* Prices may differ from that shown
When I moved to student accommodation I made sure I was to get the biggest room possible! Boy was I surprised when it was three times the size of my current room I had stayed in all my life! Definitely worth the extra few quid! Well I knew I had whole bundle of audio equipment to take up plenty of the space, but there just seemed to be more than I would need. Why not have myself a home gym?!
I left for University lighter than I had been as I went on several holidays during my gap year after college. No one wants to go on holiday bulky so I had been visiting the gym a lot. I wanted to keep this up and nothing makes you feel more manly than a cast iron barbell and dumbell set! I went for the 90kg set and at the time it cost around £120.
In this set I had the following:-
1 x 5 ft spinlock barbell (approx 7kg)
2 x spinlock dumbell handles
2 x 10kg plates
8 x 5kg plates
4 x 2.5kg plates
4 x 1.25kg plates
4 x 0.5kg plates
As you can imagine picking up the delivery in student halls isn't easy, so I had to get a few friends to come along and help me out. Once laid out in my room it seemed to fill out that final space I had. The 5 foot is just long enough to fit snuggly into my room and not too short for my exercises. Being very broad a smaller barbell would of been quite troublesome. The barbell is about 7kg in weight without any plates which is perfect for any warmups or beginners. All beginners should always remember that form comes before weight lifted. A 7kg barbell seems just right for anyone to practice their form before moving onto heavier lifting.
The barbell is perfect for your heavy lifting and compound exercises. These include bench press, deadlifts and squats. However as it's a review of the product and not a workout diary I won't go into too much detail!
The are two dumbells which comes with the set, each weighing about 1.5kg. These are a good size and have good grip, however beginners beware of calluses. These are almost unavoidable and on an iron barbell can hurt at first! A solution can be to wear gloves, but a phrase which I live by and hear on daily at Uni is 'man up'. It's only a callus. Dumbells are perfect for working isolation exercises. Working separate dumbells can also strengthen your core which is a vital part to body conditioning. Overall these dumbbells are very comfortable to use.
There is a good variety of cast iron plates. With 90kg at my disposal I could always mess around with different routines and know I had plenty to use. The 10kg plates are also perfect to use by themselves. These can be used for 'around the worlds' to condition your shoulders and also for crunches with the weight supported on your chest. These plates are definitely going to last a lift time with the build of them!
The main problem I had with this set is it being 'spinlock'. To anyone not knowing what this means, it simply means you spin on the collars on each end until it tightens up to the plates. As you can imagine this can be a nightmare if you're always changing what you are lifting! With a lot of compound exercises you can usually find lifting a good heavy weight which is the same for each exercise is fine. This is what I did and hardly ever changed the plates on the barbell, except once I needed to increase them. However the dumbells which are used for more isolation are needed to be changed very often! As you can imagine, spinning 4 separate collars off, replacing plates, then spinning them on again for another set can be quite time consuming. During a workout you do not want to waste time if you want to keep your heart rate up! This is the biggest downfall to this set and I have to admit I rarely used my dumbells because of this reason.
In the future I soon replaced my dumbells with Bowflex SelechTech's which at the twist of a switch, completely changes the weight. These however were priced around £250 for two dumbbells so are a lot pricier in comparison.
I still use my barbell to this day and it still looks in perfect condition. Its been with me to 4 different houses and has been heavily used and I still feel it will be used for many more years to come. If you are happy with just a barbell then I would recommend purchasing this separately. If however, you are not bothered about the time consuming spin locking dumbells then it can be a perfect set for any home gym.
When weight training, it is vitally important you choose the right Barbell and Dumbbell set at the right price. Quality of material matters, but for me it's more about the three bars and what configuration of indentation they have to give your hands grip. I don't like using gloves when exercising, so this is always my main criterion when entering the market and attempting to find the best set for me. Here we have the 'York Fitness Cast Iron Spinlock Barbell/Dumbell Set' which I bought for just under £150.00 - a fantastic kit with a mass of interchangeable weights at the correct scale.
The set contains a large array of compatible weights, bars and spin-locks to tie them all together. The overall weight of the collection is around 50 kg, though the weight of the bars and spin-locks isn't specified:
'6x 0.5kg discs, 6x 1.25kg discs, 4x 2.5kg discs, 4x 5kg discs, 6x Spin-lock collars, 2x 14 inch chrome spin-lock bars for barbell exercises, 1x 60' one piece spinlock bar for barbell exercises'
This is a comprehensive collection. Because the weights are completely interchangeable - there are in fact 50 different combinations - the total weight you can accumulate onto any single bar far surpasses the maximum weight any normal guy could need. It depends on the type of exercise you are undertaking, for instance when bench pressing people can usually lift more weight than when working their bicep or tricep muscles. The array of different weight sized caters for most people, only serious weight trainers should consider a different product.
Types of exercise I find rewarding:
- Bench Press: works the upper, lower, inner and outer pectorals depending on incline and grip used.
- Military Press: works shoulders (I find standing whilst working this works best, helped by the bars grip).
- Bicep Curl: works arms in general, but mainly the bicep (standing is once again the preferred stance).
- Tricep Extension: requires a lower weight I find (best when seated on the edge of a bench).
- Row: lie length ways down a bench with head and arms over the edge, lift the barbell up to your chest and back down 10-12 times. This is a highly effective back exercise I find.
- Squats: the bar (being solid metal) requires an additional soft coating before resting on your shoulders, available from most suitable stores - I know Amazon stocks them.
- Bench press: when using the dumbbells it is more difficult to keep stable, you use different muscles in your arms, as well as your chest.
- Shoulder press: accesses the tricep muscles as well as the shoulders.
- Bicep curls: simple exercise, only do one arm at a time to counter-balance your back and stature.
- Tricep kick-backs: done with one knee resting on a bench, reaching out the dumbbell behind you with your back almost horizontal.
The cast-iron weights connect to the bars perfectly. They sit tightly against the metal, but not tight enough for the spin-locks not to be needed. The spin-locks however, are not great. They tend to slip off and have to be tightened every now and again to prevent the weights pushing them completely off and breaking someone's toes. This is the only disadvantage with the set in my opinion.
Overall I am really pleased with this set, it contains everything you could possible want, and can be used to exercise your whole upper body and thighs well. The grip on the bars gives a safe experience. In all I would recommend this set any novice weight trainer, but not to professionals.
At the start of this review, I am briefly going to go over the benefits of free weights over gyms. If you wish to read a little more comparison between the two, check my review of the York 20KG cast Iron dumbbell set, however, I will try to include everything I included in that one with as much detail as I did before.
So, as I said in my previous review, I do believe that free weights are far superior to the gym. They require just a simple one off payment, whereas a gym membership can cost in excess of £30 per month. Also, going to and from the gym takes up a lot of time, extra time that you could have been using to work out if you had free weights*. Also, free weights are great for numerous different forms of training. Firstly, there's the infamous Bodybuilding. This is lifting weights to build the size of the muscle. There is also Powerlifting, very similar to Bodybuilding, but a lot more weight is used, and you only do a small number of reps, and this training is done to increase strength rather than muscle mass. Then, there's fitness and strength workouts that can be done, which athletes such as boxers and fighters use to gain punching power and core body strength. Also, using free weights means you can do everything from the comfort of your own home, which is good for some people, such as those who do not want to be seen at the gym due to embarrassment etc. and people who simply do not want to leave their own homes. It is far more convenient as it means workouts can be done while you are watching TV or on your computer.
However, gyms do have some advantages. As mentioned in my other review, they safely restrict your range of motion. This means that, unlike free weights that you could drop onto your head/neck/body and cause injury to ones self, gym equipment does not allow this to happen. Also free weights are only providing the resistance in one way, against gravity. This means the only way to work with them is to do things the push/pull it upwards, unlike gym machines that can give the resistance in whichever direction they wish.
Anyway, back on to the product itself. I did not purchase this as the full kit as advertised here, but I bought the dumbbell set and then a barbell with 70KG of weights, both by York and in cast iron, so I have exactly what is shown here. As mentioned in my review of the dumbbells, the cast iron can damage many types of flooring, and makes a very loud noise even when placed down gently. This means you can rarely work out quietly (such as if others are sleeping) nor can you drop the weights to the floor if you realise they are too heavy for you to exercise with. This can be an issue to beginners who are trying to find weights the are comfortable with using, but realising they are too heavy and wanting to drop them to the floor as you will have to lower it slowly to avoid damaging the flooring.
The product can be purchased in a 50KG set, a 70KG set and a 90KG set. This particular 90KG set costs £130. People may think that this is expensive, however, after sign up fees and membership fees, a gym can be costing this much every 6 months or so, and, while a gym can offer much more, it is simpler to get free weights with a one off payment because you can exercise the whole body safely, however, I would recommend that safety precautions are taken if you wish to purchase free weights, as you can cause some serious damage to your body if you are not exercising safely.
In conclusion, the York free weight set (90KG) is very good. It is enough weight for most weight lifting levels of experience. It feels very high quality and you are definitely getting more moneys worth of exercise than you would joining a gym. Also, I am going to conclude again that free weights are better than gyms, mainly because of the cost. However, do not just buy free weights without being aware of safety. This is urgent to take a look at if you want to buy free weights, especially if you are going to lift them alone. You will have to look at correct form and the correct way to do every exercise. Anyway, thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed!
*For the fitness newbies here, when I say free weights, I do not mean these are free of charge. Free weights are standard bars and weight plates that are not restricted in any way whatsoever. You can choose where they go and how much weight to put on them.
-- For safety tips, check out the 'Starting Strength' book by Mark Rippetoe. It has 3 versions, the 1st being advanced and the 3rd being a simplistic version. The each cover the same aspects, but version 3 is very simple and for beginners, whereas version 1 is for more advanced weight lifters.
"The York Fitness 90Kg Cast Iron Spinlock Barbell/Dumbell Set are chromed solid bars and black cast iron weights from one of the world`s most famous names in weight training. York employ good quality control so their weights tend to be more consistent than others in shape, size and finish over the years. Please note this kit has a 5ft bar which would limit your options if exercising with a bench. The 96kg kit comes with a 6ft bar which is more useful when training with most standard size benches. If you are buying or intend to buy an olympic bench you would need a 7ft bar, which we can supply seperately or as an upgrade to this kit. "