People are different in how they like to exercise. Some like belonging to a gym, and leave any thoughts of exercise at the gym. Some like to work out with a trainer.
And some like to exercise in the privacy of their own home. If this is the case, you have countless tools, gadgets, balls, and other equipment to choose from. It can be overwhelming, so I’ve listed 12 of my favorite home gym exercise items. If you don’t have any equipment at all and want to stock a home gym, one or two of these will get you started and you can build from there. This kind of equipment is also good if you want to have a personal trainer come to your home and train you with your own familiar things.
Outfit your home gym with these 12 items
A set of dumbbells is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own for a home gym. With dumbbells in a range of weights, you can work your entire body and every major muscle group. Dumbbells come in different materials, shapes, and designs. They can be made of cast iron, chrome or plastic. Hardcore bodybuilding dumbbells are adjustable with weight plates, similar to their big brother barbells. Chrome dumbbells are bright and shiny and come in a round shape rather than the standard hexagon. Plastic dumbbells come in lower weight and often designer colors. They are good for beginners or someone in rehab who just can’t lift a lot. They can also be cleaned more readily. Your choice will come down to what you are trying to accomplish and personal preference. If you get a selection of different weights, a rack can be important in organizing your home gym.
A sturdy bench will assist you in doing all kinds of exercises, both with and without weights. Benches come in all kinds of designs with optional attachments. The least expensive are plain flat padded surfaces. I would suggest spending a little more and getting a bench that you can adjust into an incline all the way up to a supported sitting position. This will greatly enhance the number of different exercises you can do.
Stability or Swiss balls are large inflated balls made of various materials, usually a burst-proof PVC. Some have a weighted side to aid stability in some exercises. If you have an allergy to latex, check the labels as some balls are made with it. They come in many colors and sizes andnare measured in centimeters. Your choice of ball size will depend on your height and what you want to do with it. If you’re not sure how to incorporate a stability ball into your workout, there are many DVDs available to purchase. You may even find that one is included with the ball. You will have to inflate the ball when you receive it and measure it to assure it reaches the correct size. Instructions on how to do this will come with the ball.
Similar in materials to the stability ball, the balance disc is a smaller, flattened pillow-like shape. It is about the right size to put in a chair and sit on to quietly engage your core muscles at work. You can also stand on them for practicing balance, kneel on the them, or place your hands on them for push-ups or other exercises. You can use it as a support under your head while doing floor work on your back. I have 2 discs that I inflated to different levels. I stand on them while doing bicip curls, switching my feet on the two midway through my reps.
Medicine balls come in various weights and sizes. They range from 4 pound rubber balls that are a little smaller than a basketball to 50 pound vinyl padded balls about the width of your shoulders. Some balls come with handles for easier handling. Weighted balls are used for slamming to the ground, throwing up against a wall, pressing up, wood chops, rotational swings, Russian twists, or as a slightly unstable surface for decline push-ups or as a seat for squats. The smaller rubber balls are less expensive and you will get a lot of use out of 1 or 2 balls in the range of 8 to 14 pounds. The larger Dynamax kind of ball is more expensive but very useful in doing slams or as resistance for walking squats.
Tubes and Bands
Elastic tubes and bands are a staple in any home gym. They are available both with or without handles and of different resistance levels. Tubes with handles can be attached with a special anchor to the top of a closed door to do many standard exercises. Standing rows, bicep curls, tricep extensions, trunk rotations, chest press, and more can all be done with this one piece of equipment. You can also stand on them for lateral shoulder raises, military press, bicep curls, and squats with resistance. Bands without handles will allow you to do a lot of corrective shoulder work and will fold down nicely into a suitcase for travel. Pair the tubes or bands with a stability ball or balance disc and you can get a whole body workout.
Although not as fun to buy as other equipment, a good exercise mat is important when you workout, especially doing floor work. A properly selected mat for your activity will help protect your joints and bones, think knees and spine, by providing a cushioned surface. A mat will also help keep you from slipping if doing barefoot exercise like yoga. A gym mat is larger and more padded for gymnastics kind of work, while yoga mats are thinner and have more traction. Before you choose a mat, you will need to decide what kind of exercise you will be using it for. The link I’m providing will describe different mats in more detail.
A trx is a set of heavy duty straps with handles and an anchor at the top that can be suspended in a closed door or from another support. Suspension training is a great way for anyone to get a whole body workout or just add some specific exercises to an exercise program. You need an open space large enough to extend the straps and a doorway that is convenient to keep closed for the workout. After your workout is over, the TRX comes down and folds up into a nice compact bag. This is also good for travel and can be easily used in a hotel room.
Bosu is actually an acronym that stands for “Both Sides Up” referring to how the Bosu can be used or “Both Sides Utilized”, which refers to the need for humans to use both sides of their body in a balanced fashion. This is appropriate since the Bosu is a functional balance trainer. You can stand on a Bosu, kneel on it, use it for push-ups, presses, squats and lunges, and many other exercises, making it a versatile piece of equipment. It is especially valuable in doing abdominal and other core training. Doing a web search will lead to many instructional articles and videos.
Using a foam roller regularly is a great way to keep muscles loose and knot free. Rolling tight areas increases blood flow and triggers your muscles to relax. It is a type of deep tissue massage that you can do for yourself as a preventive measure or to help self-rehabilitate minor injuries. Always check with your sports doctor or physical therapist before rolling an injury. Foam rollers come in many sizes and for our purposes, we can include tennis balls, rolling sticks or anything that you can use as a self-massage tool. You can foam roll most of the large muscles of the body with a larger roller. Smaller rollers and balls can be used on the calves, erector spinae, and the bottom of the feet.
Using a stretch out strap makes stretching so much easier, especially if you have very little flexibility to start. You can use the strap around the bottom of your feet to pull yourself closer in a lower back or hamstring stretch. You can use it to help you rotate into a spinal twist. Take care and read the booklet that comes with the strap to understand all the uses. Never stretch so much that you feel sharp pain. And never stretch an injured area without checking with your health care provider. Stretching should feel good and slowly you will become more flexible.
I’ve lumped these final items into one category because they all have their place. As you read in my first post of this series, you need to have a measurable goal to become fit. These are the tools that will measure your progress. A weight scale, calipers, and measuring tape will be all you really need. Some people might like a hand held bio-impedance body fat measuring devise, but it is optional. If you learn how to use calipers, you won’t need it. Measuring tape is more accurate to see how you are progressing than a weight scale but it’s nice to be able to weigh yourself on a regular basis also. Shop around. There are many options at different price points.
So there you have it. Enjoy your home gym and the flexibility you have in your training. Remember to ask for advice from an expert if you need it. You may be able to hire a trainer if needed to come to your home once or twice and teach you how to use your new equipment.
Yours in good health,
Marlton Personal Trainer
Call Athletic Fitness Concepts at 856-296-8946