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Opinions wanted on what equipment to buy. (xpost /r/fitness)(r/homegym)
I’ve only been frequenting this sub for a few months, but I feel like similar questions to this show up all the time. I feel like it would probably be really helpful to add a little FAQ section to the sidebar to direct new people to. I’ll take a shot of putting together something really basic here based on what I’ve gleaned from previous posts. If people like it, we can resubmit it as a separate post. Please feel free to correct me or add input because I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about.
Q: What are the essential workout equipment I should have for powerlifting/bodybuilding?” A: For a basic gym setup, most people here have a power rack, a bench (flat or flat/incline; less often flat/incline/decline), a 7′ olympic barbell, and an iron olympic weight sets. This setup allows you to do the four big lifts safely – the big lifts being squats, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press (OHP). Not just that, but this setup allows you a ton of flexibility for many different barbell exercises. Most importantly, it gives you room to grow and get bigger for a long time. If you buy good quality equipment, it is feasible that you’ll never really need to upgrade (although you will feel compelled to).
Q: Where is the best place to buy my equipment? A: Generally, the best bang for your buck is to buy used. There are a ton of perfectly good equipment being resold for 1/2 of their retail value daily (or less). If you can, be patient and check craigslist, kijiji, play it again sports, or eBay. There are apps and programs that you can use to alert you when new postings are made based on keywords that you entered. In terms of pricing, good deals will depend on where you live. Keep checking craigslist for a few months and you’ll get an idea of what constitutes a fair value in your area (you can also post here and have people help you out). In general, for olympic iron plates, aim for somewhere around $0.50/lb. Craigslist is also a great way to buy and flip equipment that you don’t need to help finance your home gym. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of living in a rich used market area. If you have to buy new (or if you just like new things), a few of the places that people buy from are: Rogue Fitness, MDUSA, Sorinex, Texas Strength Systems, EliteFTS, NewYorkBarbells, Titan Fitness, GetRx’d, Fringesports, Spud Inc, etc. Then of course there’s always Amazon, where people get popular items such as the adidas flat bench, Atlas power rack, Powerlinen PPR200x, CAP OB-86B barbell, etc.
Q: What’s the difference between a power rack and a half rack? A: Generally, most people feel that power racks are safer than half racks. This is because you lift within the cage, which has safeties/spotters to help catch the weight when you fail, preventing it from falling on you (especially important for bench press). Half racks do come with safeties as well, however you have to be careful to get safeties that are long enough so that you can comfortably step back from the rack to do your squats. Also, they have to be beefy enough to support heavy weights being dropped from shoulder height (or higher) onto them. Note: one difference between half racks and power racks is that if you fall backwards using a half rack, you will not have the safety of a cage to catch you. Not only does this put you at risk of injury, but also having iron weights fall from shoulder or overhead height is no good for your floor, your barbell, or your weights.
Q: What should I look for when getting a rack? A: When choosing a squat rack, there are a couple things to look for. First, know the weight capacity of the squat rack. Second, make sure it’s a quality gauge steel. Most people will recommend 11 ga or heavier and at the very least, 14 ga. Rule of thumb is that if they don’t say the gauge, it’s probably going to be a very thin steel (what you’d find at Dick’s, Academy, etc.). Third, you’ll also want to know the hole spacing. The spacing between holes will determine where you place your spotter/safety bars. In general, 2″ center-to-center is about as wide a hole spacing as you would want. Some racks will have the Westside hole spacing, which is 2″ center-to-center with 1″ center-to-center spacing in the area for bench press. This allows you to have finer control of the safeties when setting them for bench press, allowing greater range of motion of the exercise. Fourth, you might also be interested in the type of barbell holders that come with the rack. The trend now is for J-hooks/J-cups with UHMW inserts to protect the knurling on your barbell. Some racks will have a bolt type barbell holder. And finally some racks have a gunrack style barbell holder. Fifth, you’ll want to know about possible accessories that will fit your rack when the time comes for upgrades. Most racks will come with a pull-up bar. Some have dip attachments. Some racks can use the attachments built for other racks (example: Titan HD racks are made of 2×3 steel tubing, and therefore can use Rogue Infinity accessories). Finally, but perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to know about how stable the rack is. You can tell this by the weight of the rack and the footprint of the rack. Some racks require being bolted down. You can either do this directly into your flooring, or by building a lifting platform and securing your rack onto that.
Q: Should I get bumper plates or iron plates? A: There is a huge difference between the cost of iron plates and bumper plates. Used, iron plates go for $0.50-0.70/lb. Bumper plates will typically go for around $1.60/lb. So, you should only use bumper plates if you need it. Bumper plates are made of high density rubber and are meant to withstand being dropped from overhead. If you plan on doing olympic lifts (snatch, clean, jerk, etc.), then you will need bumper plate…and probably a platform to protect your flooring. If you are doing extremely heavy deadlifts and are worried about noise, then you can consider bumper plates. Otherwise, it is much cheaper to just use iron plates.
Q: Can I use bumper plates along with iron plates for deadlifts? This seems to be up for debate. Bumper plates are generally engineered to support their own weight ONLY. Having bumpers hold up the weight of addition iron plates will probably cause them to wear out and crack earlier in the long run. However, people say that they have had success using the following setup on their barbell: 45 lb bumper, 45 lb iron plate, 25 lb bumper, any additional smaller iron plates. YMMV.
Q: Which barbell should I get? A: In general, you want to get a good quality barbell if you can. People often say it’s the centerpiece of their gym. In general, when starting out, the best bang for your buck beginner barbell has been the CAP OB-86B, which can be had for $120-150 at Walmart or Amazon. Stepping up in quality from that, people also like barbells from rogue (ohio power bar, rogue bar 2.0, B&R bar, chan bar), Fringe sport Bomba bar, Texas power bar, etc. Of course there are many other barbells out there that I’m missing. If you’re just starting out, using the barbell that comes with your 300 lb weight set from Dicks/Academy is just fine too. Just know that bars from those 300 lb weight sets typically weigh less than 45 lbs. To find out for sure, just hold one and get on the scale then subtract out your weight. In any case, weight is weight, so just use what you have until you can upgrade.
Q: Which bench should I get? A: Benches can be pricey, so when first starting out, unless you can get a deal on craigslist, most people end up getting a cheap sturdy flat bench. While it’s nice to have a fully adjustable bench, getting a good quality (read: sturdy and safe) adjustable bench can be very expensive. Since for most beginner lifting programs you will only need a flat bench, starting there is usually the way to go. When looking at a bench’s weight capacity, remember to add your own weight to the equation. If you weight 200 lbs and your bench only supports 300 lbs, that means you can only bench press a max of 100 lbs safely. For an economical choice, people often look to the adidas flat bench (capacity: 600 lbs). For around $200, you can pick up the Rogue Flat Utility bench. A bit more expensive choice, but one that people really like is the adjustable Ironmaster Super bench. There are a ton more quality benches, but that should give you a start.