Times have definitely changed: Gone are the days when dumbbells and barbells were your only equipment options at the gym. Now, there are tons of equipment out there that promise to help you make the most of your workout.
But with all the different options you see people using on Instagram and YouTube, what are the ones you really need to use on the regular—meaning, which ones are vital for your gym to actually have on hand?
All guys have different fitness goals, so some equipment that may be necessary for some might not be as important for others. Take, for instance, someone who wants to get into boxing. In that case, well, it’s pretty obvious he’s going to need his gym to have a punching bag.
“Part of it depends on the type of fitness you’re interested in and your goals,” says David Jack, Men’s Health fitness advisor and owner of Activlab in Phoenix. “It’s like Home Depot—an electrician finds wire cutters useful, and a carpenter finds a chop saw useful.”
But how about for the average guy just looking to gain some strength and maybe put on some size?
If you’re looking for the most well-rounded gym experience—without necessarily springing for the frills—there are a few pieces of equipment you should make sure the place you’re considering has on board.
Here, five pieces of equipment your gym must have before you join—and once you’re a member, use religiously. We talked to two trainers for their take on what should be at your disposal.
“As opposed to the straight bar which can be problematic for a lot of guys, this is the most back-and user-friendly way to learn how to deadlift,” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., owner of CORE in Boston, Massachusetts. “And, it’s quite a versatile piece of equipment—it can be used for single leg work and carries as well.”
“[This offers] core and total-body fitness anywhere, and access to pull exercises,” says Jack. Your stance and angles can make the pulling easier or harder, so it’s an ideal way to help build your bodyweight strength if you can’t quite bust out some unassisted pullups.
“When it comes to user-friendliness, it’s hard to beat a sled,” says Gentilcore. “It’s great for strength work and conditioning.” Sled pushes can help you build power and strength, and completely torches your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core.
You can do so much with kettlebells: swings, deadlifts, presses—the list goes on and on. Jack says he uses them all the time, and they’re a must-have for every gym.
Jason Brown, C.S.C.S., owner of Kettlebell Athletics in Philadelphia, told Men’s Health previously that kettlebell exercises are “designed for higher, faster repetitions performed for a minute or more.”
“You’ll activate dozens of muscles instead of just a few, which increases your body’s fat-burning metabolism,” Brown said.
Battle ropes not only help you build upper-body strength, but they give you an amazing cardio workout, too—Jack recommends incorporating them into your workout routine.
John Brookfield, creator of the original battling-ropes system, told Men’s Health, “The key to their effectiveness is that they work each arm independently, eliminating strength imbalances as they sculpt your muscle.”
While you can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or machines to work each arm separately, you won’t get as good of a cardio workout with them.