Principle Types of Strength Training Equipment


Leverage Machines

Multi-function leverage machines have evolved over the past twenty years for home-use gyms, having been developed earlier for commercial gyms, where they generally performed one operation per machine.  They've been shown to produce accelerated gains in muscular strength and other benefits in resistance training.  The designer's first step was to choose the most effective free weight training exercises. A frame-and-bench structure put the user into the correct position, and a lever arm with a fulcrum was built into the frame. The lever arm had a certain length, and the pivot was set at a particular height in order to duplicate the precise arc, or range of motion, that you work through with the barbell. Weight plates were then loaded near the hand grips to re-create the same natural resistance you experience with a barbell or dumbbell. There are no cables, pulleys, cams or friction. The result is quite simple and basic: The lever arm replaces the barbell while ensuring control and safety.  For many people, It’s an ideal combination of free weight and machine weight training.

Leverage machines provide the same natural gravity forces as a barbell or dumbbell. This type of raw, pure resistance is the most effective means of force against the muscle. We know free-weight training works, but, as discussed above, it while on the one hand it requires more controlling effort, it also demands more care to avoid muscle strain or potentially worse injury, for the very reason it’s a free weight.  Because they safely control the exercise at all times, leverage machines allow you to push the muscle to total failure; for critical movements there’s a big steel pin to catch the weight if you suddenly want to drop it.  (Referred to as self-spotting capability) 

Better still, well-designed leverage gyms provide plenty of adjustability for body fit, and grip variety to permit varying ways of hitting muscle.  This makes them as effective for anaerobic strength training as any other tool; some say better, because of the guided and potentially more focused nature of the movement.   Modern designs such as the Powertec Leverage Gym also incorporate cable facilities that enable useful pulling exercises for extra variety, adding to the critical presses, lifts and rows offered by the primary lever arms.

Free Weight Training Tools - Barbell with Weights

Free-weight training exercises, which use, say, dumbbells and barbells, provide a natural, free-form type of resistance, and require extra energy (than, say, machine-driven movements) to maintain balance and control while pushing or pulling a weight against gravity. If the trainer chooses too heavy a weight, he risks a lack of control of the dumbbell or barbell, and the effort that goes into the movement can be sloppy, wasteful of energy, and even dangerous.

Free weights nevertheless remain a classic means of strength-training, and the power rack, with its enclosing structure and safety bars to catch a barbell load that can't be well-handled, is a great tool, provided it's solid enough, not just to be safe, but to feel safe.


So a key principle of using free weights is that the trainer should choose a weight that ensures safe execution of the movement, (meaning not too much!) OR alternatively, use a power rack with its safety bars to catch the weight if he overextends himself.  (Or he can use a spotter - an extra person to keep things safe) If we accept these things, barbell-based exercises are the king of heavy lifting.


Barbell with a fixed end, Landmine attachment or pivot plate

This is where you place one end of an Olympic (or other) bar in a fixed spot, (or a device that fixes to the floor or a rack, say), and put weights on the other end.  It has exercise features that are a cross between a leverage machine, a kettlebell and a barbell. The trainer grasps the weighted end of the bar to move it through many planes and angles. It provides a big, new range of strength training moves, both isolation and compound, with particularly strong core movements, and has become rapidly popular over the past few years.

It needs space – sufficient for a trainer to move a bar (one end fixed, 7 feet plus for an Olympic bar, and you need that length unless you’re quite small) through many arcs).  But excellent value for money.


Free Weight Tools - Dumbbells - Usually With a Bench

Dumbbells are the most versatile strength training tools.  They’re free weights, and because they can be held independently in each hand, can be moved through any angle or plane. This gives them massive exercise variety.  Simply changing grips, posture and body position multiplies the options.  Better still, their independence - hand-to-hand - means they naturally engage the core and stabilisation muscles, whatever you’re doing, a bonus  Being free weight, they’re great for both compound exercises, with some exceptions – heavy squats really need the weight on the shoulder (but you can get bar with Ironmaster adjustable dumbbells that'll take 100 kg + of Quick-Lock plates. They offer stable lunges and walking lunges)  Dumbbells are of course great for most isolation exercises.

If you’re going to properly use regular dumbbells, you’ll need several pairs, and they take up space.  Check out adjustable dumbbells which give you a big range in the space of a pair.  They’re also quick to change weights with. In fact, some adjustables, matched with a good bench, such as are made by Ironmaster, give the best bang-for-buck in terms of exercise variety, and potential results per square metre of space.  In fact a square metre will easily store them in seconds. They’re also quick to change weights with. 

Finally, getting started with dumbbells is easier than getting started with a barbell approach.  Even a lightly loaded barbell can be cumbersome.  Not a light dumbbell.



Kettlebells have the characteristics of a free weight, with wide grip and posture variety like dumbbells, though the pure exercise variety is less. Their design permits more explosive power and ballistic movement for swings, cleans and presses, which also adapts to more cardio-effective training,  It can also bring particular vigour to movement - but some care is needed to avoid tendon injury from the ballistic aspect! (Arms flying off!)


Smith Machines

A Wikipedia definition of a Smith machine says it consists of a barbell that is fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical or near-vertical movement. A Smith machine often includes a weight rack in the base to help stabilise it.  It therefore operates in a single vertical plane, and has hooks on the structure (or other something mechanically similar) to permit the user to quickly rack the barbell, giving something close to full self-spotting capability – you’re never more than an inch or two from a hook.  The result is that the natural movement of the barbell is directly vertical – it only goes straight up or down.

The fact that it tracks on a fixed vertical plane (as opposed to a curve, with, say a free-weight barbell) is seen by some people as unnatural (or worse), and less effective at building strength.  This is hypothetical, other than the point that a Smith machine doesn't require much stabilisation in the lift.  And other exercises, done in differing angles, on the Smith machine, and others, grow the would-be stabilisers anyhow.  And users of Smith-type machines, like the Ironmaster 2000, are as devoted as any group, are among the most intensive trainers, and don’t show any injuries. They often say that the movement on the IM2000 is like nothing else.


Cable or Weight-Stack Machines

Cable is great for isolation exercises.  Gravity’s resistance is locked in a vertical line that you can use at any angle. It offers even, continuous muscle stress – technically better than anything else, muscle-by-muscle, because you’re continuously applying fixed, gravity-driven resistance. There’s much exercise variety and angle variation. It can be enhanced by lots of grips, handles and rope attachments  However, you don’t get much in the way of compound exercises, (those which use major muscle groups), though you can get good rows with the right handles, and you can perform great cross-body exercises, like wood-choppers, driving the core, shoulders, back and arms.

Cable equipment - specially, units with twin weight-stacks, and particularly, widely-spaced weight stacks, such as are needed for crossovers, can require a lot of space; though some single cable towers which offer a considerable proportion of crossover function in a small space.  Cable machines have a low risk of injury compared with free-weight, apart from the risk of attempting too much. 

Conclusion:  each of these has significant strengths.  Many of our customers are experienced, and these tend to slightly favour racks and free weights, but some also purchase leverage equipment for the variety.  Leverage machines are more the choice with first-time buyers, though not by much of a majority.  Occasionally a distinction of body size and weight can promote a particular choice.  Among women who strength-train, (and bought equipment) there isn’t any apparent distinction from men in these choices.