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Take your workouts to the next level by utilising essential exercise equipment When it comes to strength training, you can only get so far b...

Get to Grips with Strength Training Equipment Get to Grips with Strength Training Equipment

Get to Grips with Strength Training Equipment

Get to Grips with Strength Training Equipment

Take your workouts to the next level by utilising essential exercise equipment

When it comes to strength training, you can only get so far before you need to start adding in weights and other equipment to progress.

Having a range of gear to hand will mean you can keep your workouts interesting by varying the moves and routines that you do. The worst thing you can do is stick to the same set of exercises every workout because you won’t be pushing your body in the way that you need to, plus you’ll get bored and complacent.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the equipment you need to keep things interesting.


This might seem basic, but having access to a proper exercise and weights bench will transform your training – an adjustable one is even better. A bench can adapt to a variety of training styles, and we’ll talk you through a few exercises that you can do using the bench without other equipment. However, if you are going to start lifting weights seriously, then an adjustable bench will enable you to do a greater combination of exercises. The adaptability of the bench means that you’ll be able to focus on specific areas of your body. From bench presses, one-arm dumbbell rows, reverse flies, shoulder presses, reverse crunches, lateral bench hops, isolated biceps curls, skull crushers and decline push-ups, there’s a huge range of exercises that you can do with this equipment.


Tricep dips

Try 3 sets of 10 reps

Sit on the edge of the bench on the longest side. Place your hands either sides on your hips, legs straight out in front of you, fingers facing forwards and then, with control, lower yourself off the bench. Keep your elbows tight and pointing backwards. Now press yourself up and repeat without sitting back on the bench. If this is too hard, start with your legs bent.

Elevated press up

Try 3 sets of 10 reps

Place your hands on the bench shoulder-width apart and get into a  press-up position. Now lower yourself so that your chest hovers one inch above the bench, press yourself back into the starting position and then repeat. Try holding yourself in the bottom position as long as possible, or lower yourself as slowly as you possibly can to change things up and make the exercise more challenging.

Rear foot elevated split squat

Try 3 sets of 20 reps (each leg)

Take two steps away from the bench, facing so that it is behind you. Rest the top of your foot on the bench behind you and lower yourself into a split squat. Make sure to drive your front knee outwards as you lower yourself. Drive through your front foot and stand back up tall. Repeat, then switch legs.


Resistance bands come in a few different shapes, but first let’s look at the mini loop resistance band. You can buy them in various resistances (often light, medium, heavy, extra heavy). The thicker bands are often made from latex but you can also get thicker fabric ones that are perfect for glute exercises. The great thing about all bands is that they are cost-effective and highly portable. They can be used to add resistance to glute bridges, squats, crab walks, hip abductions, lunges, lateral walks, glute kickbacks, plank jacks, lat pulls, overhead presses, single arm rows and more.


Glute bridge

Try 3 sets of 15 reps

Loop the resistance band around both legs just above your knees and lie on your back. Position your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Lift your toes off the floor and drive through your heels while you push your hips up as far as you can. Lower and repeat all while pushing your knees outwards against the band.

Side-lying hip abduction

Try 3 sets of 10 reps (each side)

Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Put the loop around both legs above your knees and then raise your upper knee to pull your legs apart, keeping your feet together while contracting glutes. Return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure you do it on both sides.

Lateral walk

Try 6 sets of 10 steps in each direction

Place one resistance band round both of your legs above your knees – if you have more than one band, pop another around your ankles. Lower yourself into a half-squat position while ensuring you are putting tension on the bands. Next, take a step to the side, maintaining tension on the bands constantly. Take 10-12 steps in one direction then change direction and repeat. 


Use of resistance bands were originally favoured by physiotherapists to help with rehabilitation, but now they feature widely in everyday training workouts. Power resistance bands are the most adaptable type of bands out there and are perfect for adding external load to your exercises. For example, completing a press-up with the band attached around your upper back which will make the exercise significantly more challenging on the way up and down. Power bands can also be used for conditioning elements of training such as resistance sprints, bear crawls and other trunk-strengthening exercises.



Try 3 sets of 10 reps

Get into a plank position with your arms extended, and drape the band around your upper back with each end under your hands. Lower yourself down as if doing a regular press-up, and then press yourself back up.

Squat of overhead press

Try 3 sets of 20 reps

Stand on the power resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the other end of the band in both hands. Start with them at shoulder height with your palms facing upwards. Drop into a squat position then stand back up, extending your arms fully overhead as you do. Lower and then repeat.

Biceps curl

Try 3 sets of 10 reps (each side)

Stand on the resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the band in one hand starting with it down at your side, palm facing forwards. Bend your arm at the elbow bringing your hand up towards your shoulder engaging your biceps and then slowly lower it back down, and then repeat. 


Build impressive upper-body muscle with a pull-up bar. Pull-ups can be very unforgiving, but the pull-up bar can work a large range of muscles depending on hand placement that just can’t be replicated with any other piece of gym equipment. So don’t give up if pull-ups are your Everest – you’ll get there and feel amazing when you do. If you hold the bar with your palms facing away from you to pull up – you’ll be predominantly working your triceps. However, if you opt for palms facing  you, then you’ll mainly be working your biceps. A wider grip will put more emphasis on using your outer lats and a narrow grip focuses on lower lats. In order to pull your body upwards towards the bar, you’ll be engaging your full core and varying the kinds of moves you do (static holds, pausing at the top, quick reps) will work your muscles thoroughly. Even just hanging off the bar is a great place to start as it will help to stretch your muscle fibres and kickstart strength building.


Standard chin-up

Try 4 sets of 10 reps

Grab the bar with your palms facing you, hands shoulder-width apart. Next, pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar and, with control, lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended. Now repeat.

Negative pull-ups

Try 3 sets of 6 reps

Start by standing on a bench or chair and grip the bar with your palms facing you, shoulder-width apart. With control, step off the bench and lower yourself as slowly as you can – aim to take 10+ seconds to lower yourself fully. Release the bar then repeat the process.

Hanging leg raises

Try 3 sets of 10 reps

Hold the bar with your palms facing you and make sure your feet clear the floor with your arms fully extended. Hang on the bar, engage your core, bend at the hips and lift your legs – keeping them straight – until they are parallel with the floor. Lower them with control and then repeat. Bend your knees if you need to make it easier.


If dumbbells aren’t part of your workout routine, then you are doing something wrong and are missing out on a whole host of strengthening exercises. They are a fundamental part of upper-body strength training and are also an easy way to add weight into your lower-body exercises, too. You can get dumbbells in a wide range of weights from 0.5kg all the way up to 30+kg, and if you don’t know what a dumbbell is, it is literally a short bar with a weight at either end. They come using a variety of different materials but the premise is the same. If you are likely to favour heavier weights, dumbbells made from iron are most likely the best option as vinyl dumbbells in heavier weights can often be quite bulky.

With them, you can do basic isolated moves like biceps curls, triceps extensions, lateral raises and dumbbell bench presses. You can also do more dynamic and explosive exercises that work more muscles at once similar to the moves that you’d do with a kettlebell. They are great to hold for squats, lunges and dumbbell deadlifts, too – or pop one across your hips for some weighted glute bridges.

It’s important that you don’t jump straight to heavy weights and instead ease yourself in. It is also a good idea to have a range of weights at your disposal – you might be able to press 15kg with ease but when it comes to the dreaded lateral raises, it’s a different story. If something is really hurting, stop and decrease the weight. You’ll soon work out what muscles and areas of your body are stronger than others and what moves you can start pushing the weight higher on.

With that in mind, once you master the moves and become stronger, don’t just stick at the same weight – increase it in small increments with every few workouts to see real gains and progress in your strength training journey.


Dumbbell shoulder press

Try 4 sets of 10 reps

Stand upright, or sit on an adjustable bench with your back supported, holding a dumbbell in each hand.

Hold the dumbbells level with your shoulders, arms slightly bent with your palms facing towards your body. Press the weights upwards and twist your arms so that your palms end up facing forward – extend your arms fully so that the weights are directly above your shoulders. Lower them to the starting position and then repeat.

Bent over row

Try 3 sets of 10 reps

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body. Your arms and legs should be shoulderwidth apart with your knees slightly bent. Hinge at the hips at 45 degrees, brace your core, keep your back straight then pull the weights straight upwards, pinching your shoulder blades and keeping your elbows pointing straight upwards. Lower and then repeat.

Lateral raise

Try 3 sets of 10 reps

Stand upright, or sit on an adjustable bench with your back supported, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your side, palms facing inwards. Keep your back straight and engage your core. Now lift the weights, until your arms are parallel with the floor – try to lead with your elbows and they should be slightly bent. Lower and then repeat.


If you really want to build on your strength, you should seriously consider using a barbell with weighted plates and a squat rack. This will enable you to squat with a bar and gradually build the weight that you can handle. You’ll also be able to use the bar to deadlift, plus when combined with a bench, you’ll be able to bench press along with a range of other exercises.

With this equipment, you’ll be able to build your weight more than with dumbbells and kettlebells, but as you increase it’s important that you don’t train alone. Make sure you have somebody close by to spot you and help if you get into trouble.

Barbells will vary, but the bar itself tends to weigh around 20kg on it’s own before you add any extra weight to the ends. Make sure you know how much the bar itself weighs before you start adding more weights.

Exercises that you can do with a barbell include bent over rows, back squats, overhead presses, lunges, front squats, bench presses, deadlifts, power cleans and more.


Squat with a barbell and rack


Strip the bar of weight and decide on its positioning. Ensure that the bar around shoulder height. If you are squatting alone (we wouldn’t recommend that you do) make sure you have set the safety bar up. 


Grip the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart - make sure that you have a central position. Keep grip tight and duck under the bar. The bar should sit on your upper back/shoulders, and not your neck – that’s critically important. Engage core and pull/squeeze your shoulder blades back and towards your bum. Stand and take the bar off the rack.


Step backwards and position your feet. It will vary from person to person – but just wider than shoulder-width with your toes pointed outwards should suit most. Make sure you are pressing through the middle of your foot. Now sit back and squat down (start with just five reps then rack the bar). Do this routine a few times with an empty bar before adding weight.


The kettlebell is a versatile weight that you can use to perform a range of exercises across your entire body, making it essential kit for your home workout station or a frequent friend whenever you visit the gym. It is usually a cast iron or steel ball with a large handle on the top and they come in a range of different weights from 2kg all the way up to 45kg and beyond. Kettlebell exercises are often more explosive and dynamic, meaning fast lifts rather than the slower and controlled movements that you might be used to when using a set of dumbbells. Also in contrast to dumbbells, a kettlebell’s centre of mass extends beyond the hand, which helps with swinging movements.

The classic exercise that we often associate with a kettlebell will most likely be the classic kettlebell swing (which we will talk through in more detail on the right), however there are many other moves that you should consider adding into your strength training workouts. One of them is a deadlift with high pull, where you pick the kettlebell up from the floor in the deadlift position, stand up then continue pulling the weight up your body to face height with your elbows pointing upwards, then with control, lower it, hinge at the hips and place it back on the floor and repeat. Other exercises you can do with a kettlebell include; single-arm rows, Russian twists, goblet squats, clean and press, racked squats, racked reverse lunges, snatches, overhead presses, Turkish get-ups, windmills and more.


Kettlebell swing


Hold the kettlebell down in front of you by the handle. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. The power from this move comes from hinging and driving through the hips while engaging your glutes.


Bend your knees slightly but mainly hinge at the hips, pull the kettlebell back between your legs. Keep your arms straight throughout this move. Now drive your hips forward, straightening your back to send the kettlebell up to shoulder height.


Next, let the kettlebell swing back through your legs and repeat. Avoid using your upper body too much – the power should be coming from your glute muscles and hamstrings. If your back hurts then try focusing on using your hips to generate the power needed to swing.


This is probably quite far from your mind when you start thinking about essential strength training equipment, however the weighted medicine ball is probably one of the most inexpensive and effective pieces of equipment for building all-over body strength. They are great for working a wide range of muscle groups as well as adding resistance into your cardio and HIIT workouts.

In order to choose the correct weight for you, you should be able to lift the ball up over your head 10 times. After 10 reps, your arms should feel tired; if they don’t, you need to go up a weight.

Exercises that you can do with a weighted medicine ball include Russian twist, reaching Romanian deadlift, rolling push-ups, thruster, wall ball, triceps extensions, overhead slams, weighted superman, wood choppers, lunge and twists, squat presses and throw, triceps push-ups and many more. Even just throwing it around (with care, mind) will work your muscles hard.


Reaching Romanian deadlift

Try 3 sets of 10 reps (each side)

Stand on your right leg with the ball in both hands, then bend your right knee slightly and hinge at the hips as you extend your left leg backwards. You can make this more challenging by extending your hands overhead. Your body should end up parallel to the floor, now with control, return to standing and then repeat.

Wall ball

Try 3 sets of 20 reps

You’ll need a room with high ceilings for this one, or find a high wall outside. Simply stand a few steps back from the wall holding the medicine ball to your chest. Bend your knees slightly then power upwards and throw the ball at the surface as high as you can. If you can catch it, do that. If not, let it drop to the floor and repeat. 

Squat, press and throw

Try 3 sets of 20 reps

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the medicine ball to your chest. Lower into a squat position, going as low as you can manage, thenpress through your heels to jump up and throw the ball straight up. Let the ball hit the floor, pick it back up, and then repeat the exercise.