Establishing a solid weight training plan requires strategic selection of your exercises and equipment. I highly recommend that you first establish your weight training goals before even attempting to do this. Time and time again I see people randomly choosing which exercises they’ll perform or what equipment they’re going to use with very little strategy or structure. To reap the full benefits of weight training, multiple upper and lower body muscles need to be adequately taxed.

Now, there are over 400 muscles in the human body. To keep it very simple, I’ll generally refer to only the major ones including the muscles comprising the chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, lower body (legs), and abdominals. So, at the very least, you’ll need to include at least seven different exercises into your weight training plan.

But it doesn’t stop there!

Since some muscle groups are larger than others (chest, back, and legs), you’ll need to perform at least 1-2 additional exercises for significant gains to occur. In light of these facts, a well-rounded weight training routine should include at least 8-12 different exercises.

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Now, this is where it starts to get a little tricky for many, as there’s a ton of weight training equipment on the market for you to choose from. Moreover, the availability of equipment at large health clubs and gyms can make the task of choosing exercises seem next to impossible. It’s important to understand that you’ll experience significant benefits with weight training regardless of the types of equipment you select, so long as all your major muscles groups are targeted.

The choice really comes down to your access, personal preferences, and lifestyle.

Free weights (barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells) are the most common types of weight training equipment. Other forms include machines, rubber tubing, water resistance equipment, and even body weight (gravity). You’ve likely seen the use of free weights and machines in health clubs and gyms while other types like rubber tubing, water resistance equipment, and gravity are most commonly employed during group exercise formats like boot camp and aquatics classes or in physical therapy settings.

If you’re new to weight training, machines are a godsend since they’re built to guide your body through a fixed range of motion and don’t require much coordination. Machines are also great for isolating muscle groups. Free weights are versatile and inexpensive when compared to machines. In addition, they build better balance, coordination, and muscle definition. The other types of weight I’ve mentioned are great because they’re highly adaptable in a variety of settings.

VIDEO: Different Types of Weight Training Equipment

In addition to a range of equipment, there’s a laundry list of weight lifting exercises you can perform. is a valuable online resource that offers free demos for over 300 exercises and I highly recommend using it. If you prefer a book instead, Strength Training Anatomy is another good resource with over 600 full-color illustrations.

As with equipment, you’ll experience significant benefits with weight training regardless of the types of exercises you select. Just be sure you’re choosing compound exercises that target all your major muscle groups.

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If you’re not at all familiar with weight training equipment and you have a health club or gym membership, put the staff to work. As a member of any club or gym, you’re entitled to a “no obligation” equipment orientation free of charge. You DO NOT have to purchase a personal training package to take advantage of this service so make an appointment today and get started.

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Now, if you don’t have access to a club or gym, you might find it especially beneficial to join a local ’boutique’ gym to get started. These gyms typically offer a range of weight training classes and generally don’t require much experience. If you’re still unclear about choosing the right types of weight training exercises and/or equipment, I highly recommend consulting with a qualified health or fitness professional. Otherwise you’re ready to start planning out your loads, repetitions and sets.

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