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. 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.

I own and recommend the CAP FM-905Q Power Rack with pull up bar.

Cap Barbell provides this  economical two post rack with eyes for bolting it to a floor (read my full review here).  If you bolt this rack to a floor or anchor it with barbell plates 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.

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.


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 for other purposes (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.  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.

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


1. Jones A.  My First Half-Century in the Iron Game, No. 68.

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