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One mistake that many people make is trying to reach top bodybuilding or peak fitness goals while starting out. If you’re getting back in shape or starting a fitness lifestyle for the first time, avoid the gym and expensive techniques.

Take the advice of the many people who say “you don’t need all that.” It’s true; unless you’re already mastering your fitness and running into a plateau–an area of flat, low progress and unable to make massive gains, you’re wasting money.

Here are a few pieces of advice to help you get in shape without a gym membership.


Invest in Free Weights

Free weights are the way to go. Anyone returning to fitness or getting started for the first time should pick up a few of these basic workout tools before anything else:


  • Dumbbell bar. This is the shorter bar used for one-handed weightlifting exercises such as hammer curls and the chest fly.
  • Barbell bar. This is the longer bar used for two-handed weightlifting exercises such as bench presses
  • At least 100 lbs (40kg) in weights. Beginners will start with 5-10 pounds per arm on dumbbells and double that on barbells depending on their natural strength. One basic goal is to lift at least 1.5x your body weight.

    For first-time weightlifters, it may take months to pass lifting 200 lbs (90kg), so starting with half the amount will be more affordable. You shouldn’t need to spend more than $1 USD per pound. Feel free to buy as little as you need if price is a problem, and consider checking local sales or thrift shops for cheaper weights.

    Important note: Try to buy the same brand or size for your barbell, dumbbells, and weights. Being able to easily swap between weights without having to hunt down specific equipment is helpful. Most weights are in Olympic and Standard size, so try to choose one or the other.

    If you luck into cheap or free weights of either size, just make sure to have both Olympic and Standard barbells and dumbbells for future growth.

Flat weight benches. Safety is key. While some exercises can be done standing, many chest and general dumbbell exercises need a bench.

A flat bench is the standard option, allowing you to lie down while lifting. If you want to spend more, other features include incline/decline to target different muscle groups, leg press attachments for leg exercises, and adjustable height.

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See corresponding article for part 2