Overall Weight Limitations
While the total weight of both stacks is 212 lbs, you can only use one stack, or 106 lb, at a time. For those of us that lift regularly, that is certainly not sufficiently heavy. The Weider system uses pulleys and leverage to add friction and therefore “weight” to the system. Therefore the max “weight” felt is much higher, but not from simply lifting weight plates, but also from the friction from the numerous pulleys. From their calculations, the max weight in lb is:
- bench press: 247
- pec fly: 91 x 2
- leg extension: 176
- lat pulldown: 138
- squat: 194
Large Weight Increments
Another issue is that increasing weight from one large plate to the next higher large plate might increase your weight by up to 30 lbs. This is obviously not acceptable. You cannot move from bench pressing 3 plates at 99 lb, then move to a 4th plate at 128 lb, as the jump, 30%, is far too large. There is a way, see below, to add more intermediate steps between large plates, using additional 2.5 lb and 5 lb external plates. These additional plates reduce the jumps to a possible 5 lb, small enough increments for progress.
Fixed Squat Position
The squat rack’s lower position is fixed. This means that for a lot of people with shorter legs, they will not be able to squat down very low, even to where your thigh is parallel to the ground. I had to add a good 9″ platform under the squat rack so I could get a reasonable leg and knee flexion. As this issue is personal, each person will need a different height. To use the squat rack as is would mean you would not get sufficient stretch of your leg muscles.
Adding finer weight increments to the Weight plates
In order to have finer weight increments on the weight stack, I found a 3/8″ x 8.5″ metal rod, the same thickness as the pins for the weight stack. From this supplemental rod you can now hang a 2.5, 5 or combined 7.5 and 10 lb weight plates. This allows you to have the original 12.5 lb plate, but then increments of 15, 17.5, 20 and 22.5lb increments before you add the next 12.5 lb weight plate. The finer gradations allow weight increases of less than 5 lbs and sometimes closer to 3 lb. Depending on your exercise you may not need such fine gradations.
Finer Weight Increments Version 2
Adding a longer stack key and a weight plate had some disadvantages. The weight stack was pulled to the front, resulting in extra friction on the sliding rods. Further, the stack key can sometimes hit other parts of the pulley when at the top position.
Doing the math to include the Supplemental Weight Plates
The Weider manual publishes the approximate weight for each exercise given the number of plates you select. I calculated the best linear formula for each weight route, and then extrapolated the weight for supplemental 2.5, 5, 7.5, and 10lb weight plates.
Original Weider Weight Chart
|Weight Plates||Squat||Low Pulley||Lat Pulldown||leg ext||butterfly||press arm|
Weight Chart with supplemental 2.5, 5, 7.5 and 10 lb weight plates
Issues and Possible Solutions
- single arm biceps cable curl: Using the low pulley, face away from the machine, straight arm, extend your elbow slightly behind your body for a good arm stretch, and then move your straight arm through to the front of your body and curl through the full range of motion. This provides a good contraction of the biceps long head. The problem is that while a “no pin” position of 24 lb is ok for a single arm, adding a single pin doubles the weight up to 54lb, which is more than I can do with a single arm. Using a single arm with no pin leaves me with no options to add incremental weight. There may be a way to add incremental weight with no pin, but I’ll need to think of a solution. Using the high pulley does not provide the right angle for a biceps curl.
The solution that I came up with, is to not do the single arm version, but do both arms at the same time. This requires that you use a stretcher bar that attaches to the lower pulley in the middle, and then the two arm cables are attached on either end, like a hammerhead shark. The stretcher needs to be wide enough to clear the width of your body. Doing both arms at the same time allows me to add a single pin, and then be able to add incremental weight. This exercise pulls the cable to the maximum range of the front weight stack, so you need to be careful that when you add incremental weight that you don’t collide with any pulley along the way.
The bonus of using both arms is that it takes you half the time of the single arm version.
- Low to high front pulling is too heavy for single arm work, and is a major design defect of this home gym. The minimum weight, with no pin is 24 lb, and with a single pin is 54 lb. If your single arm low to high movement exercise uses lower than 54 lb, then your only option is to use 24 lb and not be able to incrementally increase to 54 lb. I will need to find a way to incrementally add weight to the no-pin 24 lb stack. Once you are at 54 lb you can then add incremental weight.
- Incline Bench Press: I have not found a way to do this. I might use the rear stack and figure out how to make or use an incline bench.
Leg Extension Pivot Becomes Wobbly
I received this machine second hand, and the leg extension pivot was wobbly to begin with. I tried straightening out the arm and tightening the bolt, but this was only a temporary fix.
On 2022 Jul I finally decided to look deeply into the problem. The leg extension has two metal arms attaches to the main strut through a single 5/16″ hex bolt. Through the strut there is a metal tube that the bolt goes through, which is 1/16th larger. The bolt is of proper length to tighten, but is not ideal because it exposes the metal arms to the bolt threads. It turns out that one of the arms of the leg extension was rubbing on the threads of the bolt, and with each leg extension movement, was slowly grinding both the arm and the bolt thread away. The bolt’s grip length (distance from the bottom of the bolt head to the first threads) was too short to span the length of the strut. There were also no washers used, so there was a bit of metal on metal friction. Over time this grinds down and contributes to looseness of the joint.
My solution was to replace the hex head bolt with a comparable but extended 5/16″ bolt from a roller blade. The rollerblade bolt has an allen key head, which is much flatter. This does not get in the way as much. The end of the roller blade bolt is a female allen head bolt, also much thinner. I made the bolt longer so I could add plastic washers between the inside leg extension arms and the main strut. On the outside of the leg extension arms I added a plastic and then a metal washer. The joint swings more freely now, and the slack is greatly reduced.
- Added bicycle tire tubing to various parts that had metal on metal contact. For example the squat rack has a stop, preventing the rack from going too low. I added a piece of bicycle tubing to the metal to prevent clanking
- made a shorter lat pulldown bar: very helpful when the long one is cumbersome
- made a long rope triceps extension attachment: This helps a lot to extend the range of motion
- I will buy some more carabiners, as one seems worn down. Instead of throwing out the carabiner I used my welder and added some extra metal, which worked out well.
- I was thinking about replacing the bearing of all the cable rollers, but there is no need. The existing rollers work just fine, and less incremental friction may not even be noticeable. These bearings can be easily popped out and replaced with ball bearings, but I did not see the point. The rollers can also be replaced with aluminum ones, but supposedly the metal rollers will wear the cables faster.
- I want to add some vinyl covers to the foam rollers for the leg extension, and maybe the squat rack. They are easy to make. I added some extra padding to the leg extension knee rollers, and then covered them with vinyl. They are thicker and don’t squish down. The ankle rollers are the originals, just covered in vinyl. Both roller bars were capped with 3/4″ chair leg plugs.
- I fabricated a shoulder width neutral grip bar for rowing. I use it on the lower pulley. I could have bought a narrow grip neutral grip bar like they have in commercial gyms, but I prefer a shoulder width one.
- The leg extension knee roller assembly is just two holes cut into the upright, and a 3/4″ pipe stuck through it. Smooth it is not, and has a habit of moving left and right. My solution was to buy 3/4″ shaft collars part #3871340 that have a hex head pin that you can tighten down. They were $5CAD each, but were just a shade too tight. I had to use a rotary tool and do some grinding to make the hole just a tiny 1/16″ bigger so they could fit over the 3/4″ pipe. This did not take long. The results were well worth it, as now the pipe does not move at all. You need 2 shaft collars.
How much weight do i need to add to my stack to give me a 350lb resistance on the press arm
[Don: For this Weider 8530 home gym, front press arm (bench press), you need to put the pin in the last (8th hole) hole of the stack, and then add an extra 5 lb. Here’s my chart
HI Don! I came across your blog when looking for information on my 8530. I hope you see this question. Am I to understand that when I choose a certain amount of lbs, I am actually pulling more?
Thank you in advance!
I’m so glad you replied, as I was wondering if anyone still uses this home gym!
There are no numbers on the plastic covered weight plates, and for good reason. This is because depending on which machine movement (overhead lat pulldown, low pulley, leg extension, butterfly, seated press) you are doing, they go through different pulleys, which adds more leverage and friction to the weight. Therefore what you see (how many plates you use), is not what you get. You must use the weight chart that came with the home gym. I have this weight chart in my post.
I’ve added small 2.5 lb supplemental weights so that the weight jumps are not as huge. Each plastic weight plate is 12.5 lbs but depending on the machine movement, can feel like much more. For example using the low row, 1 large plastic plate will feel like 54 lbs, but when you add 1 plastic plate the weight will jump to 84 lbs, a change of 30 lbs.
Have you tried any of my upgrades?