Fitness Equipment Guide

Finding the perfect gym equipment isn't always easy with so many choices and variations on offer. Our fitness equipment guide will help you find what's right for you.


Unsure if you want a treadmill or what features you need?

Treadmills are simple to use and are really versatile.  However, they are not cheap and many come packed with additional features.  Generally speaking, the more additional features your treadmill has, the greater the cost.  All those fancy extras end up costing you money.  So how do you know what extras you absolutely need and which can you do without?  Really, it all comes down to personal preference.  We’ve put together a few pointers which may help you decide.

Cushioning - most treadmills have a degree of cushioning, which acts like a shock absorber - protecting both your treadmill and your body from the effects of a good workout.      If you intend using your treadmill to run 5 or 10 km per day, then good cushioning is vital.  For a casual workout it’s a question of personal taste.  Some people prefer the feel of pounding feet on rubber whilst others prefer a bouncier feel to their workout.  

Speed - how fast do you want to go?  Some treadmills can go up to 15 mph although the faster the speed, the more you’ll pay.  Also, a treadmill at this speed is normally only for the more serious runner.  The majority of treadmills have a speed of between 10 and 12 mph which is usually more than enough for most people.  People usually increase their speed over time, starting around 4 mph and gradually increasing to around 8 mph.  Therefore a speed range of 10 to 12 mph should be quite sufficient for most people.  

Incline - enables your treadmill to go from a flat base to a sloping base.  The higher the incline or slope, the harder you will work on your treadmill and the greater your cardio workout.  If you’re in training for a race or enjoy interval workouts, the incline option is a must.  An incline option coupled with a reasonable maximum speed will allow a lot of flexibility when working out.

 Safety features - many people prefer their treadmill not to have handrails so as to allow a greater sense of freedom.  However, handrails help to ensure correct use of your treadmill and if you miss your footing, they’re great for preventing a fall.

Another feature designed to keep you safe is the emergency shut off.  This could be either a button or a magnet pull cord, which turns off the power when pulled.  Pulling a cord takes less time than pressing a button and if you keep the cord on you during your workout, it will automatically cut the power should you fall.   

Console - you definitely need the basics of speed and incline options and should consider safety shut off options.  After that it’s a question of personal choice.  What do you want to monitor or view when you’re working out?  Options include calorie counters, heart rate monitors, programmable workout routines, ipod connections, even LCD TVs.  The more features you have, the more you’ll pay.

Exercise Bikes

Unsure if you want an exercise bike or what features you need?

Exercise bikes are easy to use - you just get on and off when you like and they provide a great workout for legs and improve cardio fitness and stamina.  Everyone can ride a bike, but with one of these in your home you can go for a ride at any time of the day or night without any concern for traffic or bad weather.  So why are some exercise bikes more expensive than others?  Well, as you might expect, it depends on the features of the bike and what extras you are happy to pay extra for.  What do you want from your exercise bike?  We have highlighted some features which should help you decide.

Position - Upright exercise bikes are the most common type and you sit in a raised position similar to riding a conventional bicycle.  Recumbent exercise bikes enable you to sit low down, lean back and have a padded back rest.  This is great if you intend using your exercise bike prolonged periods or are recovering from back or knee injury.  Training cycles are designed for more vigorous workouts.

Programs - these will make your workout more interesting by varying things like speed, resistance levels and difficulty.  Look for programs that allow you to adjust for your fitness level, age, weight and gender.

Resistance -the greater the resistance the harder you’ll need to work. Consider a bike that has a variety of workout levels and which have easily adjustable resistance controls

Console - these can come packed with features, but you may find you don’t need them all.   As a minimum, the console should show speed and distance.  Other useful features include calories burned, time, resistance level, heart rate monitor.  If you get bored on prolonged workouts, consider an exercise bike with a built-in radio , LCD TV or book rack.

Elliptical/Cross Trainers

Unsure if you want an elliptical trainer or what features you need?

Elliptical trainers are easy to use and they provide a low impact cardio workout - perfect if you want to avoid your joints taking a pounding.  They are also great for building different muscles.  Elliptical trainers have become increasingly popular.  Prices vary, so what should you look for when choosing which elliptical trainer is right for you?  What do you want from your elliptical trainer?  We have highlighted some features which should help you decide.

Stride length - some of these come as small as 14 inches which is way too short for most people.  We recommend a stride length of between 16 to 21 inches.

Incline - not essential but certainly gives your workout more variety and intensity.  Incline makes you work harder, increasing cardio activity and helps develop your glutes and hamstrings

Resistance - adjustable resistance will ensure that your workout can expand as your fitness and workout needs increase.  The more resistance levels the greater variety you will have.  The greater the resistance, the harder you will have to work.  Resistance can be provided by either a magnetic field or rubber belt.  Rubber belts are more likely to wear out over time.

Arm handles - these are not essential but if you have this option it will allow you to add more intensity to your workout.  Using arm handles as you workout helps to work your arms and chest.

Workout programs - elliptical trainers can come with a number of pre-set workouts.  The more you have, the more flexibility and variety you’ll have and the more likely your trainer will continue to meet your needs as your fitness and strength levels improve

Safety features - consider a model that has warm-up and cool-down features.  Handrails provide good balance and you may wish to include these.  A heart rate monitor may appeal if you want to ensure that your are working hard (but not too hard).  Interactive heart rate monitors will automatically adjust your workout to keep you in the zone.

Extra features - as with many pieces of fitness equipment, you can add many features to your item, but the more you have the more you will pay for your elliptical trainer.  Some of the more popular option include: multi coloured consoles, ipod docks and computer connectivity.  Our advice is to think carefully about these fancy extras.  If you really need them, then get them.  If you don’t, then save yourself some money.

Rowing Machines

Unsure if you want a rowing machine or what features you need?

Rowing machines are ideal for a great workout involving arms, chest, legs and for a cardio challenge.  They’re fantastic for burning fat and giving you a leaner, more muscular body.  You could try to find yourself a boat and a stretch of water and do this for real, but why bother when you can get on indoor rowing machine and get the same fitness benefits at any time of day or night, regardless of the weather?  Rowing machines basically have a seat you sit on and a bar or handle that you pull on to create that rowing feeling.  The bar or handle is attached to a rower by a cable.  How hard you have to pull on the handle is determined by the resistance setting you select. 

As with most pieces of fitness equipment, rowing machines come in a variety of specifications with a whole range of features.  As you would expect, the more fancy features you choose, the more you’ll pay for your machine.  So which features should you consider before buying your rowing machine?  We have identified a few key features which should help you decide.

Types of rowing machine - Air, magnetic or water?  Air rowing machines give a less realistic rowing sensation but offer great value for money.  Magnetic rowing machines use magnets to create resistance and these machines tend to be longer, allowing for fuller extension.  Water rowing machines enable resistance to be varied by adjusting the amount of water in the tank.  Water rowing machines give the most realistic feeling of rowing on water and resistance is increased or decreased according to your stroke rate  

Programs - most rowing machines have a number of pre-defined programs allowing the rower to have a good workout based on distance, stroke rate or time.  They tend to have less programs than other items like treadmills (as you can’t have an incline option for rowing) but still offer plenty of variety to give you a challenging workout.

Display - many rowing machines have an LCD display that shows things like the amount of time you’ve been rowing for, your stroke rate (how many times you are pulling back and forward per minute), speed (how fast you’d be going if you were in a real boat on water), calories used and distance travelled.

Extra features - these can include options such as TV screen, drinks bottle holder. If you’re short of space, look for a fold away model.  The more fancy extras you have the more you’ll pay for your rowing machine.  However, buy a rowing machine that will keep you interested so that you keep coming back for a good workout over and over again.

Vibration Plates

Unsure if you want a vibration plate or what features you need?

Vibration plates are a relative new-comer to the fitness scene and work by sending high frequency vibrations through your body.  By doing this they cause stretch reflexes which cause up to 100% of your muscle to involuntarily reflex many times per second.  As a result your muscles get a good workout but you don’t get out of breath or strain your joints.      Vibration plates are perfect for helping with weight loss, increasing fitness levels, improving circulation and building and defining muscle. Other benefits include increased metabolism, improved balance and flexibility.  It is generally believed that 10 to 15 minutes on a vibration plate can have the same effect as approx an hour of normal exercise.    

Prices vary, so what should you look for when choosing which vibration plate is right for you?  What do you want from your vibration plate?  We have highlighted some features which should help you decide.

Speed - vibration plates tend to come with a lot of different speeds designed to cater for all sorts of workout.

Programs - auto programs make a workout easy.  Some have manual power and speed settings to allow you to adjust your workout to what you want.  Different programs are designed to work different parts of the body.

Console - as a minimum these should display speed and how long you have been using the vibration plate.  Other options include calorie counters, BMI measure 

Weight limit - just make sure that the vibration plate you buy is designed to take your weight.

Extras - ipod speakers/plugin

Need Advice?

If you need any help or advice please email us or freephone 0800 980 4959.