single piece of kit and they also provide a greater challenge because you have to keep the weight under control throughout any exercise you use them for. They are also far easier to tuck away and conceal when you have guests over.

 
 

What to consider before you buy

What to consider before you buy There are three things to consider: How much space do you have? How experienced are you with using free weights? And how robust is your floor? The last point is especially important if you want to avoid forking out a lot of money to replace dented wood flooring. It's best to invest in some suitable impact absorbing gym floor mats when using free weights in case you drop them or set them down heavily.
Space is important when it comes to which type of free weights you're after. Olympic-grade barbells are typically 2.2m long meaning you need to have plenty of room to wield them. A full-size barbell weighs 20kg and comes with weight plates ranging from 1.25kg up to 25kg. Dumbbells and kettlebells take up much less room but you might want to invest in a bench to make the most of your dumbbells for moves such as the bench press.
Lastly, experience and technical ability should help shape your decision on what type of free weights to buy. Compound barbell lifts such as back squats and deadlifts can put the body under a lot of strain if done incorrectly so the exercise form should first be learned with a personal instructor on hand to help. For the inexperienced trainer, dumbbells are a good way to progressively increase the demands of exercise, such as by holding them to increase weight when doing step-ups or walking lunges. Kettlebells can be used in a similar way, but to make the most of them to build functional full-body strength with lifts such as swings and clean and presses, your form should first be critiqued by a PT.

 
 

Which is the right one for me?

Which is the right one for me? There are three things to consider: How much space do you have? How experienced are you with using free weights? And how robust is your floor? The last point is especially important if you want to avoid forking out a lot of money to replace dented wood flooring. It's best to invest in some suitable impact absorbing gym floor mats when using free weights in case you drop them or set them down heavily.
Space is important when it comes to which type of free weights you're after. Olympic-grade barbells are typically 2.2m long meaning you need to have plenty of room to wield them. A full-size barbell weighs 20kg and comes with weight plates ranging from 1.25kg up to 25kg. Dumbbells and kettlebells take up much less room but you might want to invest in a bench to make the most of your dumbbells for moves such as the bench press.
Lastly, experience and technical ability should help shape your decision on what type of free weights to buy. Compound barbell lifts such as back squats and deadlifts can put the body under a lot of strain if done incorrectly so the exercise form should first be learned with a personal instructor on hand to help. For the inexperienced trainer, dumbbells are a good way to progressively increase the demands of exercise, such as by holding them to increase weight when doing step-ups or walking lunges. Kettlebells can be used in a similar way, but to make the most of them to build functional full-body strength with lifts such as swings and clean and presses, your form should first be critiqued by a PT.

 
 

What to do with your new free weights

What to do with your new free weights

Investing in an adjustable bench and rack will help you make the most of your barbell and dumbbells and increase the number of exercises you can use them for. Using a bench that you can set to an incline or decline means you can target your muscles from different angles to provide a new stimulus and help them keep growing. And being able to set the barbell up in a rack means you can go heavier with squats and overhead presses because you won’t have to haul the weight from the floor into position at the start of the lift.

 

Top Five Picks

 

1
Physionics Dumbbell Barbell Set, 40kg for £54.03

Physionics Dumbbell Barbell Set, 40kg for £54.03 This adjustable dumbbell set ranging from 15-40kg is a low cost option for a broad variety of exercises and training abilities. The circular weights mean you can roll the dumbbells on the floor for moves such as roll outs, unlike with hex dumbbells, and they have non-slip grooved grips for a comfortable hold.
Pros: Adjustable weights provides a variety of exercises and ensure progression in your training
Cons: Spinlock collars can loosen over time making the weights liable to fall apart on high-rep exercises, circular weights mean they can roll out of reach during some moves

 
 

2
Olympic barbell set and 170kg rubber bumper plates, £419.99

Olympic barbell set and 170kg rubber bumper plates, £419.99 At the other end of the price bracket is this beautifully crafted Olympic barbell complete with competition-quality bumper weight plates. The vibrantly coloured plates, made from solid natural rubber instead of cast iron ones with a rubber coating, will easily absorb impact without incurring damage to the bar, making them ideal for barbell exercises where you can drop, or "dump", the weight if you need.
Pros: Highly durable, excellent quality, rubber weights absorb impact to help protect equipment and floor and allow you to lift heavy confidently
Cons: Expensive, still requires an Olympic lifting platform

 
 

3

BodyRip Competition Kettlebells, £34.95 Continuing the competition-regulation quality are these robust kettlebells, ranging from 8-32kg. They are all the same size, regardless of weight, as competition rules require, have a smart, easy clean vinyl coating and chunky metal handle for two-handed swings. For improved grip and to reduce the risk of getting callouses it can be wise to buy chalk or liquid chalk when using them for high-rep exercises.
Pros: Ergonomic design for comfortable grip, non-slip base makes them easier to use for moves which require you to be in contact with the floor
Cons: Outer casing can wear away on frequent use, metal handle can be slippery meaning you'll need to be careful the weight doesn't slip on dynamic moves

 
 

4
DKN Cast Iron Rubber Encased Hex 2-30kg Dumbbells, £89.99

DKN Cast Iron Rubber Encased Hex 2-30kg Dumbbells, £89.99 These cast iron rubber encased dumbbells are uncomplicated but effective for a broad spectrum of home use. Although you can't adjust the weights on them, they are sturdily built, won't fall apart after frequent use and due to their anti-roll hexagonal shape, offer a stable alternative to circular plates for floor based exercises, such as bear crawls. If you only buy one pair, select a weight on the lower side. You can always do more reps or static holds but if they're too heavy they will limit your workout.
Pros: Hex design makes them sturdy for floor-based exercises, rubber casing absorbs impact to reduce floor damage, knurled handle makes them easier to grip
Cons: Non-adjustable weight can limit progression so choose your weight carefully, anti-roll can reduce ease of use for moves such as abs rollouts when you need them to move

 
 

5
We R Sports Weight Bench with Weight Rack, £139.99

We R Sports Weight Bench with Weight Rack, £139.99 A solid weight bench will help you make the most of your dumbbells or barbell but can also provide a comprehensive platform for exercises on its own, such as with dragon flag core moves. This bench can be adjusted from upright through to an incline, flat and decline position to target your muscles from different angles to help them keep growing, and includes a leg developer station for leg curls and extensions to work your hamstrings and quads.
Pros: Additional leg developer allows you to get a workout from head to toe, padded foam set, back rest, foot and knee pads for comfortable use, adjustable height of rack increases variety of exercises you can perform
Cons: Weights and barbell need to be bought separately, large size can make it awkward to manoeuvre and it will take up a lot of room in your home gym

 
 

 
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