Working out at home was once mostly used as a stop-gap between visits to the gym or to supplement someone's weekly routine, but now it has turned into standard practice almost overnight. With the weather turning cold and cities starting to impose restrictions again thanks to rising COVID-19 cases — not to mention the general future of brick-and-mortar workout facilities somewhat murky — keeping fit at home will likely to be our new normal for the foreseeable future.
But that sentiment shouldn't be a bleak one — working out at home allows you to hone in on the kinds of exercises you enjoy and provides an opportunity to focus entirely on what works for you. There's also something to be said for having unfettered access to the equipment you need exactly when you need it.
Yet therein lies the ultimate dilemma: Where do you even start when outfitting your own home gym? The easy answer is to first buy what you're familiar with while keeping in mind what exactly it is you want to accomplish (and what your fitness goals are), the kinds of workouts you want to do, and what your budget is. The entire process doesn't need to be a wallet-gouging affair, either, even if you're intending to stock an entire garage full of gear.
If you've winced at building out your own workout space because you think it requires a dedicated room, a huge expenditure of money, or more knowledge than you possess, we're here to help. You can get a great workout whatever your budget and you don't need a ton of space to do it.
Below is the equipment we've personally tested over several days, weeks, and months of adapting our own workout routines to being strictly home-based. The list is exhaustive and should be viewed as a customizable blueprint — i.e. you don't need everything on this list. Pick and choose what works best for you and rest assured that what's featured below is the equipment we're actually using in our own homes.
Updated on 12/7/2020 by Rachael Schultz: Updated intro, updated the section on how we test, checked the availability of all featured products, updates photos, and updated the prices and links where necessary.
Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, offers a wide range of resistance
Cons: Might not be suitable for someone looking for intense resistance
Resistance bands are simple pieces of workout equipment that offer a wide range of uses, and this kit from TheraBands is the perfect addition to any home gym. The kit allows for a weight range of 2.4 pounds on up to 21.3 pounds, giving you the ability to add minimal resistance to a high-intensity routine or ramp it up for deadlifts or upright rows.
Each resistance band is lightweight and thin, though still delivers durable performance (even if it feels like they might tear). Also, their latex-free design means anyone with a latex allergy needn't be worried.
The TheraBands resistance band kit is also highly portable. Void of any handle or extra material, each band folds down compact enough to throw into a small gym back for easy transport or storage. And at $14, they're inexpensive, too. This makes them an easy addition to anyone's home gym, whether you're looking to add another layer to your strength training or increase the intensity of your cardio workouts.
For workout inspiration, check out our favorite resistance band routines.$13.62 from Amazon $13.62 from Walmart
Pros: Available in a variety of weights, easy to use, contributes to a full-body exercise when used properly
Cons: Buying multiple sizes can get expensive
Slam ball workouts may seem basic, but when done correctly it provides an excellent full-body workout. Whether this means adding weighted lunges to your routine, utilizing the ball as a base for side-to-side pushups, or just doing a few tried-and-true ball slams, a slam ball, in general, is a worthy addition to any at-home gym setup.
We like the Flex Slam Ball series from Everlast as the brand historically makes durable gear and here offers a range in available weights, from 6-pound, textured slam balls up to a 50-pound traditional ball. Each sand-filled ball provides a comfortable grip, durable exterior, and a shock-absorbing design.$39.07 from Amazon $39.99 from Everlast
Pros: A convenient and reasonably-priced way to buy everything you need for your beginning yoga practice
Cons: None to speak of unless yoga isn't your thing
Along with its proven abilities to reduce stress and improve mood, yoga is a wonderful way to develop your balance, flexibility, and muscle tone.
If you're new to yoga, you'll appreciate the convenience of getting all the supplies you need in one kit — includes a handy carrying case. You'll also get a large, thick yoga mat, two foam positioning blocks, an eight-foot cotton strap, a hand towel, and a microfiber nonslip mat.$69.98 from Amazon
Pros: Max weight of 24 pounds per hand, relatively affordable compared to similar dumbbells, sturdy and comfortable grip
Cons: Awkward weight-changing mechanism, can feel a bit long when at max weight, max of 24-lbs might not be enough for heavy lifters
Dumbbells are a crucial addition to any home gym. Not only do they do well for anyone trying to improve their curl form, but they also work well for a variety of lifts including squats, shoulder presses, lunges, and pushups (among others).
But snagging a pair of adjustable dumbbells is a smart way to save space and reap more versatility for your workouts. The key to finding a good set rests with how comfortable they are to use and how much available weight they allow. PowerBlock's dumbbells do well to check each of these boxes.
They feature a handle centered on the device to allow for a comfortable feel and grip, as well as a design that makes them incredibly easy to stow.
Though a set of PowerBlock dumbbells sets you back roughly $500, its ability to allow for multiple exercises across a large range in weight makes it one of the best options for any home gym.
If these dumbbells are too expensive or sold out, you can also check out the following:$499.95 from Walmart
Pros: Strong construction, great features, iFit compatibility, ProShox cushioning for soft landings
Cons: Expensive, takes up space
The beauty of a treadmill is that, no matter where you're starting from, it accommodates your current fitness level and will adapt as your capacity changes. You can walk, jog, or run all at your own speed and preference.
The ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill is an excellent choice no matter your fitness level or skill. It may remind you of the treadmills you see in a brick-and-mortar gym, as it has the same type of features. There's the ability to incline up to 15%, decline down to negative 3%, as well as a 7-inch color screen that's compatible with a range of interactive workouts from iFit.
This treadmill also has a reliable 3.5-horsepower motor, a wide belt deck that's great for almost all runners, and a soft belt that helps reduce the impact of each stride. There's even a music port for plugging in a music player and fitness app access.
If the ProForm Pro 2000 is too pricey for your budget, we also recommend the following:
- Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill ($649.99)
Pros: Globe-spanning video content; large variety of ride types, including mountain bikes, road bikes, and casual rides; automatic resistance and incline/decline control
The S22i Studio Cycle from NordicTrack is our favorite at-home stationary bike for a number of reasons, mainly the fact it has an extensive library of globe-spanning rides and features automatic resistance and incline/decline control. This means that while you're riding, all you need to do is pedal away and the bike makes all the necessary changes for you.
Regarding its content library, NordicTrack features the iFit suite of workouts (same with its treadmills and row machines). What iFit offers is more than just the standard in-studio rides (though it does have that, too), but also the ability to choose a wide variety of locale-based routines. This means that you could bike up Mt. Fuji one day while following along a mountain bike course in Chile the next. And each ride is led by one of iFit's many trainers, most of which are professional cyclists.
Not only does this add more variety and diversity than a trainer trying to motivate you from a dimly lit room while techno blasts in the background, but it's also a refreshing change of pace that allows you to still get a damn good workout.
Its large onboard screen provides crisp video playback while showing you where you stand against other riders who've ridden the same course — and the interface keeps track of how many miles you've done each week, the number of hours you've been on the bike, and how much elevation you've gained. There's even a built-in fan you can use to keep you (mostly) cool while riding.
Though the S22i Studio Cycle isn't exactly cheap (it retails for $1,999), it does offer a comprehensive solution for anyone who wants a full-featured cardio machine in their home. It's been one of our favorite stationary bikes for some time, and a staple of our at-home workouts.
If you want a more basic stationary bike, we also recommend the following:$1,999.00 from NordicTrack
Pros: Lots of variation, very sturdy and durable, easy to adjust resistance, reasonable price for a home gym.
Cons: Takes up a lot of space, expensive
Bowflex's all-in-one machine comes with up to 210 pounds of resistance, so whether you're just starting out or are already buff, you'll give your muscles a proper workout.
There are more than 60 possible exercises with the Blaze, including 16 arm exercises, 13 leg exercises, and five ab exercises — enough to keep your workouts fresh for a long time.
The sliding seat also allows you to use the machine for an aerobic rowing workout, too. It's easy to adjust your resistance as you gain strength, and the wide variety of possible exercises not only provides strength training to your entire body, it also keeps things interesting.
If you prefer an interactive machine, take a look at our review of the Tempo Studio.$1,100.00 from Amazon
Pros: Maintains its shape and holds air better than other exercise balls, includes a slow deflate technology if the ball is punctured, extremely firm, has a good surface for just the right amount of grip, offered in four sizes
Cons: Takes a long time to inflate, no inflation pump included, only one color per size
The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball is one of the thickest-walled balls you can buy, so it holds air longer than most of the competition.
Even if it's punctured, the ball deflates slowly, allowing you to finish your exercise session without falling flat on the floor. Because the Theraband Exercise Ball retains air so well, you won't have to reinflate it that often, either. It does take quite a bit of time to inflate the first time around, though.
The TheraBand ball has just the right type of surface for grip-ability, so it won't move around while you're working out. It's available in four sizes from 45 cm to 75 cm and comes in several different colors.
If this exercise ball isn't the one for you, you might prefer the following:
For some workout inspiration, check out our favorite exercise ball routines$40.11 from Walmart $26.44 from Amazon
Pros: Affordable, three size options, one-year warranty
Cons: Certain materials may slide along the surface without rolling
The LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller is made of polyethylene foam, which is easy to clean. The roller has a 6-inch diameter and is lightweight enough for easy transport or storage.
The roller comes in three different lengths: 12, 18, and 36 inches. The longest option is ideal for tall or heavy individuals, the medium is good for working all parts of the body, and the small is good for targeted areas, like the neck. Whichever you choose, they're covered by a one-year limited warranty.
This high-quality foam roller is affordable, too, starting at just $9 for the small on up to $25 for the large. The roller has a slight texture to prevent sliding and the foam is just dense enough to massage your muscles and support your body. Users noted that the roller is effective on the back, upper chest, and abs.$13.66 from Amazon $12.95 from LuxFit
Pros: Comfortable foam grips, unobtrusive, solidly built
Cons: Installation requires drilling into a door jamb, foam grips may wear from heavy-duty use
The Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull Up Bar is made of chrome steel and comes with three sets of mounting hardware with two of the sets able to support up to 300 pounds of weight. The medium-duty door mount supports 150 pounds and is not recommended for use above waist height.
You can also use the bar without door mounts for sit-up foot support and other light exercises. It's adjustable and fits doorways between 26 and 36 inches wide, and can be installed so that you can still close the door.
The bar features non-slip, extra-long foam grips to ensure you won't easily lose your grip. You shouldn't have any trouble with installation, though it may take a little work to get it to the right length.
If you want a different option, we also recommend:$39.97 from Amazon $65.40 from Wamart
Just because you're not visiting a brick-and-mortar gym or fitness studio, doesn't mean you can't replicate the workouts they offer. Everything from high-intensity interval training and strength workouts to cardio routines and resistance training can easily be done at home.
Here are a few basic exercise categories to familiarize yourself with before jumping into any workout routine.
Cardio — which comes from cardiovascular — exercise is defined by the American College of Sports Medicine as any exercise that raises your heart rate and breaths per minute while repetitively and rhythmically using large muscle groups. That's a fancy way of saying that cardio or aerobic exercise is anything that gets you moving fast and hard enough to break a sweat. Typical cardio exercises include running, biking, jumping rope, etc.
The benefits of aerobic exercise are many, including weight loss, stronger bones and muscles, better sleep, lowered levels of depression and anxiety, and even the reduced risk of many types of cancer, to name a few.
The ACSM recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, which can be broken down into multiple sessions as short as ten minutes.
Strength training — also called resistance training — is the use of exercise against resistance to build and strengthen muscle. That resistance might come from your own body weight, a dumbbell or other hand-held weight, or a wide range of resistance machines.
Along with improved muscle strength and definition, resistance training helps develop bone density and assists with weight loss.
The ACSM recommends healthy adults do strength training two or three times per week, engaging in eight to 10 different exercises focusing on a variety of muscle groups. Beginners should aim for eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, using the amount of weight that leads to muscle fatigue within that set of reps.
Balance and flexibility training
While various cardio and strength-training exercises help improve balance and flexibility, it's important to incorporate training that specifically targets these two functions. They make daily living much easier and help improve your overall health and mental well-being. Aim for at least two balance or flexibility workouts each week.
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