From limited sizing in activewear, to a lack of inclusive representation in workout classes, the fitness industry has long conflated "fit" with "skinny" bodies, while excluding and stigmatizing bigger-bodied people.
Research suggests that factors, such as body image, traumatic experiences with weight, and weight stigma can bar people from participating in sports and exercise. However, the matter of the fact is that "all bodies are capable of moving and being active, and we should celebrate the incredible diversity of bodies out there," says Stephanie Thomas, CPT, a personal trainer at Stephanie Thomas Fitness. While the fitness industry still has a long way to go, size-inclusive workout equipment is just one great way to get people of all physicalities moving.
Bridget O'Carroll, the founder of Studio Qila, the first Native-owned digital fitness platform, says that workouts should be accessible from a physical and equipment standpoint, regardless of whether you're using weight machines or free weights. While most of her Pilates workouts can be done using body weight or common household items, O'Carroll likes to use size-friendly equipment like sliders, light weights, and a yoga mat. Not only are these items low-cost, "these allow you to add resistance and stability work to bodyweight exercises," says O'Carroll.
Since exercise is not a one-size-fits-all, we tapped three personal trainers and asked them for their input on the best size-inclusive equipment. Scroll down to see size-friendly equipment that will help build strength, grow muscle, and improve your cardio.
Size-inclusive workout equipment
For O’Carroll, she likes to tailor her Pilates classes to all bodies and physicalities. One way she does that is with sliders—which don’t have size or weight restrictions. These ones from Elite Sportz are a great option if you want to up the ante on your workouts. The sliders were constructed with dual-sided discs, so you can glide on most surfaces like carpet, hardwood floor, tile, and the gym. Add these to challenge yourself during knee tucks, planks, mountain climbers, and more. These allow you to add resistance and stability training into the fold of your workouts, she says.
Although O’Carroll prefers people to use bodyweight, since it requires no equipment, weights can add a challenge. Not only are they super versatile, exercises can feel “heavier or more supported based on the movements that you do with them and the variation you take,” says O’Carroll. This Bala dumbbell set has a symmetrical, round shape that’s easy to hold by people of all sizes and fitness levels. Weighing three pounds each and featuring an ergonomic design, these dumbbells also make workouts balanced and user-friendly for people of all body types. Available in six fun colors, from hot pink to sage green, this dumbbell set will have you ready to hit the mat.
For lifters, Feierdun’s Adjustable Dumbbells are a godsend. For the price of one, you get four pieces of equipment. The set can be adjusted to be dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and push-up stands. What makes these great for bigger-bodied people is that the set features longer and wider handles to accommodate all sizes and the weights on the set can be adjusted. For a single dumbbell, the weight ranges between six and 25 pounds. Bicep curls, push-ups, and overhead presses can all be done using this set.
Some workouts can be hard on the joints, especially for bigger bodied people experiencing joint pain. For days on the mat, be it yoga, stretches, or Pilates workouts, “I also grab a towel or blanket for added comfort,” says O’Carroll. These sports towels—which are made with absorbent microfiber—absorb sweat and lend a helping hand and support under your knees, legs, or neck. Choose from eight colors, from navy blue to dark green to bright red.
Another size inclusive piece of equipment? Kettlebells. “Kettlebells are amazing because they come in a range of weights and are an excellent way to add some variety to your workouts,” says Thomas. Plus, they can be used to build strength and improve posture. This vinyl coated one from Yes4all has a cast-iron construction, so you know it’s built to last the tale of time and comes in 10 different weights, ranging between five and 50 pounds. The bottom half of the kettlebell is coated in vinyl to reduce noise and protect the floors from scratching. Use them to build strength and endurance by adding them to your kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and lunges. “They can be used by people of all body types and fitness levels,” says Thomas.
Yoga, stretching, core workouts—Yoga mats are super versatile and can be used by people of all physicalities. “A comfortable, grippy yoga mat is a staple in my workouts,” Thomas tells us. Thomas says that yoga mats come in wider widths and longer lengths to accommodate people of all sizes, especially bigger-bodied individuals, and this one comes in an extra wide width. It’s 50 percent wider than standard mats and has a slip-resistant surface. Plus, it’s phthalate-free and free of inks and dyes. Easy to clean and wipe down, this mat will be a staple in your regimen for years to come!
“Foam rollers are size-inclusive because they come in different densities, providing different levels of pressure and support for people of all sizes,” says Thomas. This one from Amazon Basics is made of a high-density foam to help you roll out knots or muscle stiffness. Available in three lengths, 18-, 24-, and 36-inches, it can be used by people of all bodies and shapes for post-workout recovery.
To add a challenge to your workout regimen, consider these CFX resistance bands. These thick elastomer-made bands are great for working your glutes, legs, and hips, and this set of three is varying levels of resistance. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure. “Resistance bands are a personal favorite of mine because they allow you to add resistance to your workouts without relying on heavy weights,” says Thomas. “For bigger-bodied individuals, resistance bands can be a great option because they put less stress on the joints than traditional weights, making them a safer option for those with joint issues or injuries.” Plus, you can take them on the go!
Size-inclusive workout machines
If you have the space for larger equipment, Amy Kuphal, CPT, a certified personal trainer and nutrition counselor based in Millis, Massachusetts, recommends a curved treadmill. The Assaultrunner’s Pro allows “individuals of all sizes to perform cardiorespiratory exercises without the added stress to joints that comes from higher impact cardiorespiratory activities,” says Kuphal. The rubber, curved-design reduces impact and decreases the risk of injury. Run, sprint, or walk—The Pro will be your cardio bestie!
Maximum weight capacity: 350 pounds
Another way to amp up the cardio is by jumping on an elliptical. Featuring 16 levels of resistance and ultra quiet magnetic system, Niceday’s machine will allow you to challenge yourself at each stride while eliminating noise. What’s neat about this machine is the wider frame—which accommodates people of all shapes and sizes and features a digital display to track your progress as you go. Throw on some athleisurewear and your favorite pair of kicks, and you’re off!
Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
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