Free Weights Stay at Fitness Equipment Forefront

A growing appreciation of strength training’s benefits drives demand and innovation.

Free weights are perhaps the very oldest known form of exercise equipment. But because research continues to discover formerly unidentified benefits of strength training, new fans and new markets are embracing them.

Health clubs, fitness studios, and vertical market venues such as hotels and multifamily housing units—name any place where workouts are taking place, and there you’ll find free weights.

“Even though our equipment can last far longer than anything else in a club, many operators introduce new products regularly, reinvesting to keep the facility fresh and inviting, and to enhance the member experience,” says Michael Rojas, the president and co-CEO of Iron Grip. “New equipment elicits a ‘Wow!’ response, and also allows suppliers to make functional improvements.

“For instance,” he explains, “we’ve upgraded our handle design, increased corrosion resistance, and refined the logo engraving process.”

“New equipment elicits a ‘Wow!’ response, and also allows suppliers to make functional improvements.”

Michael Rojas, President and Co-CEO

Iron Grip - Santa Ana, CA

Escape Fitness, Body-Solid, & The Abs Company Impress

When it comes to free weights, it’s all about evolution and enhancements. Just consider bumper plates, a category staple. Over the past year, three companies launched new productions in this segment.

Escape Fitness launched its Elite Urethane Colored Bumper Plates, which feature a grip-able ridge and finger castellations for easy handling; low odor; minimum bounce; and bright, IWF-compliant colors with contrasting weight indicators.

Body-Solid introduced its Chicago Extreme Bumper Plates, manufactured to the precise IWF standard diameter of 450 mm, which feature a thinner width to accommodate an increased weight load and 2-inch collar openings for Olympic lifters.

And, also thinking of Olympic lifters, The Abs Company’s new urethane-coated steel plates are designed to precisely fit the brand’s machines, facilitating a specific training range. “All of our products now include storage posts to keep the weight room floor clutter-free, and provide clubs with a simple, convenient solution,” says Michael Ritter, vice president of sales for The Abs Company.

There’s No Stopping Innovation & Growth

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Other free weight category debuts include Eleiko’s NxG weightlifting training bar, in 15 kg and 20 kg denominations, which features redesigned sleeves to optimize rotation, and dustproof seals to keep the needle bearing well-lubricated. And Iron Grip is now revisiting its group strength line to increase utility and address the needs of stronger members.

Over the past year, growing demand has prompted both Iron Grip and Escape Fitness to open new production facilities. Iron Grip now has more than 150,000 square feet of production space in Texas and California, and Escape Fitness has acquired a plant in China.

“Our new factory in China offers us the highest level of quality control, and also provides us with the opportunity to expand,” says Matthew Januszek, the firm’s cofounder.

The strong, it appears, are clearly growing stronger.

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IHRSA Staff @IHRSA

This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.