Nothing beats the convenience of home when it comes to daily exercise. For the time it takes you to drive to the gym, drop off your gym bag in the locker room, check your child into the Germ Factory of Fun and wait your turn for the treadmill, you could be finished with your at-home routine. And be showered. Maybe even blow-dried.
I’ve been a gym-rat on and off since college, but home is definitely my workout venue of choice. Over the last 20 years, my husband and I have created a well-equipped home gym—piece by piece, little by little. I couldn’t be a slug, even if I wanted to. The guilt alone would eat me alive.
Our basement Home Gym
If, currently, you have no gym equipment, it may seem intimidating to have a “home gym” when you consider the expense of building one from scratch. So, I thought I’d list for you the home gym equipment I consider essential, in the order I would (and did!) buy it.
My very first Home-Gym purchase, circa 1993. I would still use this video were it not for the fact that it’s, well, a “video.”
The Free Version: Good news!! You can work out from home for abso-free-lutely with no equipment, whatsoever. Here’s all you need:
- The great outdoors, where you can walk or run (that’s all the cardio you need, right there).
- An 8’ x 8’ space of your home, where you can strength train using your own body weight (think push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, crunches, etc).
- Self-discipline, to keep you going when there’s no one there to encourage you. Except you.
- Fitness knowledge, to put together a thorough and safe exercise program for yourself.
- Creativity, to combat the dreaded fitness plateau and/or boredom.
If you want actual exercise equipment, these are The Essentials:
- A mat, if you do not have carpeted floor.
- Water bottle and towel.
- A decent pair of shoes.
- Free Weights. If you are a female just starting out, you only need a set of 2 lb, 5 lb and 8 lb dumbbells. If you are strong and consider yourself to be reasonably fit, you will probably also need a set of 10 lb and 15 lb weights. I have been working out almost every day for 25 years, and I RARELY use weights higher than 15 pounds. If you are a male, start with a set of 10 lb, 15 lb and 20 lb dumbbells.
Well-loved. I use these almost every time I strength train.
- Resistance Bands. This would be an alternate to free weights, not in addition to the free weights. I personally prefer free weights, but resistance bands are very versatile, easy to store and easy to take with you when you travel (yes, I’m a freak and work out on vacation.)
- Workout DVDs and a TV/DVD player or computer. As I stated, unless you are highly disciplined, very creative and have extensive knowledge of the way different exercises work various parts of your body, you will need DVDs. A good home DVD program will give you variety, keep you on task, and show you proper form. You can build your library slowly over time and add to it as you reach fitness plateaus or boredom. I would recommend something well-rounded to start out. Something that works the entire body, and includes a cardiovascular element, a strength training element and a flexibility element (like yoga or a really good stretch.) For my recommendations on books and programs, click here.
My entire DVD workout library. I’ve been building this for 13-ish years.
Oops! Almost forgot about the old videos. (Why do I still have these?) This collection goes back to 1993. That Kathy Smith one on the far right whipped me into shape after my first two pregnancies. I miss that video.
- A mirror. If you are just starting out and exercising alone in your home, it’s important to perfect your form. Bad form is one of the main causes for exercise-induced injuries. (Bad Form + Out-of-Shape Body = BAD NEWS) A full-length mirror will help you see if your lunge looks like the lunge on the DVD. It will also let you see the grooves in your thighs when you start building muscles BECAUSE of that lunge. Bonus! (I don’t have a mirror in my gym, mostly because I have worked out in front of the mirrors at the real gym long enough to know when my form is bad. I can feel it. But I want one. I think it really helps.)
- A Cardio Machine. Our very first cardio machine was the Nordic Track. Remember the Nordic Track? They actually had a Nordic Track store in our mall back in the early 90’s, because the Nordic Track was da BOMB. Then we moved our family and our Nordic Track to sunny Florida, where all our cardio could be outdoors year ‘round. #ThoseWereTheDays. Then we moved to Kentucky, where our cardio could be outdoors only part of the year (depending on your fondness for cold/rainy–of which I have ZERO!), so we ditched the Nordic Track and upgraded to an elliptical. Our elliptical continues to be well-loved by everyone in our home—evidenced by the tape holding it together.
We got our money’s worth out of this for sure.
Since my husband has morphed into a Triathlete, he has this contraption going on (is that a high chair back there?) I have no clue. But assume it has something to do with cardio and bikes and stuff.
For the love of WIRES!
And he would like to add a treadmill at some point. But we have run out of room, so something else would have to go…like maybe this guy.
Diego Grace, the Bearded Dragon, who lives near our Home Gym
- A Bench. This is great for chest exercises, sitting bicep curls, back exercises, tricep-dips, and one-legged balance lunges. Alternatively, you can use a floor and a chair—which is why I consider this piece of equipment optional.
- A jump rope. Have you tried to jump rope since you were a kid? Yeah, it’s HARD. Cheap and effective cardio, right there.
I don’t use these…I should.
- A universal weight machine. I personally think free weights provide the best all around weight training experience, because you can do almost anything with them and you get great range of motion. But if you are looking for some variety and have extra room in your home, a universal weight machine is fun. I bought this as a birthday gift for my husband a few years ago, and it gets a ton of use. It’s not cheap, though. So, don’t start here. This is the kind of thing you work up to and save for.
I use this instead a pull-up bar for my pull-ups in P90X. It actually becomes a pull-down, but still….works the same muscle group.
- A weight rack. This is a total luxury because we have so many stinkin weights now. I just didn’t like have them all over the floor. You can put this in the “frivolous” category.
Sometimes a workout DVD requires specific equipment. Here are the things I added as I needed them for new workouts:
For P90X: Yoga mat, yoga block and pull-up bar*
*Full Disclosure: This is in our master bathroom/closet. It is highly inconvenient to run upstairs and do pull-ups when I work out. We use to hang clothes, which I removed for the purposes of this photo.
For P90X2: Stability balls, medicine balls, push-up stands (LOVE these push-up stands from Beachbody!), and foam roller
For Jillian Michaels: Kettle bells
For Insanity The Asylum: This ladder thingy (not the official name)
At the end of the day, the Essential Equipment for any Home Gym will be the stuff you use. Start small. Build it over time. The end.
Do you have a home gym? What equipment is in yours?
Linking up with Jill Conyers for her weekly