Free weights: barbell or dumbbells
A barbell is a long, weighted bar with “plates” attached, which is held with two hands; dumbbells are for one hand. Dumbbells are often recommended for beginners because they allow you to focus on particular muscles, one side at a time, to develop good technique. They offer a greater range of motion and require greater use of stabiliser muscles to keep balanced. They’re extremely versatile and can exercise just about every muscle group. However, barbells are much more convenient when you want to work with heavy weights, such as when you do squats and deadlifts.
If you’re just beginning strength training, you could start with dumbbells ($80 for a 20kg set) and buy a barbell later. You need different weights for different exercises, so it’s worth looking for collars that allow a relatively quick change of plates: spring clips (where you squeeze the clip handles to release the collar from the bar) and spin lock collars (where the collar screws on from the end of the bar) are recommended.
• You can add plates to your set as you progress.
• Can be used for exercising all muscles.
• Relatively easy to store.
• Plates can be used on their own to increase difficulty of squats, sit-ups, etc.
• Dangerous – keep out of reach of children.
• Easy to injure yourself with poor technique and heavy weights.