Strength Training Equipment


You need very little strength training equipment to succeed in Gaining Strength. In the mid-1990s, after investing a good part of his life inventing and developing the Nautilus and MedX exercise machines, Arthur Jones wrote:

"Apart from a rather limited number of hardcore bodybuilders who are misguided enough to believe that they have a chance to compete against the outright genetic freaks that now dominate bodybuilding competition, just about anybody else in this country can produce nearly all of the potential benefits of proper exercise without spending much if anything in excess of about twenty dollars. You can build both a chinning bar and a pair of parallel dip bars for a total cost of only a few dollars, and those two exercises, chins and dips, if properly performed, will stimulate muscular growth in your upper body and arms that will eventually lead to muscular size and strength that is very close to your potential.

“Adding full squats, eventually leading up to one-legged full squats, and one-legged calf raises, will do much the same thing for your legs and hips. Using this very simple routine, when you get strong enough to perform about ten repetitions of one-armed chins with each arm, your arms will leave very little to be desired.

“Or, instead, you can do what many thousands of others are now doing and piss away thousands of dollars and years of largely wasted effort while producing far less results.  The choice is yours.” [1]


Minimalist Strength Training Equipment

As mentioned by Jones, to fully develop your potential, you need some strength training equipment. I agree with his basic list: a bar for chin ups and pull ups and a set of parallel bars for dips.

While as Jones said, you can go very far with nothing more than that, my list is a bit longer:

  1. A pull-up bar
  2. A set of parallel bars
  3. A set of gymnastic rings
  4. Parallettes
  5. A heavy duty dipping belt
  6. A set of high quality elastic resistance bands
  7. An X3 Bar (optional)
  8. A hyperextension bench (optional)

The Pull-Up Bar

Keep in mind that if you have an appropriate overhead beam for hanging gymnastic rings (discussed below) or a suspension trainer like TRX, then you can use the rings or suspension trainer for doing pull ups of every sort and may not need a pull-up bar. 

If you are going to purchase a free standing pull-up bar, you have several options.

If I were starting out, I would get one of the inexpensive two-post racks (Cap or Body Champ) and a separate dipping bars.

I personally have a four-post Body Solid rack and add-on parallel bars.  However, its not available any more.  This GoPlus rack is very similar and reasonable cost.  A rack like this will enable you to use resistance bands to load chin ups and single-leg squats. Its rated for 450 pounds which is more than you will ever need for a bodyweight and bands gym.

Cap Barbell provides this less expensive alternative two post rack with eyes for bolting it to a floor.   However, the pull up bar will not be as solid as the four post rack.  If you bolt this rack to a floor you can use it to anchor bands for loading single-leg  squats.  If you don't, that's okay because there are ways to load split and pistol squats with bands without using a rack for anchors.

Another good option is a portable pull up and dip bar.  I like the Go Beast bar to the right.  It incorporates both pull up and dip stations, and quickly breaks down into its own carry bag, so you can take it anywhere you want to train.  However, it is too lightweight to serve as an anchor for bands to perform band-loaded squats.   That's okay because there are ways to load squats with bands without using a rack for anchors.


Parallel Bars

You will need parallel bars for doing full range dips. If you get a two-post rack for pull-ups, you will need separate parallel bars.  I recommend the Ultimate Body Press dipping bars, because they are collapsable and portable, and you can easily attach resistance bands to add load to bodyweight dips.

If you get a four post power rack and aren't interested in having a portable dip station, you can attach these bars from New York Barbell / TDS to your power rack.  I have a non-adjustable pair on my power rack (purchased before they had this adjustable set) but this adjustable pair is a better choice.


Gymnastic Rings

In his book Building The Gymnastic Body, Coach Christopher Sommer stated that he believes that "Rings are the single greatest tool ever made for developing upper body strength" and "the only piece of equipment that is absolutely essential in your training."  He points out that rings are strong, light, portable, incredibly versatile, and can be used anywhere you can find strong overhead support, indoors or out.  That can be a high bar, chin-up bar, rafters, or tree branch.

I personally use and really like the wooden Bomba Gear rings.  The wooden rings absorb sweat from your hands making it easier to maintain your grip without using chalk.   They also have very strong straps with numbered markings so you can make sure you have the rings at the correct and same height everytime and from side to side.


The Pacearth rings appear similar to the Bomba gear but I can't personally vouch for them from direct experience.

The Garage Fit rings also appear similar to the Bomba gear, but with a somewhat smaller band.


Parallettes

Paralletes are a virtually essential piece of strength training equipment for anyone who wants to develop impressive handstand skills.   I have a tutorial on building parallelettes here:

Here are some examples of parallettes available from vendors on Amazon (Full Range Strength Amazon Affiliate Links).  I personally prefer the wooden bars.

The Titan parallettes have the advantage of adjustable height.  However, the highest setting is only 8.5".  I built mine with a 10" height which I need for head clearance when doing pike or handstand push ups.

These 24" parallettes from The Beam Store would be my choice if I was to purchase a set. 


Dipping Belt

A dipping belt gives you a safe, relatively comfortable way to add band resistance to your pull-ups, dips, squats and rise-on-toes.

I have used the Brute Belt for a couple of years now and highly recommend it.  It has the right placement of loading loops around the whole belt to make it useful for loading squats as well as pull ups and dips with resistance bands.  My video review of the Brute Belt is below.

Another option is the Iron Bull Strength Belt to the right.  It doesn't have as many loading loops as the Brute Belt so I consider the Brute Belt a better choice.


Elastic Resistance Bands

Elastic resistance bands are very useful for adding resistance to dips and single-leg squats.  You can also use them to perform exercises that would otherwise require expensive machines, such as leg curls, as well as basic exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and  variety of flexibility and mobility exercises.  They are very portable and inexpensive strength training equipment.

I primarily use Bodylastics resistance bands to load single leg/pistol squats (follow me on Instagram @donmatesz to see how), but sometimes to add loading to dips, and occasionally I will use them to do bicep curls with the X3 bar (Amazon Affiliate Links.)

I purchased the WODFitters 5 loop bands set (photo links to Amazon) to either assist or load bodyweight exercises. I use these bands to assist with front levers and planche work, and to load front squats, presses and deadlifts with the X3 bar.  They can also be used to assist beginners with chin ups and dips.

The WODFitter bands are very good, but the lightest (red) band in their 5 band set  produces 5-35 pounds of resistance.  I purchased the Serious Steel #0 orange (rated 2-12 pounds) band for micro loading the exercises I load with bands alone or bands with the X3 bar.  If I were buying bands from scratch, I would probably get the 6 band set from Serious Steel that includes the #0 band.


X3 Bar

The X3 Bar System allows you to use heavy resistance bands to perform front squats, deadlifts, chest presses, and overhead presses with greater safety and loads than possible with a barbell.  Although I have found ways to use Bodylastics bands to safely load single leg squats and push ups, I prefer also having the X3 bar for training front squats, chest presses and overhead presses. In fact I prefer the X3 chest press to dips on my non-adjustable dip bars, and X3 shoulder presses are much easier to incrementally progress than bodyweight head- or hand-stand presses. 

To fully discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the X3 system, I have written a full review of the X3 Bar here.


Hyperextension Bench

A hyperextension bench enables you to intensely but very safely train your lower back and hamstrings through a full range of motion.  I have used the Marcy JD 3.1 for more than a few years.  It is very well made and durable. 

If you want a collapsible bench that you can store between training sessions, I recommend  the Stamina Hyper Bench.  This actually has a better resistance curve than the Marcy product, unless you are training to perform planche and back lever, in which case the Marcy product is more specific to those demands.

Marcy JD 3.1

Stamina Hyper Bench


Notes

1. Jones A.  My First Half-Century in the Iron Game, No. 68.  http://www.arthurjonesexercise.com/First_Half/68.PDF

Recent Articles

  1. Optimal Training Frequency for Gaining Strength and Mass

    Dec 05, 19 02:03 PM

    The optimal training frequency for gaining strength and mass is probably less than you think.

    Read More

  2. Get Abs ASAP

    Nov 23, 19 08:04 PM

    "Get abs" ASAP without "cardio" with this simple program!

    Read More

  3. My Front and Straddle Splits Program

    Nov 20, 19 08:58 PM

    An effective training program for front and straddle splits.

    Read More

&autoLogAppEvents=1">