The only thing you need for the weight lifting workouts here at WLC is a way to add increasing resistance to each exercise.
The recommended form of resistance is free weight where you are allowed to move freely during the exercise.
Most machines lock you into a single plane of motion and can lead to weaknesses, imbalances, and even injury. I recommend the switch to free weights whenever possible. If you must use a machine, work on adding resistance to the exercises and you will get results.
Free weights work a larger amount of muscle so results may be slightly slower with machines. Machines do have their uses, though, and they will provide nice results and not as much stress to the body as free weights.
The Weight Doesn't Have to be a Barbell or Dumbbell
The most important factor in building muscle is increasing the amount of resistance you are lifting over time.
Increasing resistance or weight lifted is “THE” measure of progress when using the WLC System. Your goal of every weight lifting workout should be to increase the amount of weight you are lifting.
Here are just some of the different forms of resistance you can use for your weight lifting workouts:
This can be Olympic sized barbells or the smaller standard sized barbells with weight plates. I use barbells for squats, deadlifts, rows, bench press, and overhead press. I also use them for many variations on those exercises like zercher squats, barbell hack squats, close grip bench press, and more.
This can be fixed size dumbbells like hex dumbbells or this can be adjustable dumbbells that you manually change or quick adjusting dumbbells. I love dumbbells because they force each side of your body to work independently on many weight lifting exercises.
Kettlebells are another one of the better options for weight training. Did you know you can get adjustable kettlebell handles too? It takes some time to adjust the weights, but this is a much lower cost alternative than sets of kettlebells.
I love using cables for many great weight lifting exercises. Some of my favorites to use with a cable system are the pull thru, squat raises for the calves, 1-arm cable pulldowns, and cable rows. I highly recommend a cable system.
You can use resistance bands for many exercises. I'm not a huge fan of resistance bands as the resistance changes so much over the range of motion. They can be useful, though, in many situations. Resistance bands are small and lightweight so they can be taken with you if you're on travel. Carrying around heavy barbells or dumbbells is impossible while it's very easy with resistance bands.
Chains are another interesting option as the resistance increases on longer chains as the weight is lifted off the floor. Or you can use small chains around your neck for different types of squats or other exercises like lunges, pull ups, and dips.
Clubbells bring a different feel to your weight lifting workouts. They were actually first recorded as being used in ancient Persia, Egypt, and the Middle East by wrestlers. These things have been used for a very long time so that should tell you they are good.
You can take a sledge hammer and hit it against a huge tire for a great workout. You can use other hammers in different ways for other workouts too. Keep in mind that the resistance needs to increase over time.
As you probably know, I'm not a big fan of most machines. Some of them, though, can be very useful. For example, the glute/ham raise machine is a very good machine that I do recommend. I use a Smith Machine for exercises like the reverse grip bench for the triceps, standing calf raises, and seated calf raises. I do not recommend machines 100% of the time that lock you into a specific plane of motion. Instead, you can mix in a machine exercise every now and then.
Your body weight can be used as resistance on many exercises. For example, you can do push-ups at different angles and the push up will get more difficult as your lower body goes higher than your upper body. Handstand push-ups are a great exercise for your upper body. You can use resistance bands to decrease your body weight on pull ups and dips.
Sand bags are another great option, but they do take up lots of space. Lifting and carrying sandbags is very difficult compared to a fixed handle on barbells and dumbbells. Sandbags will take your strength to another level. These really create functional strength.
Rings / Suspension Trainer
Suspension trainers are now available everywhere, and I highly recommend them. When I first started using my suspension trainer, I was amazed. My body was shaking when I first did dips with just my body weight. And I've used many additional weight plates for dips plus my body weight.
I use sleds very often for conditioning workouts and for warming-up for a tough leg workout. You can easily add resistance to the sled you are pushing or pulling. You can even place your kids on them, and they will be very happy as you pull them across the yard.
Weighted vests are another good option for exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, dips, pull-ups, and other exercises that move your body through space. The big issue here, though, is the amount of weight is very limited. You can't find weighted vests with hundreds of pounds as you do with barbells and dumbbells.
My favorite belt to add resistance to weight lifting exercises is the hip belt. I highly recommend a hip belt. I use it for squats, calf raises using a cable system, sled pulling exercises, and for adding weight to pull-ups and dips.
You Can Use ANY Type of Resistance
I want to be clear here…
You can use ANY type of resistance as long as you are able to safely increase that resistance over time.
For example, trying to place weight plates on your back for push ups isn't very safe. Instead you could get a weighted vest that allows you to easily add progressive amounts of resistance.
Or, you can get resistance bands and place them tightly around your upper back and through your hands for push-ups.
Just be careful out there and choose safe options like I've listed above.
You Need a Safe Way to Increase Weight by Large Amounts
You need a method of adding a large amount of resistance over time. For example, let's say you only have dumbbells from 5 to 15 pounds. That's not going to be enough in most cases.
You should have an adjustable set of dumbbells or a set that goes from low weight to high weight (5 to 90 pounds works for most people – later you can upgrade to even larger dumbbells as needed).
Body weight exercises will help you get in better shape and you can work on adding reps to any type of body weight exercises but you will get better results by finding a way to add resistance to your body weight. A weighted vest can work well or a belt that allows you to attach weight plates.
If you continue to use the same amount of resistance over and over, your body isn't going to change compared to adding progressively heavier weight to the exercises you are doing.
You can increase the number of reps if you have no other options, but increasing resistance is the best option if you're looking for results. And who isn't?
Use ANY Form of Resistance but Make It Safe
I want to make another thing clear here…
You can use any form of resistance as long as it's safe to use and you can progressively add larger amounts of weight over time.
For example, I don't care if you take a 50 pound animal and throw him/her over your back and do squats as long as you have a 55 pound animal, a 60 pound animal, a 65 pound animal and so on. You just need progressive resistance that you can safely add. That's all.
I don't really recommend using animals for resistance, though. That was just an example.
There are so many ways of adding progressive resistance. Use your imagination.
As an example, you can take galvanized pipe of different lengths and fill them with concrete.
Make a handle with a reducing coupling and you have your very own clubbells.
The options here are endless. Free weights are highly recommended. It doesn't matter what type of free weight. I just don't want you to get locked into a specific plane of motion with machines.
If you have free weights available, please use them over machines. Machines might look great and they might be marketed to you by a gym as the next greatest miracle muscle building machine BUT you can trust me when I tell you that just a cheap old set of free weights is the best option available.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions about increasing resistance in your workouts.