When it comes to commercial gym equipment, it’s usually a general term for weight machines, hammer strength, functional trainer, plate loaded and etc. Each of them is likely to cost a lot, but it’s hard to judge its real quality. Frustrated, right?
In this commercial gym equipment buying guide, we will show you:
- What you should focus on when it comes to the design, originality, movement angle, materials and treatment methods, and the finish of the equipment.
- Detailed analysis of the piping, cam, cabling, bearings, safety and appearance of the machine.
- The general manufacturing process and a list of top manufacturers.
We have gone onto the factory floor and interviewed the experienced designers and workers who actually make the equipment, to provide you with the most comprehensive strength training equipment guide that you will never find anywhere online.
So, let’s dive in.
(Note: There are a number of different names used to describe strength equipment. These include workout machine, weight training machine. To maintain consistency, however, we will refer to them in this article as strength equipment/machine.)
Table of Contents
About the design of commercial fitness equipment, we will analyze from the below 2 aspects:
Most gym equipment buyers are intent on getting the best price, so long as the quality is acceptable. There is often little concern whether the equipment has an original design. However, originality of design is critical when selecting the ideal piece of strength equipment.
So, what do we mean by original design?
We don’t mean that the equipment must have new functions which people have NEVER seen in any other fitness machines. The core fitness theories that are grounded in mechanics, ergonomics, mechanical engineering and materials science dictate that the main functions and structures are bound to be similar.
The originality comes in the details of appearance or the unique combination of features. A supplier who is willing to spend time and cost on originality is more trustworthy and has a higher pursuit of quality than a copying-and-pasting company who dispatches drawing designers to a gym to gather the physical data of each piece of equipment.
Yanre Fitness only produces 100% original equipment. Here is one of our product design graphs:
Check whether the company has an R&D center to design its own strength equipment. Communicate with the designers about their specific design concepts.
Haven’t got time to read the full article? Click here to read all the tips together.
1.2 Movement Angle
The movement angle of the piece of equipment is its most important feature. It will determine the user’s training effect, safety, and overall experience. In fact, the movement track is the soul of the strength machine. The ideal movement angle makes it easy to get started and gradually master the optimum force method. It can also prevent training injuries and place the full focus of effort on the target muscle.
Fitness professionals are instinctively able to judge the movement angle by using the equipment. They will know by the feel whether the movement angle is ideal or not. Less experienced buyers will need to focus on other factors to determine to ideal movement angle.
Here are a couple of things to focus on when visiting the factory of the supplier:
Talk to the designers in the R&D center. Be prepared to discuss fitness theories and whether they are appropriate for gym equipment. Designers who do work with gym equipment are more likely to design professional machines than those who don’t.
Be sure to try the fitness equipment yourself. You need to experience the following 3 aspects:
Whether it is smooth to use; if not, there may be something wrong with the movement angle.
Whether it is isolating your targeted muscle when using specific equipment. For example, a machine that specializes in triceps, should provide a contraction in all three heads of the triceps, without any uncomfortable and painful feeling in other parts of the body.
For converging and diverging equipment, confirm whether there is a peak contraction experience.
2. Materials and Treatment Methods
Commercial gym equipment needs to be able to take a beating. It must be robust, durable, secure and aesthetically pleasing. These things are achieved with quality construction materials and treatment methods, we list the most important parts as below:
The right finish on a piece of equipment will look great while also providing strength and durability. Yet, it is difficult to determine how good a piece of equipment is by looking at its surface. You need to check the finish treatment of the machine.
Finish treatment can be divided into 2 steps:
Step 1: Sandblasting or Pickling Phosphating
Sandblasting is the preferred finish treatment over pickling phosphating, which does some harm to the environment. The quality of sandblasting depends on the length of time spent. The longer it takes, the more detailed and thorough it is.
Yanre Fitness is a environmental friendly manufacturer, so it applies sandblasting rather than pickling phosphating.
When sandblasting, the sand may enter the pipe through the screw holes. So, you need to confirm whether there is sand in the tube. Some factories will leave holes in the pipe to clear the sand. If the sand is not cleared, it may clog up the screw gap or leak to the carpet.
Step 2: Powder Coating
The price of powder varies from a few dollars to dozens of dollars per kilogram. Obviously, the quality of that powder will also vary widely. It is difficult to determine the quality of the powder used from the finished appearance of the machine. The quality will prove itself six months after purchase according to the abrasion, level of fade and rust condition.
Know about the specific treatment methods applied to the surface
Check whether the surface is smooth to the touch.
If circumstances permit, take a hard metal object, such as a key, and scratch the surface of the equipment to determine the adhesion and thickness of the surface coating.
The main frame of most strength equipment will be made of pipe. The strength and durability of the machine will be largely determined by the quality of the piping.
Pipes come in a variety of shapes, with the most common being:
- Semi-elliptical pipe
- Flat oval pipe
- Circular pipe
- Rectangular pipe
- T-shape pipe
Ask the supplier what standard they use for their piping. In China, fitness equipment pipes should meet Q235 standard. This is a form of low carbon steel with good plasticity, tenacity, and weldability, as well as a high degree of strength and cold-formed properties.
And yes, Yanre Fitness uses Q235 pipes to make every piece of work.
When it comes to the size of the pipe, you should go for 40mm x 80mm and above for the length and width of the frame pipe. The ideal pipe thickness should be 3.0mm, although many fitness equipment manufacturers use 1.8mm-2.5mm and claim it to be very strong. Yet, according to the USA ASTM F1250 standard, pipe thickness for commercial fitness equipment should be 3.0mm and above.
Yanre Fitness insists on using 3mm thickness pipe as raw material for 24 years., and the length and width of the frame pipe is all above 40mm x 80mm. Studies show that the strength of a 3.0mm pipe is more than 2 to 3 times that of 2.5mm pipe.
It is better to choose framing that uses pipe bending production procedures than cutting and welding. Bending provides higher production technology and pipe tenacity. Bent pipe is also more robust and durable. Bent pipe will also prevent wrinkle depression and sudden changes in size.
When checking the pipe standard thickness of 3.0mm, measure the thickness of the raw material rather than the painted pipe. Some factories will cheat clients by measuring the pipe thickness after painting and coating.
Even though bending of pipe is the preferred way to go, it is inevitable that a machine will have some cuts and welds to connect various parts of the equipment. These connections also play an essential role in the overall performance of the device. A little carelessness will lead to serious safety accidents.
Ask the factory representative about the treatment methods and theoretical basis of the connection.
Check the thickness of the connecting plate and the strength of the screw. They should use anti-loose screws and gaskets. The screw strength level will be marked on the screw; the higher, the better.
Yanre Fitness uses multiple-fixations connection method: flange connection to make the connections more stable.
Your first contact with a machine is usually the seat. If the seat has a cracked surface, you will inevitably have a bad experience. A uncomfortable seat will also be a distraction that will divert your attention from the working muscle.
There are four parts to a seat:
The two main filling materials are regeneration sponge and high-density foaming material. Because regeneration sponges are recycled, they are not as durable as high-density foam. They collapse relatively easily and also thin out over time.
High-density foam materials feel more comfortable and are more durable. There are different qualities of high-density foaming material. Generally speaking, PU foaming material is applied to commercial use, while rubber foaming material is mainly applied to home use.
Yet, high density PU foaming material is not always the ideal solution. When the seat size is only applied to one specific machine or very few machines (compared to universal seat types that can be applied to many machines), manufacturers will choose to use generation sponge to save the cost.
High-density foaming material will usually match the ABS support plate, which requires a high-precision expensive mold. Regeneration sponge usually matches the iron board or plywood to support the seat, which does not require any costly mold.
Press the seat firmly with your thumb or apply a specific instrument to measure its density level. The higher the density, the better the quality.
When it comes to fitness equipment seat coverings, synthetic equipment is preferable to natural leather. The two main types of synthetic leather are:
- Polyurethane (PU Leather)
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC Leather)
Let’s consider the pros and cons of each:
more waterproof and wear-resistant
Recently a new type of PU leather has emerged, which combines the benefits of both PVC and PU. However, it is more expensive than normal PU leather and PVC leather.
Recycled leather material also differs widely from new-made material in price and quality.
Smell: check whether there is a pungent smell.
Tactile impression: touch the surface by hand and confirm the tactile impression
Density: observe the cut/side surface and check its stomata (small holes on the surface of the material). The more stomata, the lower the density and quality of the leather.
Thickness: the thicker, the better.
There are 3 main types of support plate:
- ABS plastic
- Iron board
ABS plastic provides the best quality. It matches with high-density PU foaming material. Iron board and plywood usually match with regeneration sponge.
ABS plastic support plates are made with a high-precision mold, which is very expensive. There is also a significant price gap for different precision levels. Most fitness factories will only have one or two sets of mold to produce the same-size ABS support plate.
The support plate can largely determine the comfortableness and service life of the seat.
Check the material used. Generally speaking, ABS is better than iron board and plywood.
Observe the match between fillings and support plate.
The seat height adjuster should be easy to use and stable to ensure that there is no shaking during operation. There are a number of adjustment methods. The latest and most popular seat adjustment design is the quadrilateral adjustment (shown below), which is extremely stable, technically sound and aesthetically appealing.
Adjust the seat several times to check whether it is easy to use. After adjusting the seat, sit on it and shake to test its stability.
Yanre Fitness applies quadrilateral adjuster in its 61A series:
Components part will mainly includ:
Pulleys may be constructed from plastic, steel, aluminum alloy, and nylon. Let’s consider the pros and cons of each;
Great tensile strength
higher load capacity
Unaffected by extreme temperature
Cost-effective, high tenacity
Smooth, quiet operation
low friction coefficient
metal-like features (tensile strength, stable, high-temperature resistance, and high load capacity, etc.)
Smooth and quiet operation
For industries that may need to use pulleys in extreme environments, aluminum and steel are used because they are more resistant to temperature, especially steel. In the fitness equipment industry, however, there are often no such extreme temperature conditions. Therefore, most suppliers choose plastic or nylon as raw materials.
After testing, we found ABS plastics are the best material for pulleys. Its cost is higher than other materials. Still, its metal-like features endow it with high strength and excellent tenacity, which makes it easy to process. In addition, there will be none of the oxidizing rust that may occur with steel or aluminum.
Material: determine the material used and assess its suitability according to the above comparison chart.
Stability: rotate the pulley and observe whether it is wobbly.
The camshaft (CAM) can be made of several materials. These include:
- Chilled iron
- Steel billet
Here is a comparison of several materials:
good wear resistance
High volume production
low friction coefficient
- Cast iron: one-piece molding
- Iron board: cutting and welding
- POM: Computer Numerical Control (CNC)
- ABS plastic: Injection molding
The CAM is usually made from chilled iron castings. This material has far superior wear characteristics over any other material. It also has high volume production.
The strength and performance of the CAM is a very important factor in the functionality of the machine. As a result, many international brands apply POM materials to the CAM.
Determine the material applied and assess whether it is suitable according to the above comparison chart.
Check whether it is smooth when in operation.
Use the machine and determine whether its design is in line with the principle of movement.
Pin-loaded equipment will contain wire cables. These can easily be damaged. The quality of the cable largely determines the safety of this device. If the cable is suddenly disconnected during exercise, the user may get injured.
The ISO states that “cable shall have a safety factor against breakage of 6 times the maximum possible tension that can be developed.”
Check the thickness of the cable: the thicker it is, the more solid and the safer it will be (the commercial standard is 6mm).
The standards for home use and commercial use are different. Generally speaking, the requirements for commercial use should be much higher than for home use. If you buy for commercial use, never be cheated by manufacturers who apply home use material to their commercial equipment.
Ask about the maximum load capacity. You should also ask to see the fatigue test report. This will tell you how long the cables will last.
A bearing is a mechanical component whose function is to support a rotating component. It allows one element to rotate relative to the other.
Bearings are high-precision parts that allow equipment to operate at different speeds by efficiently transporting significant loads. They must be highly accurate and durable. They must also be able to run at high speed with minimal noise and vibration.
In the fitness equipment, the most common bearings are:
- Deep Groove Ball Bearing
- Needle Bearings
- Angular Contact Bearings
- Thrust Bearings
The deep groove ball bearing is one of the most widely used in fitness equipment. It is characterized by small friction resistance and high speed.
The safety of the strength equipment in your gym is of vital concern. Here are the key features to pay attention to:
ISO20957: check whether there is an ISO20957 certificate for the machine. This certificate indicates that the equipment has passed the International Organization for Standardization. If there is no such certificate, DO NOT buy any equipment from that supplier.
Stability: Try to push the pin-loaded machine to check its stability. On such machines as a last pulldown, select the maximum weight and then suddenly loosen the handle to see if the device is still stable.
Total Net Weight: Subtract the weight plate; the heavier the net weight, the more stable the machine will be.
Overall Structure: Check that there are no protrusions coming from the machine that could injure your members.
Edges and Surface Corners: These should have a radius r ≥ 2.5mm, be free of burrs, and feature a round design to protect members from injury.
Tube Ends: All the tube ends should be in the accessible hand, and the foot area should be closed off.
Stop the Motion: you should be able to stop the motion at any time.
The Holding System: The weight selection pin should be fitted with a holding system to prevent accidental change or movement during exercise.
Your members should be impressed by the look of your equipment. The most popular aesthetic design features currently are:
- Full Shroud:
- Half Shroud: a bit outdated compared with full shroud
Rectangular piping was popular in decades past, as represented by Cybex. After that, Technogym became popular with elliptical pipe design. Then there appeared the circle pipe, such as Matrix, which was very popular at the time. Currently, most manufacturers prefer elliptical pipe or trapezoidal pipe. Circle pipe is also gradually re-emerging on some plate-loaded equipment.
Because rectangular pipe is slightly outdated, you may be able to get it for a cheaper price. If the quality meets your standard and requirements, you can adjust the color, or add some unique stickers to match the overall style of the gym.
5. General Manufacturing Process
The manufacturing process refers to the steps through which raw materials are transformed into a final product. Familiarity with this process will put you in a stronger position as you negotiate with the rep or inspect the factory. The more expertise you have, the greater your ability to buy the best products at the best price in this industry.
6. Top Manufacturers List
So far in this article it has become obvious that quality equipment judgments require checking out the machinery in person. However, it is not always possible to personally test equipment prior to purchase. How can you confirm the quality in that case?
The best way is to have a credible brand list to refer to. Over the past ten years, I have been working with the top commercial fitness manufacturers in China.
Here is my list of the 10 best:
For more about these suppliers, check out our: Top 10 Gym Equipment Manufactures in China: The Definite Guide
7. Quick Tips for Skimmers
- Check whether there is an R&D center to design its own strength equipment; talk with the designers about design concepts.
2. Ask designers at the R&D center if they usually work out with gym equipment. Designers who do not work out with gym equipment should never design any strength training machine.
3. You should try the fitness equipment yourself. You need to experience the following three aspects:
- Whether it is smooth to use.
- Whether specific equipment is activating your targeted muscle group.
- For converging and diverging equipment, whether there is a peak contraction experience.
4. Know about the specific treatment methods applied to the surface.
5. Check if the surface is smooth to the touch.
6. Take a hard metal object, such as a key, and scratch the surface of the equipment in order to see the adhesion of the surface coating.
7. Pipe standard: ask the supplier about the standard of this pipe. In China, for example, you should expect fitness equipment pipes to meet Q235 standard.
8. Pipe Size: Look for 40mm x 80mm and above for the length and width of the frame pipe, preferably with 3.0mm in thickness.
9. Treatment: bending production procedure is preferred over cutting and welding.
10. Check the thickness of the raw material, not the the painted tube.
11. Ask the factory representative about the treatment methods, as well as the theoretical basis of the connection.
12. Check the thickness of the connecting plate and the strength of the screw.
13. Press the seat firmly with your thumb or apply a specific instrument to measure its density level.
14. Smell: Check whether there is any pungent smell.
15. Tactile impression: Touch the surface by hand and confirm the tactile impression.
16. Density: Observe from the cut/side surface and check its stomata; the more stomata there is, the lower the density and quality.
17. Thickness: Check the thickness of the material; the thicker, the better;
Seat Support Plate
18. Check the material used. Generally speaking, ABS is better than iron board and plywood.
19. Check the appropriateness of the match between fillings and support plate.
20. Adjust the seat several times to check whether it is easy to use. After adjusting the seat, sit on it and shake to test its stability.
21. Material: Determine the material used and assess whether it is appropriate based on our comparison chart.
22. Stability: Make the pulley rotate and observe whether it wobbles.
23. Determine the material applied and assess whether it is suitable according to the comparison chart.
24. Check whether the pulley and CAM are smooth when used.
25. Use the machine and confirm whether its design is in line with the principle of movement.
26. Check the thickness of the cable; the thicker it is, the more solid the cable will be.
27. If you buy for commercial use, never be cheated by manufacturers who apply home use material to industrial equipment.
28. Ask about the maximum load capacity along with fatigue test report and check the results.
29. Meet the standard ISO20957: Check whether there is a certificate of ISO20957, which means the equipment has passed the International Organization for Standardization.
30. Stability: Try to push a pin-loaded machine to check if it is stable. On machines like the Lat Pulldown, select the maximum weight, then suddenly loosen the handle to see if the device is still stable.
31. Total net weight: subtract the weight plates; the heavier, the safer.
32. Overall structure: the surface of the fitness equipment pipe should be free of any protrusions so as to avoid injury.
33. The edges and corners of the surface should have a radius r ≥ 2.5mm. They should also be free of burrs and make use of round corners.
34. tube ends: All the tube ends should be in the accessible hand, and the foot area should be closed off.
35. You should be able to stop the motion at any time.
36. The weight selection pin should be fitted with a holding system to prevent accidental change or movement during exercise.
In this article, I have revealed many tips and ideas to help you to make the smartest fitness equipment buying decision. By applying them you can avoid being cheated by inferior commercial gym equipment manufacturers and delight your members with premium quality machinery.
I hope you found this information helpful.
What other equipment would you like purchasing guidance on?
Leave your comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Related reading: top 10 gym equipment brands in China
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