Free Weights Are Having a Moment, Thanks to Functional Training

The functional-training boom has given this iconic category a real boost and manufacturers are responding with new products.

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A man uses dumbbells for a strength exercise.

Fueled by enthusiasm for functional training, many exercisers prefer to lift free weights, hoist dumbbells, and/or swing kettlebells rather than simply complete a circuit on fixed-movement strength machines.

Inspired by the rising demand, manufacturers have responded by supplying a number of innovative new products in the free-weight category.

“Free weights now dominate the fitness floor at health clubs, as interest in strength training continues to grow,” says Hillis Lake, the head of business development for Eleiko Sport. “Now everyone wants to train with a barbell, using dynamic gross-movement patterns.”

TrainChange Fitness’ ALLN-1 Exercise Bench

Among the distinctive new products is the ALLN-1 Exercise Bench, from TrainChange Fitness. This bench includes a base unit, and offers numerous configuration options, allowing it to function as a vertical squat rack, seated curl bench, Roman chair, and more. In all, it can facilitate some 174 exercises.

“Instead of looking to traditional, bulky, free-weight systems, we’ve studied the current training trends, and created a modular, extensible machine to meet the varying needs of a wide range of members,” says Al Smith, the owner of TrainChange Fitness and inventor of the ALLN-1. “Its amazing versatility helps clubs maximize their equipment offering, while also reducing cost.”

Hammer Strength’s HD Athletic Bridge

Similarly, the new HD Athletic Bridge from Hammer Strength, a Life Fitness brand, introduces extra versatility while conserving floor space. It comes in single, double, and triple configurations, which provide Olympic stations, suspension training zones, and storage.

“The functional and small-group training booms are challenging us to rethink how people strength-train,” says Jason Worthy, Life Fitness’ vice president of fitness solutions and innovation. “It’s an exciting time in free weights.”

“Free weights now dominate the fitness floor at health clubs, as interest in strength training continues to grow. Now everyone wants to train with a barbell, using dynamic gross-movement patterns.”

Hillis Lake, Head of Business Development

Eleiko Sport - Chicago

More Free-weight Division Developments

Iron Grip, which has experienced rapid growth in the dumbbell category, has resurrected its Contour handle, is updating its group strength line, and is introducing extensions.

Sunny Health & Fitness has responded to the evolutionary process by employing new materials, such as advanced plastics and polymers, to make its dumbbells even more user-friendly.

To meet the demand for free-weight smarts, Eleiko now offers a number of educational courses.

“Clubs are demanding training and programming with free weights to help them drive revenues in this area,” says Lake.

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IHRSA Staff @IHRSA

This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.