The barbell consists of a chrome vanadium bar, to which weights can be attached at either end. There are 3 commonly seen barbells. These are the standard bar, the Olympic bar and the EZ bar. The standard bar is 5 to 7 feet in length and weighs about 20 pounds. It is ideal for working small muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps.
The Olympic bar is about 7 feet long and weighs about 44 pounds. It can be used for working larger muscle groups such as the legs, back and chest. There is a women's version of the Olympic bar, which is shorter and smaller in diameter.
The EZ bar is a zigzag or 'W' shaped bar. This bar is shorter being about 4 feet long. This is also used for smaller muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps. It allows a more neutral position to be held for bicep curls, therefore preventing the risk of repetitive strain injury.
Weight plates can be added to either end of the bar and are held in place with a metal collar. Plates come in sizes from 2.5 pounds right up to 45 pounds. More than one plate can be fitted to each end of the bar giving you a high degree of flexibility.
In addition to a barbell, you will want to invest in a set of dumbbells. These come in a wide variety of shapes, weights and sizes. Dumbbells are free weights that are used in each hand. You will need to make the decision whether you want your home gym to have a adjustable or fixed-weight dumbbells.
Adjustable dumbbells are like mini-barbells where you can slip different-sized weights on and off of them. Fixed weights are generally bought in a set and are created in a pre-formed shape. There are attractive looking chrome varieties available or more affordable vinyl versions that are filled with sand or concrete.
Free weights are a relatively inexpensive way of exercising at home. Once you have decided on the barbells and dumbbells that you need, you have the basis for an effective home gym.