The Argos guide to home gyms - 2 of 4

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2. Features to look for in a home gym

A home gym

In general, the more features home gym equipment has, the more parts of your body it exercises. If you want toned arms, look for a lat bar and pulley; to do the same but in a forward/back motion instead of up/down, look for a low pulley too. For broader shoulders and chest, try press arms and a pec deck. And to build leg strength, check out a leg extension.

With all those weights and attachments, home gym equipment can seem complicated. But each part has its own specific function, toning or building a distinct part of your body. Here's a guide to what the parts of a home gym are and what they do.

Defining the parts

The lat bar or lat pulldown is the wide handlebar at the top connected by a cable. It's connected to the weight stack at the back. Sitting, standing, or kneeling, you pull it down and release it slowly to tone and build your upper arms and shoulders.

Some home gym equipment has a low pulley too. A low pulley is like a lat bar, but its movement is forward and back, rather than up and down. It's at the bottom of the home gym, near your feet. You pull it inwards and release it in a rowing-style motion.

The press arms are the parts you pull or push with your hands to exercise your arms and upper body. In most home gyms it's the part reaching around you as you sit at the machine. Look for press arms if you want to expand your chest or broaden your shoulders.

A pec deck (found on top-end machines) is a pair of levers below the press arms, designed to exercise chest and arms in a different way. Pec decks give your body great definition, so try a pec deck if you want to show off!

A leg extension is the roller-shaped T near your feet as you sit on a home gym's seat. You pull or push the padded part up or away to tone and build your legs, which is ideal if you also run as a hobby; strong legs help you handle the hills.

The station is where you sit, lie, or stand while exercising. Some home gyms have more than one station, but this doesn't always mean two people can use it at the same time - the different stations are for one person as he or she does different exercises in sequence.

The weight stack is the heart of a home gym: a pile of heavy blocks that provide resistance as you exercise. You adjust the resistance by moving a metal pin that connects or disconnects weights from the stack without you having to move them. Some home gyms use flexible bands or rods to provide the 'pull' instead of weights.

What do I need for different exercises?

If you already have a routine at the gym, you may know the names of various movements. But which parts of your body do those crunches, curls, and lifts affect - and what features of home gym equipment do they relate to? Here's a list of common gym exercises, with the features you'll need to do them.

  • Triceps pushdown
  • One arm pushdown
  • Lying triceps extension
  • Cross triceps extension
  • Seated triceps extension
  • Standing wrist extension
  • Seated wrist extension
  • Standing wrist curl
  • Standing biceps curl
  • Seated biceps curl
  • Concentration curl
  • Seated wrist curl
  • Triceps kickback
  • Lying biceps curl
  • French press
  • Reverse curl
Press arm (the large upside-down 'U' shape at the top)
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Shoulder rotator cuff
  • Internal rotation
  • Rear deltoid row
  • Lateral shoulder raise
  • Reverse shoulder shrug
  • Front shoulder raise
  • Scapular protraction
  • Shoulder extension
  • Shoulder shrug
  • Reverse fly
  • Scapular depression
  • Lying shoulder raise
  • Shoulder rotator cuff External rotation
Lat pulldown (the wide 'handlebar' at the top attached by a cable), press arm, and pec deck (the two levers on your lower left and right when seated)
  • Lat pulldown
  • Lying lat fly
  • Seated lat row
  • Scapular retraction
  • Lying lat pulldown
  • Stiff arm pulldown
  • Reverse grip pulldown
  • One arm seated lat row
  • Functional low back extension
  • Lying lat pulldown
Lat pulldown and low pulley (the second handlebar near the bottom and front of the home gym)
  • Lying leg curl
  • Leg kickback
  • Leg curl
  • Leg press
  • Seated leg curl
  • Ankle inversion
  • Ankle eversion
  • Leg extension
  • Seated calf raise
  • Standing hip flexion
  • Lying leg extension
  • Standing hip extension
  • Seated hip adduction
  • Standing hip abduction
  • Standing hip extension with knee flex
Leg extension (the 'roller' at the front near your feet)
  • Bench press
  • Chest fly
  • Resisted punch
  • One arm seated fly
  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press
  • Lying shoulder pullover
Pec deck
  • Seated ab crunch
  • Trunk rotation
  • Reverse crunch
  • Abdominal crunch
  • Seated oblique crunch
  • Resisted reverse crunch

A note on biomechanics

The big advantage of a home gym over 'free weights' like barbells is that they give you the correct lifting position as you train - reducing scope for injury. This is called 'biomechanics'. Different home sports gyms have different biomechanics, though - check the machine you want is adjustable for your body shape, especially if you're very short or tall.

page 2 of 4All home gyms are different, so check you know which features you want most. With that done, let's choose your machine: Choosing the right home gym equipment

Argos guide to home gyms

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