With bodybuilding where do you begin?  Fortunately, there are more bodybuilding choices available today than in any other time in history.   The fitness craze has opened many doors of opportunity and alternatives for the average person seeking a healthier lifestyle.  This is a serendipity for the serious bodybuilder.  The “corner gym” is fast becoming as popular as the “corner pub.”


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There was a time when the only “equipment” a serious bodybuilding person had were barbells and benches.  Often a trip to the gym meant entering a dark, cave-like atmosphere in a less than desirable area of larger cities.  By contrast, the gyms of today are usually bright, cheerful, open facilities boasting the latest in equipment and amenities.  You can find them in the most upscale neighborhoods and double as popular meeting and greeting places.

Most offer a variety of membership packages and many will offer a brief trial period allowing you to “test” the facility to determine if it meets your needs. 

When you do make a decision to join a fitness facility, there are a number of points to consider.

Choosing a quality bodybuilding facility or health club requires caution. The following guidelines can help:

§Shop around. Ask friends, coworkers, and your physician for recommendations.

§Call several bodybuilding clubs to find ones that match your interests and budget.

§Check with the Better Business Bureau for reliability reports on clubs you are considering.

§Visit the club at the time of day you will use it.

§Talk to members and staff.

§Are the hours and location convenient?

§Does the bodybuilding club have facilities and services that suit your needs?

§Are the equipment, exercise areas, and locker rooms clean and well-maintained?

§Is the bodybuilding facility overcrowded?

§Does the club limit new membership to prevent future crowding?

§Is the atmosphere friendly?

§What are the qualifications of the bodybuilding staff?

§Do they have appropriate body building education and training?

§Do they take an interest in and assist with individual bodybuilding goals and progress?

§Carefully consider the contract. Take a copy home to read thoroughly before signing. Stay away from clubs that pressure you to sign on the spot!

§Does the contract list all services and facilities? All oral promises should be written down.

§What is the total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges?

§Do some bodybuilding services cost extra?

§How long is a bodybuilding membership term? A short-term membership is usually best in case you find yourself unmotivated or the club closes.

§Does the contract allow for a try-out period? Will the trial fee be applicable to longer-term membership?

§What are your cancellation and refund rights if you move, become disabled, or the club closes?

§Does a three-day cancellation policy apply if you change your mind shortly after signing up?

§Make sure the bodybuilding club has met state bonding and licensing requirements.

Finally, never sign up with a bodybuilding club that has not yet opened despite any special discounts. And beware if the club asks for your credit card number or deposit check before you have read the contract.


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Body Building Home Gym Alternative

If you have deep pockets, an alternative to outside facilities is purchasing equipment and building your own home gym.   This can be a very expensive endeavor, but not impossible.

Your best bet is to visit local sports and bodybuilding equipment stores to see what is available.  After you get over the “sticker shock” take copious notes on each piece of equipment that will fit your personal body building program.  If you can afford the individual pieces by all means purchase them.

However, for most new bodybuilders that kind of investment is prohibitive.  A good alternative is to watch for “used” equipment.  The possibilities of obtaining just what you need are very high. 

Some of those possibilities for bodybuilding have moved on to more sophisticated equipment or people who thought they would give bodybuilding a whirl only to find it just wasn’t for them.  Even though we caution people not to spend money on expensive equipment, there are always those who jump into any new venture blindfolded.

Some good places to shop for used equipment, are bulletin boards at local gyms, local newspaper classifieds, Thrifty Nickel and don’t forget yard sales.

Next, we need to take a look at what equipment is available for the bodybuilding home gym and the purpose they serve.

 Free Weights

Free weights are the simplest and most cost effective pieces of equipment for the beginning bodybuilding.  Free weights consist of barbells, dumbbells and weight plates.  They are called “free weights” because they have no cables, pins or pulleys.

Available as normal weights or Olympic weights, be advised that Olympic weights are generally much more costly.  The Olympic bar is also “thicker” at the ends to accommodate the larger hole present in Olympic weight plates.

Barbells come in all shapes and sizes.  They consist of a bar that is usually 4’ to 7’ in length and can weigh from 20 to 45 pounds.  Varying weights are attached to the ends of the bar.  The weights are attached using collars or sleeves.  You can find barbells in a “fixed collar” design.  This prevents the weights from sliding off the end of the bar, but they are limiting as the weights cannot be removed.  With adjustable collars you can add and remove weights to suit your own bodybuilding purposes.

The longer 7’ bar that is generally referred to as an Olympic bodybuilding bar can hold 500 to 1500 pounds.  As mentioned, these are usually more costly.  There are also other Olympic “specialty” bars available that are designed for specific purposes such as biceps and triceps.


Bodybuilding Disciplines

The weight plates that fit the ends of the bar come in standard increments of:

2 1/2 pounds

5 pounds

10 pounds

25 pounds

50 pounds

If you stick with cast iron weights you are pretty much guaranteed that the weights will remain constant over time as opposed to those that are plastic encased or other metals that could warp over time.

If planning to go with the bodybuilding  “home gym” sticking with standard weights is probably best for you.  One of the advantages is that you can find standard weights available as a “package” that will include your bars, weights and collars.  Most standard weight packages also come with dumbbells.

You will also need to have a bodybuilding weight bench.  There are varying types of benches.  You can find adjustable types that you can set for different inclines.  This is a good buy because by adjusting the incline or decline, you can create a number of different exercises to work out different muscle groups.

Multi-Station Machines 
Buying An All In One System >  Bowflex from Amazon or Total Gym from Amazon

There is no getting around it.  When you begin looking at high end bodybuilding equipment, you can pretty much bet that you are going to have to spend quite a bit of money.  These are often referred to as “home gyms.”

This piece of equipment is multipurpose and able to serve more than one person at a time.  They are designed with multiple work stations and the exercises are ones that can’t be done with barbells such as leg curls, lat pull downs, leg extensions, and cable movements.

Some things you need to take under consideration with this type of equipment is the size.  Do you have sufficient space to house a multi-station machine?  They are pretty much stationery and not designed for portability.  Cost is another factor as well as who will be using the bodybuilding machine.  If it will be used by more than one individual the cost effectiveness of such equipment increases if you are weighing the purchase against joining a club.

Obvious advantages are that you and your partner can both use the bodybuilding equipment simultaneously and there is the added convenience of having the ability to train in your own home.

Variable Bodybuilding Resistance Machines

What are variable resistance machines?  Think Nautilus® or Bowflex®.  Both are variable resistance machines that provide an alternative to free weight training.  Bowflex from Amazon or Total Gym from Amazon


The primary advantage is the constant resistance in the range of movement for the muscle group you are training.  Another huge advantage over traditional bodybuilding weight training is that by working with constant resistance, you make the muscle stronger and you do it much faster than the traditional method.

Total Gym

This type of bodybuilding training also lets you deliver exactly the amount of exercise you desire to whatever specific muscle group you are working.  There is the benefit of working that resistance through a greater range of movement as you can reduce your training time. 

Variable resistance can be added to your free weight training routines to get much bigger and do it much faster.

Portability can be another advantage.  These pieces of bodybuilding equipment tend to take up less space and many can be easily broken down in just one or two steps for storage convenience when not in use.

As far as which is better, free weights or variable resistance, it all depends on what your personal preferences might be.  If you have established your budget and your goals, throwing variable resistance machines into the mix might be an option.

Regardless of which options you choose, let me remind you to shop around before spending too much money.  There’s a good chance you can find used equipment that is just right for your bodybuilding purposes.



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