Many people pay for a gym membership but fail to use it to its full potential. The hard part of hitting the gym is actually getting ready and heading out the door. A home gym eliminates this as you can work out when you want. Better yet, you don’t have to do your hair or even get dressed into anything fancy!
Working out at home also ensures that you are not left jeopardizing your gym session waiting around for other people to be finished using specific equipment. You can plan your session ahead of time and accurately predict how long the session will take.
I cancelled my gym membership and haven’t looked back since setting up my own home gym. A lot of people have said to me, “but it costs too much”, however this doesn’t have to be the case. You can get a lot of good deals on equipment, and for a full body work-out you don’t need as many things as you may think. Plus, when you take into account the savings you are making by not paying for a gym membership, the cost will even out in the long run.
Below will look at some essential pieces of equipment for a good home gym:
Everyone should do some form of weight training. This can involve dumbbells, a barbell or kettlebells. Free weight exercises are more beneficial than machine based exercises as they engage more muscles. Machine exercises isolate muscles more and offer more assistance.
- Dumbbells – pairs can be picked up on the cheap. You have the option of either fixed weight dumbbells or ones where you can add weight plates. I prefer adjustable dumbbells as you can never outgrow them. If you find yourself switching between two weight ranges and don’t want to keep changing the weight on the bars, then it may be worth investing in another set. Take a look at dumbbells on Amazon.
- Barbell – a lot of compound lifts are usually done with a barbell. These come in either standard or Olympic weights, so make sure that the plates you purchase are the right size for your barbell. Standard barbells and dumbbells use 1-inch plates, whereas the Olympic versions use 2-inch plates. Choosing between a standard or Olympic barbell is personal. If your goal is to lift a lot of weight, then you may want to invest in an Olympic barbell from the start as the plates are not compatible. Standard barbells can hold less weight as they bend easier, but are more than adequate for most users. Take a look at barbells on Amazon
- Kettlebells – these offer more variation to your strength training. They can, however, be quite expensive. Kettlebells are fixed weight, so you may purchase a 5kg kettlebell and then outgrow it for a lot of exercises pretty quickly. I don’t use kettlebells in my home gym, however my Olympic weight plates are tri-grip, so they can be used like a kettlebell. Take a look at this top rated kettlebell set on Amazon.
These could almost come under the weights section. Resistance bands add extra resistance to exercises, making them more challenging. They are great for leg workouts but also offer variety to exercises where you may have previously used weights. You can use resistance bands for bent over rows, lunges, and many other exercises. If you have a squat rack or pull-up bar, bands can be attached and used to perform lateral pull downs and similar exercises.
Another useful function is to use them to complete assisted pull-ups. Pull-ups are tough, however using resistance bands helps to lower the amount of weight that you have to lift. The band supports the weight so you can focus on the pull-up. Resistance bands can be stacked (use multiple at the same time) to provided more resistance.
The best part about resistance bands is that they can be picked up in a set of four or five for under £10. This set of 5 bands is just £8.99 on Amazon.
Yoga / Pilates Mat
This is essential for Yoga or Pilates style classes, as well as for ground Ab work-outs. Completing sit-ups on a hard floor is not fun! These are inexpensive and are also required if you opt to take classes outside of your home gym.
Take a look at this top rated mat on Amazon.
This is a great low cost aerobic workout that should be included in every home gym. Jump rope can be included in the warm up or main session as it really gets the heart pumping. It also doesn’t take up a lot of space when compared to a treadmill or cross-trainer.
Jump ropes can be purchased for under £7 on Amazon.
Another low cost piece of equipment which can be really useful. Foam rollers are great for relieving knots and tightness in muscles. If you have completed a hard session then it is important to recover properly. Using a foam roller can help reduce fatigue in your muscles. It can also be incorporated into a workout of its own!
Take a look at this foam roller for under £10 on Amazon.
If you plan on doing a lot of weight lifting or jump rope, you may want to invest in some padded flooring. This doesn’t have to be anything too fancy or commercial. I use interlocking floor mats and then a Yoga Mat on top if I’m doing any flexibility sessions.
Take a look at these interlocking floor options on Amazon.
These things are not essential, but depending on your goals could be beneficial:
Squat / Bench Press Rack
A squat rack is essential if you are planning on lifting a lot of weight. A rack provides safety from injury and also prevents damage to the weights or floor. It also eliminates the need for a spotter when upping the weight on lifts. These can be expensive unless you go second hand, however the price is worth it to prevent injury and to help your lifts progress.
Take a look at this budget squat rack on Amazon.
This is an essential piece of equipment for certain exercises. When you start increasing the weight of lifts, you need more support. A bench opens up more variation when weight lifting. In order to safely bench press with a barbell, a squat rack or bench press rack would be recommended.
Take a look at this folding bench on Amazon.
A stability ball can be useful for modifying exercises. They help to build stability and add an extra element to some popular exercises. Push ups, wall squats, hamstring curls, planks, back extensions, v-sits, knee tucks, and many more can all utilize a stability ball.
Take a look at these on Amazon.
A punch bag is a great way to relieve some stress and get the heart rate up. 10 minutes on a punch bag could act as a warm up before a weight session, or be incorporated into an aerobic session. They don’t take up too much space and can be purchased for cheaper than cardio machines.
Take a look at this simple floor-standing bag on Amazon.
Ensure that you mix up your training by utilizing a suspension trainer. These offer a lot of variation and can work the entire body using gravity as resistance. They can be attached to doors or directly to the ceiling. Suspension trainers can replicate moves such as lateral pull-downs. They can help build strength, balance, co-ordination, flexibility and improve stability.
Take a look at this top rated suspension trainer on Amazon.
Spin Bike / Treadmill / Rowing Machine / Cross-Trainer
This is a case of “pick your poison”. Some people hate indoor cardio, however it can be a necessary evil. For me, I regularly rely on my treadmill, especially on cold nights. Some people may not have the space for a treadmill, even the folding variety, so a spin bike may be more effective.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can be beneficial for most people, especially those looking to lose weight without committing to an overly long workout. This is where a machine workout can really shine. 30 seconds of hard effort on a spin bike or rowing machine will really get the heart rate up.
Take a look at this space saving spin bike on Amazon.
Building a home gym is a personal thing, and everyone has different priorities and goals. Look at what you want to achieve in the space that you have and build your gym around that. If you are looking to lose weight then you will need some form of aerobic exercise and weights to retain muscle whilst in a calorie deficit. For toning up and building muscle, weights are essential.
A lot of equipment can be found at discounted prices if you are willing to look at second-hand items. Remember, Rome wasn’t in built in a day, and your home gym doesn’t have to be completed all at once. Start with the absolute essentials that you require and then add bits and pieces as you progress.