Thinking of putting together a home gym? Good call. The home-sweet-home approach to fitness is perfect for anyone looking to save time and money.
For a lot less than the cost of an annual gym membership, you can stock up on all the essential home exercise equipment you need to get seriously fit, and it’ll last for years to come.
And it’s hard to beat the convenience of a home workout. If “going to the gym” requires a 10-second stroll to your living room rather than a 10-minute drive across town, you’re more likely to get your workout in today — and to reach your fitness goals down the road.
The good news: When you’re setting up a workout space at home, you don’t need to go overboard.
In fact, you can reach a high level of fitness with no equipment at all. But if you’re looking to take your workout to the next level, here’s some of the best home workout equipment to invest in — starting with the basics and working your way up.
1. Exercise Mat
As home exercise equipment goes, this is the minimal-est of the minimalist approach. An exercise mat protects your hands, wrists, knees, and back when you perform sit-ups, planks, pushups, yoga stretches, and other floor-based moves.
Choose a well-made mat that’s at least two feet by five feet in size, with more cushioning than a traditional yoga mat.
2. Light Dumbbells
Light dumbbells are indispensable for upper-body moves like rows, presses, curls, lateral raises, and triceps extensions, and can also add resistance to lower-body moves like lunges, squats, and deadlifts.
Depending on your fitness level, a set of 5-pound, 10-pound, or 15-pound weights is a good place to start.
3. Resistance Loops and Bands
Resistance loops and bands add difficulty to pulling movements like rows and face pulls. They allow you to perform more movements for your arms and shoulders, including pushdowns, curl variations, and chest flys.
And they can add variety to stretching, warm-up, and rehab routines. Get a few of the long variety that look like giant rubber bands, and a few of the shorter type that you can loop around your knees or wrists.
4. Suspension Trainer
A suspension trainer is the biggest-ticket item on this list, but opens up a wealth of new exercises for the abdominals, arms, back, chest, and legs.
That includes ring dips, ring pushups, bodyweight rows, rollouts, and overhead triceps extensions — all of which you can scale to match your fitness level.
If you’re feeling thrifty, you can make a DIY version: “Two dog leashes can work just as well,” Kobrinsky says.
5. Heavier Dumbbells
Ready to step up your weights? Choose a dumbbell that you can press overhead 20 times at most — 15 to 30 pounds typically works well for most beginners.
Or step up to an adjustable set. Slick, one-piece adjustable dumbbells will set you back a few hundred bucks, but you can also find cheaper plate-and-collar style dumbbells that can be loaded up with 100 pounds or more.
6. Chin-Up Bar
Easily mountable in a doorway, a chin-up bar is one piece of home exercise equipment that’ll never stop challenging you. It’s only good for a couple of moves, but they’re the gold standard of back and grip-building exercises.
Kettlebells may be less versatile than dumbbells, but they’re fun to play with and great for swings, cleans, presses, get-ups, and a number of other fun, dynamic moves.
If you’re curious, grab one or two, erring on the heavier side.
If you want to get your bench press up, you’ll need a sturdy bench. This versatile piece of home gym equipment is also useful for step-ups and split-squat variations.
9. Jump Rope
Need to shake up your cardio workouts? In lieu of expensive cardio machines, pick up an inexpensive plastic or cable jump rope. Jumping rope is a great way to burn calories and boost endurance.
10. Foam Roller
Take care of your sore muscles with this simple, inexpensive piece of gear — it’s the least expensive massage you’ll ever get!
11. Functional Training Gear
“Unconventional training helps keep things fun,” Kobrinsky says. You can’t only do pushups, after all. Try an Airex Pad or Bosu Ball to improve balance, or build upper-body strength and power with a Steel Club or battle ropes.
12. Strength Training Equipment
If you’re pursuing serious strength and muscle, and you’re ready to dedicate space and money to working out, look into weight lifting gear that’ll help you push your limits:
- An Olympic barbell for heavy presses, squats, and deadlifts
- A squat rack, which keeps you safe when you squat and press
- A hex bar for deadlifts and farmer’s walks
- Weight plates for all of the above
How to Set Up Your Home Gym
First and foremost, designate your workout space. “Start with a clean, clear space with good lighting,” Kobrinsky says. Make sure you have adequate room to perform a variety of exercises.
When you’re shopping for a home gym, we recommend a tiered approach to acquiring home exercise equipment: Start with a few basics, then purchase more as you gain strength, fitness, and expertise.
New fitness gear can be enormously motivating, so take your time and master each piece of equipment. When you hit a fitness milestone, reward yourself with the “next level” of equipment.
Finally managed to press that 35-pound kettlebell overhead for five reps? Time to pony up for the next weight. As your fitness grows, your gym does too.
And remember, you can get in terrific shape using very little! There’s no need to buy more than you’re realistically going to use.
Stick with the tier system — a few trusty pieces of home exercise equipment can help you get the results you want, and you won’t end up with a bunch of unused gear to unload at your next garage sale.