Whether you are a workout fanatic who can’t always find the time to train in the gym or someone who doesn’t always enjoy going to a crowded and sometimes expensive gym, if you had the option, wouldn’t you rather bring the gym to you?
Let’s face it, we all lead busy lives and being a gym rat like you were in college just isn’t in the cards anymore. We work 50+ hour jobs, have social commitments, have families… and just who’s going to walk the dog? There are going to be times in your life when it is near impossible to consistently get to the gym.
The good news is that building a home gym is simple and can be fairly inexpensive if you know what to buy.
Today, I am going to share with you the exact equipment that I keep in my apartment for a quick workout when I’m not able to make it to the gym.
Home Gym Equipment #1 – Foam Roller and/or Trigger Point Tools ($20-$65)
This is a MUST HAVE piece of equipment for any fitness enthusiast or anyone who wishes to improve their health. Foam rolling and self myofascial release techniques are the easiest and hands down the best thing you can do for your body to instantly feel and move better. Period.
You can pick up a foam roller or half foam roller for as little as $10-$20 and they will pretty much last you a lifetime. Make sure you pick up one that is made of a dense material as the softer ones tend to break down more easily and don’t get the job done as well. Even better, head to the hardware store and pick up a piece of 6”-8” diameter PVC pipe, which should only cost about $5! 1
If you are really interested in maintaining a high quality of tissue health and mobility I highly recommend picking up a set of Trigger Point Therapy tools which go for between $40 and $120 for a kit. We touched on this in a previous post (See: Trigger Point Therapy & Myofascial Release Q&A).
Home Gym Equipment #2 – Suspension Trainer ($50-$150)
Suspension trainers such as the TRX (affiliate link) and Jungle Gym are becoming increasingly popular for both their versatility and ability to be used just about anywhere. There are literally hundreds of exercises and progressions for all abilities that are performed with a simple strap. You can do anything from rows to lunges to dips to single leg squats.
Store bought trainers go between $50 and $150 and can be hooked up to a wall, tree, or even shut over a door. Considering the price that you would pay for a machine that can create all the same exercises, like a Bowflex (affiliate link) or Total Gym (affiliate link), I consider these a steal!
I recommend going the store- bought route for safety and convenience, but if you are trying to save money and would like to make your own, you can go to the hardware store and pick up some 6’ straps for less than $10 apiece. Some may even come with a loop in the end which you can use for handles. Just be careful how you set them up!
Home Gym Equipment #3 – Sliders ($1-$25)
Sliders are used to increase the difficulty of various bodyweight exercises by decreasing stability and making them more challenging. They are basically a small piece of plastic that are designed to easily slide on a smooth or carpeted surface which makes them an excellent addition to a home gym.
The Valslide™ (affiliate link) brand goes for about $25 for a pair but you can easily create your own with some things that may be lying around the house. I have seen people use furniture movers, Frisbees, and even paper plates. Be creative.
A couple of my favorite exercises to do with sliders are reverse lunges, slide-out pushups, hamstring curls and body saws. The possibilities are endless to spice up your favorite bodyweight exercises!
Home Gym Equipment #4 – Tubing and Bands ($10-$50)
You can find these in most sporting good stores or online in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses (affiliate link) to suit your needs.
Bands can be used to add resistance to various bodyweight exercises or create some exercises of their own. These vary in price but if you pick up a bundle of various sizes you can sometimes find a great deal.
I’m a fan of using light bands for many different rotator cuff and shoulder stability exercises with my clients. I use mini bands and monster bands for lateral band walks to assist in hip and glute stability exercises
Home Gym Equipment #5 – Iron Gym Pull Up Bar ($20)
Pull-ups are the king of upper body exercises and a staple for anyone who wants to get in great shape and build superior upper body strength. Pull-up bars such as the Iron Gym are fairly inexpensive and are easily hung in most standard doorways.
Starting out, most people are not able to do pull-ups easily, or even at all, so I typically recommend using a thick monster band for assistance, which you can easily purchase online. This will make it easier because it gives additional assistance with each pull.
To attach to your pull-up bar, simply bring one end over the top of the bar and loop the other end through the end of the strap and pull tight. The band should be hanging securely to bar on its own. You may need a small stool to stand on but place the end of the band around your foot, cross your other leg over the front and you are ready for your set!
Home Gym Equipment #6 – Ab Wheel ($10)
When it comes to building a solid core and six pack abs there is no better tool than an ab wheel (affiliate link). These come in all different sizes but the small, dual-wheel version you find in most stores will do just fine.
There aren’t a million uses for the ab-wheel but you won’t need them. All you have do is perfect the ab-wheel rollout exercise. It’s that simple. Why reinvent the wheel?
Home Gym Equipment #7 – Kettlebells ($20 & Up)
When it comes to functional exercises kettlebells are where it’s at! These may run you a couple of bucks since each kettlebell will run you about $2/lb but you only need a small set and they will last you a lifetime.
Kettlebells have been gaining popularity over the past decade for their many uses in functional strength training. They differ from dumbbells for their offset handle which causes the center of mass to extend beyond the hand, allowing them to be swung. This unique benefit allows them to be used in dynamic exercises such as the kettlebell swing, clean or snatch, which are similar to Olympic lifts, but much safer.
They can also be used for additional resistance to exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows and presses. The other cool thing about kettlebell training is you can get tons of work done with only one kettlebell if used properly. My only piece of advice is to also pick up a book or DVD that goes into detail teaching the various moves or even better take a class or hire a trainer. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way!
Try This Bonus In-Home Gym Workout:
- Foam Rolling (5-10min)
- Leg Lowers on Wall x 10/side
- Glute Bridge x 10
- Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch x :30/side
- Kneeling T-Spine Twists
- Squat to Stand x 6
- Spiderman Lunges x 5/side
Instructions: Alternate between exercises that are the same letter. For example, complete a set of A1 (TRX split squat) and then a set of A2 ( chin ups), then go back and forth until you are done with 3 sets of each. You should rest just enough to catch your breath (30-60 seconds) after each exercise.
|A1) TRX Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat||3×6-8/side|
|A2) Chin Ups||3×10|
|B1) Feet in TRX Pushups||3xAMRAP (as many reps as possible)|
|B2) Slider Hamstring Curls||3×10|
|C1) Kettlebell Clean and Press||3×6/side|
|C2) Kettlebell Swings||3×15|
|C3) 1-Arm TRX Row||3×10/side|
|D) Ab-Wheel Rollouts||3×10-15|
I hope you are excited to create a home gym with a great workout environment to help you reach your fitness goals! Let me know if you have any questions below!
- Using PVC to substitute for a foam roller may be stiff and is at possible risk for breaking or shattering as it is not designed to support body weight. ↩
Excellent article! I’m sure dumbells/barbells are always required for an excellent home workout!
I meant NOT required *
Thanks for the ideas, Steve. I think if I had to workout at home, I would get a pull up bar, weighted vest, adjustable dumbbells, and then call it a day. We should probably do a post on the different types of weighted vests and the pros and cons of each. Doing squats, lunges, step ups, pull ups, push ups etc. with a weighted vest is a pretty killer workout.
Nice article. As someone who works out consistently at home it’s a good piece of mind knowing I’ve got a solid foundation of equipment.
Marc – As far as the weighted vests go, I’ve tried 2 and neither was what I was looking for. The light vests moved around to much, but the heavier/adjustable vest was too bulky and wouldn’t sit properly during push-ups or burpees. Any advice on which vests are best?
I have used several brands and all are NOT created equal but check some of the better options here:
They are a little pricey but sometimes you get what you pay for. I have also used one that is a little less expensive from the GO brand.
Our pullup bar hangs right in front of the kitchen…makes you think twice before snacking 😉
I would really like to see an article like this about the different types of weighted vests and the pros and cons of each
I think the body by Jake door system is great also…you can also do a ton of workouts with it without needing to by kettle bells that take up space…and its pretty cheap
I have bought Frisbees at the dollar store and, providing you have carpet, they work just as well as sliders but way cheaper. You can do mountain climbers, bear crawls, they can be used instead of an ab wheel for ab exercises.
Paper plates work on carpet and balled up t-shirts work well on wood/tile floors. Battle tested 🙂
Dip bars and push up holders are inexpensive must have strength equipment.
Lillian, Great idea about the frisbees. My home gym is my primary gym. I have a set of Bodylastic resistance bands (I think they are the best on the market and a nice set can be purchased for under $100), a simple bench made by Golds Gym that I got at Walmart for $50 (I recommend purchasing a better bench if money is not an issue), and a set of Power Block Dumbbells that are the best adjustables I have used. More than $200 due to the dumbbells, but far cheaper than a gym membership.
I forgot to add that I do have a pull up bar ($50) and a stability ball ($12). I recommend adding a piece to your gym each month. Before you know it, you have all that you need. A weighted vest is my next investment and I would like to add a sandbag to my arsenal (under $100). I use 2 bar stools to do dips and my kitchen table to do inverted rows. I share all this because you can find cheap or no cost solutions all over your home for common exercises. Another tool is a good timer. I downloaded the Second Pro timer ($2-3) on my iPhone to pace all my workouts, do HIIT training, etc. Many timers are free. “My Fitness Pal” app is great for tracking your meals and its free too. Hope this list helps.
Thanks for sharing, Jason.
Good article but the only thing I’d change is swapping kettle bells for dumb bells. On ebay and certain stores like sears, sports challet, and walmart you can get hex dumb bells for a dollar or less per pound so you could essentially get double the dumb bells as kettle bells. For Cardioat home I’d recommend getting some form of agility hurdles. You can get 6 6-12 inch hurdles around 50$ online and you could put them in your garage since they won’t take up tons of room. Agility ladders are also cheap online and just like with the hurdles, you can get in a fast cardio workout if you’re short on time or if it’s bad weather outside.
Thanks for sharing, Erik.
I have built my home gym over many years and have a vast amount of equipment, homemade and purchased. The best piece of kit is 20 metres of 1″inch rope that I have in a tree for rope climbing. This is a great exercise and challenge!
With a busy life and kids recently I have moved my workout times to night time, 8pm-9pm which is fine, but I feel that my sleep is suffering, as I feel I am not sleeping as well, as if I did my workout during the day? What do you think?
Just adding that if you have access to a playground, swing set or jungle gym then you have access to a fully functional FREE gym. Just saying 🙂