Home gyms are in. Forget waiting 30 minutes for a bench or squat rack. Ditch the commute. Say goodbye to your gym membership and all those fees.
It's time to bring the resistance bands, barbells, adjustable dumbbells, and maybe even a yoga mat to the comfort of your own home.
Now, to be fair, there are obviously significant pros and cons on each side of the gym debate, but that is not what this article is about. You've decided that the home gym life is for you and have begun to ask yourself "What is essential in my garage, bedroom, or shed gym?"
When thinking about what is essential in a home gym - a couple of things to think about come to mind.
First, how effective is the piece of home gym equipment you are considering buying? And by effective, I mean does it give you your best workout? You have goals and reasons for training, and the equipment you buy is either going to help you get there or not. It is so important to at least have a general idea of your fitness goals and what it takes to get there.
Second, a no-brainer - space. Your home gym is obviously going to be smaller than a commercial gym so you can't expect to fit 25 treadmills, 25 stationary bikes, 10 power racks, and whatever else you may expect to find. But, you can fit enough to give you a great workout. If you can't fit everything, what's going to make the cut for your home gym equipment?
This list is made of home gym equipment that is most effective for the general fitness community while taking up the least amount of space - think most bang for your space.
Here are the top 10 essentials for your home gym:
- Barbell & Weight Plates
It's tough to make a list like this and not start with what we consider the most versatile, muscle-building combo - the barbell and weight plates. The barbell and weight plates have been a staple in gyms for decades and for good reason. Compound movements, think squats, overhead pressing, or deadlifts, where multiple muscle groups are being used in one exercise, are one of the best ways to not only build muscle but also incredible strength. This is a great way to get a full-body workout.
Want to take a guess at how to best get your compound movements in? I'll give you a hint - it rhymes with carbell & eight dates. That's right, a barbell and weight plates!
Plus, the fact that barbells are easily stored, and plates can often be stored on a power rack make this an essential home gym buy.
- Power Rack with Pull-Up Bar
This one is very dependent on your goals because it will take up a large amount of space. However, the power rack is essential for anyone looking to do exercises such as squats or bench press. Being able to unrack and re-rack weights is not only more efficient, but it is also safer than any other alternative.
When looking at power racks, make sure to get one with a pull-up bar.
This will take up no additional space, and it will give you the added functionality of being able to perform your pull-ups and chin-ups. You can also hang rings or bands from your pull-up bar and perform dips, tricep pushdowns, and band pulldowns.
This rack from Freedom Fitness Equipment saves space with its compact design and features a pull-up bar.
- Adjustable Bench
Now we get to focus on everyone's favorite day and everyone's favorite exercise - chest day and the bench press. As the name implies, it's pretty hard to perform a bench press without a bench, and what's a chest workout without the king of all chest exercises?
While the most common use for an adjustable bench is typically during a bench press set, adjustable benches can also be used in incline press, seated shoulder press, step-ups, single-arm rows, and countless other exercises.
Adjustable benches come in all different sizes and price points. The size really comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer a little bit of a wider one for bench press, allowing you to feel more supported and in contact with the bench, but as long as you get a well-made, high-quality bench you will be set.
Speaking of great benches, take a look at this adjustable bench.
- Dumbbells and Kettlebells
Dumbbells and/or kettlebells are a must-have for your at-home gym. They are a great free weights option that can be used to work any muscle and hit all the major movement patterns like squatting, pulling, pressing, and hinging.
The biggest consideration with dumbbells and kettlebells is space. If you have the room, buying both dumbbells and kettlebells is a great idea. While dumbbells are more commonly used, kettlebells can be often substituted as well as allow you to add variation to your workouts with exercises like swings and clean and jerks.
If space is a factor, consider buying adjustable dumbbells.
Adjustable dumbbells utilize the same handle but can add or remove weight removing the need for multiple sets of dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells are typically also cheaper than buying each dumbbell individually. If space is an issue consider choosing between kettlebells or dumbbells - you likely won't miss too much.
- Resistance Bands
For as small as these are, resistance bands sure can pack quite the punch. Resistance bands come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and resistance levels. They are used for everything from warmups and stretching to bicep curls and adding extra resistance to your barbell back squat.
As far as home workout equipment goes, resistance bands are a must for every gym - whether you are using your bedroom or have a three-car garage gym.
Resistance bands are also great for travel. Pack a couple in your carry on and you can perform squats, overhead presses, RDLs, and so many other exercises, giving you a full-body workout wherever you are.
Workout hack - are you struggling to get your first couple of pull-ups? Hook one end of a resistance band to the bar and the other to your feet and build your way up to unnassisted pull-ups.
Take a look at these resistance bands from TRX.
- Jump Rope
No, this isn't double-dutch on the playground. We are taking back the jump rope as a training tool for your workout.
Jump ropes are great tools for burning calories, often allowing you to burn more calories in a shorter time when compared to going for a jog or bike ride. Using a jump rope is not only good as a cardio workout, but it also strengthens your calves and ankles and can improve your overall coordination and athleticism. I mean who doesn't want to jump rope like Rocky?! A jump rope can be easily stored to save space and provide convenience. Plus, jumping rope can be a fun addition to any workout.
Set your timer, try to count to 500, or simply work on getting your first few reps and you will be well on your way to improving your fitness and burning calories.
This is a great jump rope option from Rx Smart Gear.
- Medicine Ball
What's the best way to not only work out but also get all of your anger out?
Medicine ball slams of course.
Medicine balls can be used for all kinds of training. You can train your hips and legs with medicine ball slams and throws, or you can train your core with twists and situps. Like many other pieces of equipment on this list, the possibilities are almost limitless as to what exercises you can perform with the medicine ball - lunges, squats, presses, and so much more.
Depending on your goals and fitness level, somewhere between 14lbs and 30lbs should be plenty heavy.
Check out this medicine ball collection from ToughFit.
- Gymnastic Rings
I know you want to unlock your inner gymnast.
Rings are a great option for your home gym for a few reasons. First, they are relatively inexpensive. Second, they take up almost no room and can even be hung from the ceiling. Third, you can perform bodyweight exercises like dips, pull-ups, and ring rows. Rings can also be used for stretching and mobility, especially for your upper body.
If you are feeling ambitious, you could try and use these as a cheaper, more functional alternative to a suspension trainer.
Looking for some rings, here's a great option from PACEARTH.
- Prowler Sled
This one is towards the bottom, because depending on your setup this may not be the best option for your home gym. However, if you have the space it is an awesome training tool.
The prowler sled allows you to push and pull a weighted sled - working primarily the muscles in your legs and core. You can use the sled for warming up, endurance, sprints, or even strength.
Load up the sled with your weight plates or even kettlebells and take it for a ride.
The prowler sled is typically performed outside either on turf or pavement. If you have access to either at your home gym, this can be a great addition to your home gym.
Take a look at this sled!
- Row, Bike, or Even Ski?
Disclaimer: This is a cardio suggestion. Feel free to take it as you will.
Okay, okay hear me out. I know you probably have no intention of doing cardio anytime soon, butttt you may want to consider how to use it for your overall health and weight loss goals. If you are tight on space, this may be one piece you can skip or look to alternatives for your cardio needs - walking, jogging, or even jumping rope as I mentioned above.
However, a cardio piece of equipment can come in mighty handy when your knees are tired of running and jumping or it's -5 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
Fortunately, there are quite a few good options here - a rower, bike, or ski erg are all great options to get your cardio in, without taking up a large amount of space.
Check out all three options here from Concept2.
You are all set!
Consider this your starting list for your at-home gym. Buy what you like and ignore the rest. As you begin to build the home gym of your dreams, you will certainly find additional, more specialized equipment that best suits your training goals and fitness needs.
Whether your home gym starts with just a yoga mat, resistance bands, and a jump rope or you buy the best home gym equipment money can buy, know that you are starting an incredible process. We can't wait to see what you build and where it takes you on your fitness journey. We would love to help you design or supply your home gym. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have along the way!