If newfangled ideas like rubber bands and Power Rods don't do it for you, you can buy an adjustable bench ($300 to $500) and a set of freeweights (price discussed in the next paragraph), and knock yourself out (but not literally!). Although initially this might seem like the simpler, less expensive way to go, the costs quickly add up, and it can become far more expensive that you anticipated. Furthermore, for the novice, the use of freeweights in an unsupervised setting makes us more than a wee bit nervous. Still, a freeweight setup at home can work quite well if you take the time to learn the rules and then follow them.
Now for the cost. Unless you're training to be the next Barry Sanders, you probably don't want or need a full set of dumbbells in your home. A good option is a pair of adjustable dumbbells such as The PowerBlock. Selling for roughly $200, The PowerBlock allows you to easily and quickly adjust the weight of the barbell from 5 to 45 pounds.
The PowerBlock is a terrific freeweight option, offering versatile, easily adjustable dumbbells.
(Photo courtesy Intellbell)
When shopping for a bar and weights (also known as plates), you have a few options. "Olympic" bars, found in just about every gym, are seven feet long and weigh 45 pounds. (There are shorter, lighter bars available.)
Plates are available in 2.5- through 100-pound increments. Figure on spending about 25 c per pound, a sum that adds up if you're a budding moose. Throw on a pair of collars (the clips that secure the plates at either end of the bar), and you're good to go for just about any of the exercises we'll describe in future chapters. We say "just about" because there are a few that are unsafe to do without a spotter. We'll note which are the risky ones so you don't end up with an imprint of the barbell on your nose.
As we've already said, unless you're willing to spend a small fortune, you'll never duplicate the wide range of equipment that a good gym can offer (to say nothing of the guidance trainers can provide). However, even the best gym in the solar system does you no good if you don't use it. As we said in Chapter 2, "Hurry Up and Weight," working out in a gym is the fastest way to build a fitter body, but a home gym option is certainly the next best thing.
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The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.