26 Essential Items For Your Strength Training Equipment List

Whether you’re looking to set up a new commercial gym facility or simply turning your garage into a home gym, you’ll need to ensure you invest in the right equipment. The strength training equipment list in this article provides a comprehensive run down of the most common items depending on the training environment.

Strength training has significant benefits that warrant it as an essential part of fitness. Research shows that just half an hour to an hour of strength training can reduce the risk of diseases and contribute towards keeping your body healthy.



Whilst many people think of weightlifting when they think of strength training, isometrics, plyometrics, and calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) all help to improve a person’s strength.

Whilst there are a significant many choices when it comes to training equipment, you may not need all of them. What you choose is likely to depend on your workout space. So, to make things easier, the equipment list for strength training is divided into basic and machines.

Basic Strength Training Equipment List

The following exercise equipment comprises of the core items that you’ll find in many gyms. This list also forms the basis of what is ideal for home or garage gyms.

Something to consider is that the quality between commercial fitness equipment and home gym equipment can vary significantly. If you’re setting up a home gym where kit is only subjected to light use, then the more cost-effective home gym options would be suitable.

Conversely, if you’re looking to kit out a gym open to members of the public, you’ll want to opt for commercial gym equipment as this grade of equipment is likely to be manufactured from better materials and to a higher standard specifically for heavy usage.

Weight Bench

Weight benches, sometimes referred to as an exercise bench, can be used for a wide variety of exercises. These are available as either a flat weights bench or an adjustable bench. An adjustable bench is more versatile as you can adjust their backrest to different angles so you can perform exercises such as incline chest press or incline chest fly.

For a home gym you’ll just need the one bench. However, in a commercial set up you’ll want to opt for several benches.

Dumbbells

No gym is complete without a set of dumbbells. For a home gym and depending on what freeweight exercises you plan on performing, you can simply choose to invest in a few pairs suitable for your ability. When it comes to a commercial gym, you’ll likely opt for a full set so that you can accommodate all your members.

There are several varieties of dumbbells from fixed through to adjustable dumbbells. Adjustable weights can carry a broad range of weights anywhere from 4.4lbs (2kg) up to 88lbs (40kg). These are best suited to home gyms. Fixed weight dumbbells come in various shapes and sizes with weight increments from 4.4lbs (2kg) all the way up to a heavy 220lbs (100kg).

Barbells

A barbell is a staple item in every gym allowing for a high number of free weight exercises. There are many different types of barbells, ranging from power bars, deadlift bars and squat bars. When it comes to choosing for a home gym, a good option is a standard Olympic bar. A commercial gym is likely to carry a broader range to accommodate their members.



Be sure to do your research with barbells as they can be quite different in terms of how they are made, and they will have different weight loading capacities.

Some are made with bushings compared to bearings, with some having aggressive knurling vs passive knurling.

Weight Plates

If you perform barbell exercises, you’ll need some weight plates. As with dumbbells, there are several kinds of plates ranging from Olympic plates, bumper plates and calibrated plates.

Bumper plates tend to be the most cost effective and more commonplace in a commercial gym. Calibrated plates, however, are more costly and favoured by weightlifters and powerlifters.

Whilst you may not find calibrated plates in your typical big box gym, they can be found in more specialist independent powerlifting and weightlifting settings.

Exercise Mats

Exercise mats, also called yoga mats, are designed to provide a cushioned support when doing floor-based exercises and stretching work.

Common in most gyms, they are also useful for home gyms and can be easily rolled up and stored away post workout.

Exercise Ball

Sometimes called a Swiss ball or stability ball, an exercise ball is perfect for improving balance and increasing core strength.

They are essentially an inflatable ball available in a variety of different diameters. Before investing in one, be sure to get the right size based on your height.

Kettlebells

Kettlebells are an alternative to dumbbells when it comes to free weights. Not just for increasing muscle mass and strength, they can also be used for improving cardiovascular health.

Typically made from cast iron, they feature a handle at the top and are often used individually as opposed to in pairs.

Like dumbbells, kettlebells also vary by size and design.

These can be as light as 5lbs (2.2kg) and go up to 75lbs (34kg). Some popular exercises using this piece of equipment include kettlebell swings, kettlebell goblet squats, kettlebell snatches, and kettlebell clean.

Medicine Ball

Medicine balls or fitness balls are weighted balls that range from 2.5lbs (1kg) to 50lbs (22.5kg). Aside from different weight increments, they are also available in different sizes.

They are commonly used in core stabilization workouts, with exercises such as crunches, Russian twists, and rollouts.

Medicine ball slams are also very popular for increasing power and strength allowing you to perform such movements as burpees and side lunges.

Due to their versatility, they are a good choice for both home and commercial gyms.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are a great option for body conditioning and tend to be colour coded by their resistance which ranges from light though to extra heavy.

They make an excellent choice for at-home workouts as they are usually inexpensive and take up very little room.

Resistance bands are available as either a closed loop design (sometimes called a booty band or glute band) or open ended with the option of adding handles or ankle straps.

They are very versatile and can be used for many resistance-based exercises.

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Pull-Up Bars

Pull-up bars, also known as chin-up bars, are specifically designed for a user to perform a pull up exercise activating muscles of the back, shoulders, and arms.

You can often find them as part of a power rack or you can purchase them as a wall mounted design.

Power Rack

A power rack (or power cage) provides a safe environment to perform exercises such as the squat. They can vary in terms of size and features.

Most offer safety bars making them ideal for home gyms where a person may train alone.

That being said, they do tend to be very large so if you have a small space be sure to measure up first before investing in one and don’t forget to check your ceiling height and the height of the rack.

An alternative option to a full power rack is a squat rack.

These tend to be better for those on a budget and that have a limited amount of space.



Strength Training Machines

Whilst not an exhaustive list, the equipment mentioned above will allow anyone to achieve a full body workout with all kit being suitable for both home gym or commercial gym environments.

When it comes to strength training in a commercial gym, you’ll likely want access to specific equipment to help you achieve your workout goals.

Aside from free weights, a gym that offers a range of either plate loaded or selectorised gym equipment will allow you to perform both compound and isolation exercises.

Selectorised gym machines are loaded with a pin system whereas plate loaded use weight plates on designated weight horns.

Weight stacks on selectorised machines can vary with larger stacks being on machines that activate larger muscle groups.

Below is an equipment list of strength training machines that can be found in many commercial facilities. We’ve broken these down into upper and lower body machines.

Upper Body Gym Machines

Chest Press Machine

A chest press machine allows a user to perform a chest press exercise.

Aside from targeting the chest muscles it will also activate the arms, shoulders and lats making this is a compound movement.

There are several variations of a chest press machine including an incline chest press, decline chest press and horizonal chest press. The horizontal variation best mimics a bench press exercise.

Chest Fly Machine

A chest fly machine or pec fly machine performs pectoral flyes. It mimics the same movement as flat bench chest flyes, except in a more controlled setting.

Some chest fly machines can be dual purpose and also allow a user to perform rear delt exercises.

Lat Pull Down Machine

As its name suggests, the lat pulldown machine activates the latissimus dorsi muscles. There are various lat pull-down machine varieties on the market.

The most common being one that uses a pulley system with weight stacks and a bar located at a high position.

Different attachments mean you perform different lat pull-down movements, such as wide or narrow grip. Aside from the straight bar, you can also use the V bar or the neutral grip bar.

This makes this machine a little more versatile as you can better isolate specific muscle groups.

T-Bar Row Machine

A T-Bar row machine is a plate loadable machine primarily targeting the latissimus dorsi. However, it also targets other back muscles, such as the trapezius and teres major.

This machine is available in two different variations.

One which features a chest support offering more stability for the user and one without.

Shoulder Press Machine

A shoulder press machine is available in either a plate loaded version or selectorised and works all muscles of the shoulder.

It’s designed to replicate the free weight shoulder press exercise whilst removing the need for stabilisation.

Bicep Curl Machine

The bicep curl machine is designed to facilitate the movement of a free weight bicep curl.

This machine usually has an adjustable seat and support for elbows, which helps isolate the bicep muscles.

An alternative to this machine is the preacher curl which would require the use of dumbbells or a barbell.

Tricep Dip Machine

The tricep dip machine activates muscles of the triceps along with the chest and shoulders.

Dips are a great exercise for strengthening the triceps and chest but can be difficult to perform as a bodyweight exercise.

Using a machine will allow you to build up your strength before moving over to the bodyweight version.

Lower Body Gym Machines

Smith Machine

The smith machine is a versatile strength training machine that does actually allow for both upper-body and lower-body exercises.

It comprises of a barbell fixed to move in a vertical path.

Unlike regular barbells on racks, the smith machine barbell doesn’t have a free range of motion and requires weight plates to increase resistance of the exercise.

You can do many different exercises on the smith machine, including chest presses, shoulder presses, squats, rows, deadlifts, and hip thrusts.

For chest and shoulder presses, you’ll need to incorporate a weight bench.

Leg Press Machine

A leg press machine is a compound lower body training machine that targets several muscles, but predominantly the quadriceps.

It involves pushing a weight load away via a foot plate.

By altering the position of your feet can allow you to better target different muscles.

There are three variations of a leg press machine, a 45-degree leg press, a vertical leg press and a horizontal press.

The difference between each is the angle that the weight load is pushed at.

Hack Squat Machine

The hack squat machine allows a user to perform a squat whilst providing full support to the upper body.

This makes it a good alternative to a traditional back squat for those who have shoulder or back issues.

It targets the same muscle groups, those being the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes whilst reducing the need to use your stabilisation muscles.

The carriage of a hack squat machine runs on rails and ensures a smooth movement helping to reduce the likelihood of injuries that are more commonplace with a regular barbell squat.

Hip Abduction/Adduction Machine

The Hip abduction machine trains and strengthens both the hips and glutes.

It features a seat and two pads with knee rests. The exercise involves pushing the pads out with the knees.

The pad positioning can be adjusted.

Some hip abduction machines can also become hip adductor machines that target the adductors. Simply reversing the position of the pads turns the abduction into adduction.

Leg Extension Machine

The leg extension machine is an isolation machine that targets the quadriceps.

It can also help to strengthen the patellar ligament. It works by allowing a user to maintain a seated position and positioning a foot roller at the tops of their feet.

From here, they would bend the knees to straighten out the leg with the weight load applying resistance to the quads.

Leg Curl Machine

A leg curl machine (also called hamstring curl machine) is an isolation machine that engages the hamstring muscles, which helps strengthen the lower body. It’s a weighted machine with a stack and a padded bar to lift with lower legs while lying face down.

There are two handles to grab for support.

Calf Raise Machine

A calf raise machine is another isolation machine that specifically targets the calf muscles.

These are available as either seated or standing and involves simply placing the balls of your feet onto a platform and repeatedly raising up on tiptoes if standing or raising the knees if seated. 

Some machines allow for specific isolation of the tibialis, an outside muscle of the lower leg, as this can help improve overall mobility and flexibility.

Cable Machine

Whilst we’ve placed cable machines, also known as a dual adjustable pulley under leg machines.

It can in fact work pretty much every muscle in the entire body, and when it comes to strength training equipment is one of the most versatile.

These are commonplace in most commercial gyms and are a worthwhile additional to a home gym should you have the space and the budget.

This machine is comprised of two weight stacks which sit opposite one another, these are connected via a crossbeam at the top which often includes pullup bars.

The weight stacks on either side can vary in terms of their capacity with the most common being 198lbs (90kg) up to 265lbs (120kg).

There are many grip attachments available for a cable machine including the straight bar, rope cable, single handle, stirrup handles to name a few each of which increase the versatility of this machine.

Below are just some of the exercises you can perform on a cable machine:

  • Cable chest press
  • Cable chest flyes (flat, incline, and decline)
  • Standing cable row
  • Cable lat pull downs
  • Cable lateral raises
  • Cable front raises
  • Tricep overhead extension
  • Tricep cable pushdowns
  • Cable bicep curls
  • reacher cable curl
  • Cable squats

What Strength Training Equipment Is Essential?

There’s no right or wrong answer here as any equipment chosen very much depends on the training environment and the type of exercise being performed.

When it comes to building strength, it’s not necessary to sign up for a gym membership so you have access to a range of machines.

Whilst these can certainly help, you can perform body weight exercises at home and make use of a set of resistance bands to improve your overall strength in a low-impact way.

In time, and as your strength improves, you’ll likely need to increase the intensity of your resistance training to break through any plateaus.

If you’d like to increase strength to specific muscle groups, you could deem certain pieces of equipment essential to help you achieve that goal.

For example, you want to add strength to your biceps you’ll likely need a barbell and a couple of plates or some dumbbells.

How Much Does Strength Training Equipment Cost?

You don’t need to always spend a lot on strength training equipment unless you’re opening a gym, you lift heavy weights or are creating a luxury gym environment.

The prices of equipment vary greatly by type, features, and brand. If setting up a home gym, then consider the equipment list mentioned above.

If you aim for home specific equipment, this will be more cost effective when compared to commercial grade as it is built using thinner materials and lower weight limits.

In general strength training equipment for the home is cheaper and you can expect to pay in the region of around $200 for a reasonable quality weight bench.

In comparison, for a commercial grade weight bench designed for repetitive heavy duty use will be at least $600.

Conclusion

The strength training equipment list above covers both basic and advanced equipment.

However, it’s worth noting that whilst the above covers the most commonly used equipment, it doesn’t reference everything.

Incorporating strength based exercises into your workout routine is a sure fire way of increasing your strength and building lean muscle.

Not only that, it’s good for physical and mental well-being regardless of your health or fitness goals

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