Plate loaded equipment can be a very effective mid-way point between machines and free weight training. They give a little more variation on movement than machines and don’t try to isolate specific muscle groups as much. However, they also don’t require as much stabilization or perfect form as free weight training does. You can see why this is an attractive option to people, and even if it isn’t your first choice, it has a place in the overall workout toolkit. My personal favorite amongst the best plate loaded gym equipment is the BodySolid GSRM40 Seated Row Machine.
The seated row is an excellent exercise for overall upper body development and is particularly good for general strength gains. It’s a compound movement that uses many of your muscles in different ways to pull off the technique. The main targets are pretty much all of your upper and mid-back muscles, such as the traps, lats, and the erector spine. On top of this, the GSRM40 has a considerable impact on your shoulders, upper arms, and even the forearms. That’s a lot of upper body development for one exercise!
There’s a couple of alternatives here too depending on your preference!
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Best Overall – BodySolid GSRM40 Seated Row Machine
Like we’ve already covered, the seated row is a useful and versatile exercise. BodySolid is a well-known and popular brand, they regularly pop up when high-level gym equipment is discussed. That isn’t to say they’re always the best, though ranking high should say a lot about their consistency and overall quality.
The GSRM40 Seated Row Machine is a great rowing machine with many convenient features to make exercising more comfortable for you.
The reliability of this machine is the first thing to stand out. It’s been a popular item already so there are plenty of people out there using it, yet it’s tough to find anybody who has had a single complaint about the build quality or reliability of the item. That’s pretty impressive! Add to this that BodySolid offer a lifetime warranty and you can be sure that you’ll never need to replace this machine, making it a buy for life product.
Being uncomfortable can hurt your will to work out and your development. The chest support on the BodySolid Seated Row Machine is well-positioned and is super thick. You can get right up against it without feeling any edges or hard material pressing into you, plus it won’t leave any marks on you. Even the foot braces are padded so you can go heavy without the metal support applying any pressure to the soles of your feet. The seat is in a good position too and again has enough padding to keep you comfy, while the handles are in a great position. Remember this machine is adjustable so if you are particularly short or tall you can still adjust the positioning find one that works for you.
High Weight Capacity
This machine should be fine for all but the heaviest of lifters. The heaviest lifts require extremely high-end equipment with an extremely high cost though, so this is pretty much as good as it gets at reasonable prices and is plenty for most users. The machine handles pretty much any weight you can fit on to it and still works smoothly. There are Olympic plate size adapters available if you want to use Olympic size plates, otherwise, this is set up for 1” plates
The instructions which come with the BodySolid GSRM40 are pretty poor when compared to other brands. They can be a little unclear, so having some DIY or gym equipment experience is a big help in putting them together. The process isn’t really that difficult and most of it can be figured out with just a little experience, though if you don’t have any the instructions aren’t likely to be a big help to you.
Requires Lubricating Pre-Installation
One thing that many people noted about this machine is how loud/creaky it can sometimes be. We have found that users who applied lubrication to the machine and its’ bushings before constructing it haven’t encountered this problem. Likewise, the noisy machines which were taken apart and lubricated no longer had any noise/roughness problems either.
Best Alternative – BodySolid GPM65 Plate Loaded Pec Machine
Our alternative pick is for those who struggle with the seated row, or who have injuries or other limitations which don’t allow that exercise. The BodySolid GPM65 Plate Loaded Pec Machine is another great creation from BodySolid. It targets the pecs mainly though it can be used for a few different exercises, making it quite versatile.
It allows both regular flyes and reverse flyes, so you can work your front or back. There’s a pair of different handles for different hand positions too.
Reliability & Comfort
Once again this benefits from the general quality BodySolid puts into their machines. It has a lifetime warranty and is made from very sturdy steel. Handles are well-positioned and covered with a softer foam material, while the seat and back are both firm yet adequately padded. There are adjustments for different builds as well.
The biggest plus of this machine is that it does more than one exercise. You can target your pecs with regular flyes, or you can target your back with reverse flyes. The differing hand positions on the BodySolid GPM65 are nice because you can choose whatever feels best for you.
The way this moves allows the pulleys to slide freely over the lifting mechanism with the plates being nice and secure on the horizontal holders. Some users have reported no plate movement even without using any type of locking device/collar. There’s no loud clanking or banging when weights are lifted/lowered either, unlike some stack machines.
Poor Instructions & Requires Lubrication
This BodySolid machine also requires some lubrication before assembly to keep the operation smooth and quiet. Without it there are reports of some creaking from the pulleys and clicking from the movement of handles.
Instructions are an issue again too. The GPM65 Pec Machine is a great machine which is easy to use once built. If you can get it built. The instructions aren’t clear enough for a first-timer to put one of these together without some guesswork or luck. Searching online for help could be one solution, or getting an experienced friend could be another. Keep this in mind when ordering.
Best for Lower Body – Plate Loaded Leg Extension/Curls Machine
For those who would rather focus on the lower body, it can be hard to find a plate loaded machine that gives all-around development. Something simple like the Plate Loaded Leg Extension/Curl Machine will fill this role perfectly.
The biggest and most obvious advantage is that you can either do leg/quad extensions or leg/hamstring curls with this piece of equipment. These movements are also noted for helping knee stability and improving joint strength. All of this makes it a useful piece of equipment to have.
Made from steel, this is a very reliable unit and we have yet to see any complaints about reliability. This Plate Loaded Leg Machine should last for years and the foam on this is long-lasting too, with a good covering that doesn’t tear/mark easily.
Value for Money
Another advantage here is the price. It’s cheaper to buy this machine than it is to buy most other plate loaded machines. When you consider the multiple uses that this one has, it becomes an even better value for money. The knee strengthening ability makes it usable at very light weights as a rehab/therapy device. Being able to work both the front and back of the leg makes it extra useful too.
Not Much Variability in Position
Adjusting position helps to make machines comfortable for users with different builds. With this machine, there’s only a little flexibility to extend the bar where your legs will be placed. That could mean being a bit uncomfortable in your exercise position depending on your size. It shouldn’t be much of a factor unless you’re particularly short/tall, but it is something to be aware of.
Best for Versatility – StrengthTools Plate Loaded Kettlebell
Kettlebells are massively popular these days, becoming a competitor to the traditional debate of machines vs free weights. They’re versatile and useful for athletes and newcomers alike. Kettlebells also add different options for workouts because of their design and mobility. This makes chaining movements together possible, so you can work in multiple areas during one exercise.StrengthTools Plate Loaded Kettlebell is a new twist on this. It’s a kettlebell handle with a bar where the rest of the kettlebell would normally be. There’s a clip on the end allowing you to secure weight plates in place. Once this is done, it’s ready to go!
The kettlebell already gives a huge amount of options for your workouts. There’s so many around that you could probably hit every muscle group multiple times. The challenge here is getting your form right, so make sure you’ve focused on that and really got it drilled down before attempting heavier kettlebell exercises.
Plenty of Weight Variation
An empty StrengthTools Kettlebell weighs in around 25-30lbs, or at least that’s the feel of it. From here you can add a ridiculous amount of weight, we think 300lbs is very possible on this equipment. For those who don’t know, 300lbs on a kettlebell is ridiculously large and not even usable by most people who aren’t serious lifters or athletes. This variation also adds to the multiple exercise options, allowing it to be used for different types of workouts too, such as toning rather than strength.
Great Value for Money
With the benefits listed and the fact that this is cheaper than most traditional plate loaded machines, it’s easy to see why this is great value for money. The kettlebell design makes it inherently reliable because there just isn’t much to go wrong.
Plate Size Could be Restrictive
The biggest issue you could struggle with on this machine is the plate size. Plates tend to stick out a lot further from the handle than kettlebells do. You can get around this for some movements by using smaller plates, though with a lot of exercises this type of restriction could bring your weight too low to actually be effective. Some of the swings, for example, could leave you at risk of being clipped by a weight plate. In fact with the StrengthTools Kettlebell, any overhead moves are even more dangerous and probably shouldn’t even be attempted. After all, you don’t want 50kg of steel suddenly crashing into the back of your skull on a snatch and press!