Do you have a spare room in your house?
Is your garage used for storage more than it is for your car?
Do you have a long back garden?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you could have room for a home gym.
Wouldn’t that be the ultimate luxury?
A whole room, filled with fun equipment, you can escape to. A room that will help you reach your fitness goals. Whatever they may be.
A room that will become your sanctuary. No kids allowed.
Wouldn’t that be fun.
Anyway. I digress.
We’re here to talk about gym workout equipment for home. What you should have. What you should leave out. And what would be good for later. Whatever the size of the room you’re giving over to workouts.
There will be some equipment for you.
So, let’s take a look…
When you’re looking to kit out your home gym you need to consider 3 details.
Ok, it is quite a luxury to have a gym in your home. Whatever size it is. Whether you’re using the box room that has a limited square footage. Or you’re opting for a much larger, garage gym.
One thing you won’t want to do, is cram it with equipment.
You won’t want to buy equipment that is just too big for the space.
Remember, you have to use this gym. You have to get in there and move around. You have to want to be in there. If it’s cluttered. If you’re constantly having to move equipment around to actually use anything. If it feels like a challenge being in there, are you going to be in there.
So, when you’re considering what to fill your gym with, take note of the size of the room.
Will it fit?
Can you move around it?
Can you do other workouts next to it?
All questions you should keep in mind.
If you struggle with visualising, as many people do, find some boxes and map it out.
Put the boxes in the space you want, whatever it is you’re hoping to buy, and see how it feels. Try and move, workout, get other equipment in and out of storage.
Does it work? Or, is it more hassle than it’s worth.
Try it and see.
I know it’s not the first time I’ve mentioned this, but doing something you enjoy doing is going to pay dividends when it comes to your workout goals.
Simply put, if you enjoy doing something, you are more likely to do it. Long term.
Let’s face it, it’s hard enough to fit everything that we have to do in a day, into 24 hours. It’s tough. With the demands of kids, husbands, households, maybe even work. You’ve got a lot to do.
And it’s so easy to forgo your workout to get the bathroom cleaned. Or get a head start on dinner.
If you enjoy your workouts, you’re more likely to say...’hell no. I’m not going to clean the bathroom. I’m going to prioritise myself, because I’m important too’.
You might not. You might still give into the cleaning. I know I do sometimes.
But, it will be harder if you actually enjoy your exercise.
So, what do you like doing?
This is important when deciding what equipment to kit out your gym with because, well, if you don’t like running, you’re not going to want to waste the money, or the space on a treadmill. Are you?
What would be the point?
You’d be miserable when you’re using it. And, you probably just wouldn’t use it.
So, what do you like doing?
Are you a cardio queen?
Then cardio machines might be what you’re looking for. If you have the room, you might want to invest in more than one type.
Do you prefer strength training?
Yes, oh god yes.
Then you’re going to want to prioritise resistance training equipment.
Think power rack. Cable machine. Or even a smith machine.
Perhaps you’re more into efficiency. Getting a full body workout that covers both strength training and cardio in one go.
Then you might want to look at more functional equipment like medicine balls, resistance bands or kettlebells.
Or maybe, you prefer every workout to be a bit different.
In that case you might want to invest in a yoga mat and a bloody good television to stream some online classes.
Whatever it is you like doing, there will be something for you equipment wise. Make sure you stay on track, otherwise you’ll have a torture room, rather than a sanctuary.
Determining exactly what you want from your home workouts is an important step. Not only for kitting out the room, but for developing an effective workout program. Which will, in itself determine what equipment you need.
I was going to put this further up the list.
I didn’t, because, while it is important, I don’t think it’s the most important aspect of your workouts.
Hear me out.
Yes, you have to know what you want to achieve, how you’re going to get there and how long it’s going to take.
All really important steps in developing a workout plan.
But, there are several ways to get to an end goal. And enjoying the journey has to be more important than the destination itself.
Let me explain.
Let’s take a goal that you might want to work towards.
Say you want to lose weight. You want to lose ten kilograms in two months. You can workout for an hour twice a week and the rest of the week you can fit in 15 minutes here and there, and maybe a nice long walk.
A realistic goal.
Now, how do you about that?
Well, there’s lots of ways.
Say you prefer cardio workouts than strength training.
So, that’s what we’re going to focus on, supplemented with some bodyweight workouts to cover the strength aspect that you will need.
Maybe, you prefer a more functional way of working out.
In that case we’d look at workouts based around kettlebells and medicine balls. Maybe a bit of sprinting.
If on the other hand, your passion is weight training, then we’d look at split workouts focusing on different parts of the body for your main workouts. And maybe some HIIT kettlebell swings for your cardio.
See what I mean?
One goal. But depending on your preference. Depending on what you enjoy. Three different ways of getting to that goal.
Remember, what you do to get to your goal, you’re going to have to keep doing when you get there.
This is a lifestyle. And who wants to not enjoy their lifestyle?
So, yes, your goals are absolutely important. They are what’s going to keep you focused. Keep you on track.
But making sure you enjoy the journey is much more important.
Ok, so what specifically will you need in your home gym?
What is going to get you most bang for your buck?
What will give you a variety of exercises?
Well, if you think about that expensive gym membership you’re trying to avoid, what type of equipment would be included in that?
What type of equipment adorns most gym floors?
They can be grouped into three different categories, cardio machines, weights and functional.
So to have the best home gym, you have to cover those three bases. Just make sure that the equipment you choose excites you.
If you like your cardio, you have the money and the space, then getting a cardio machine, or two is a no brainer.
There are a few different options, the most famous being the treadmill. But it’s by no means the only machine.
A treadmill basically mimics running. Or, jogging or walking, depending on the speed you want to go.
The difference between using a treadmill and going for a run, I mean apart from the obvious, you can use a treadmill in front of the telly, is that your workout can be totally controlled by you.
You control the speed, the resistance, the incline. All of it.
The bed of the treadmill is also a little bit cushioned meaning it has less of on impact than running on the pavement.
But there still is an impact, which might be too much for you.
Treadmills can be costly, and they can be rather larger. But with a bit of research and sleuthing, you will be able to find one with a compact design and affordable price.
Treadmills are really useful if you have aspirations of running a 5k, 10k or perhaps a marathon, half or otherwise.
They are going to help you get more consistent training. You can jump on it whenever you have a spare moment. You’ll also be able to dictate the type of workout easily.
I would say, if you do have race goals, you will need to do some pavement pounding. Because running on a treadmill is not the same as running on the road or a pavement.
Elliptical machines are a good alternative to treadmills if you need something that is low impact.
The foot pedal follows your foot around in it’s arc motion so there is no jarring impact when your foot strikes the pavement or machine bed.
This will definitely help if you have joint issues or pelvic floor problems.
Another great thing about ellipticals is that most come with moveable arms. Not all. But most. That means you get an upper body, as well as a lower body, workout.
As with treadmills you can adjust the resistance and the incline. But your movement sets the speed.
I have always preferred that over a treadmill. I’m never able to find a comfortable speed on a treadmill. No matter what speed it is. So I prefer that you have more control with an elliptical.
Rowing machines are a great cardio machine. I particularly like them because they are more about power than just cardio.
And let’s face it, going out for a row isn’t an option for most of us. And I think it’s nice to do something a bit different.
So, they’re my reasons for liking rowing machines.
Just like ellipticals, you’re getting a full body workout, using your upper and your lower body. And it’s low impact.
You can control the resistance, and most machines come with ready made workout programs that are actually really tough.
If you’re looking for a space efficient machine, then a rower might be what you’re looking for, as most have a foldable design.
So, if you’re looking for something a bit different, try a rower. You might be pleasantly surprised.
If you're interested in getting a rowing machine and you want a few workouts to try, check out my 20 Minute HIIT Rowing Workout.
Stationary bikes are similar to treadmills, in that they are designed to mimic an everyday activity. If you enjoy going out on your bike, and/or your training for a cycling event, then an exercise bike is a good option for your home gym.
Unlike ellipticals and rowing machines, exercise bikes don’t work your upper body as well as your lower body.
But they do have varying resistance levels and give a great cardio workout.
They also provide a great low impact workout.
So, if you do like biking, get an exercise bike.
Another exercise bike? Why is the Peloton bike on the list separately? Surely it’s just another exercise bike?
But the Peloton bike is more like a spin bike than an upright stationary bike.
Ok, so how is a spin bike different?
Well, they are designed to more closely mimic the riding position of a road bike. Like a race bike. You’re leaning forward more, and the pedal stroke is more realistic on a spin bike.
So, how is Peloton different?
Well, it’s like having access to hundreds, if not thousands of spin classes in the comfort of your own home gym.
The Peloton bike has a screen at the front from which you can screen live classes or on demand classes, led by really motivating instructors.
If you need that extra push when you’re working then a Peloton bike might be the way to go.
Most gyms will have a bank of weight machines.
Each one will work a different group of muscles and you’d traditionally work your way around the bank doing your sets and reps.
Each one of these machines can cost thousands and take up quite a bit of room.
I’m going to assume you haven’t got that kind of money, or room to spare. So, you need to find an alternative for home use.
Don’t worry there are lots.
One of the downsides of those gym type resistance machines is that the weight is tracked along a path.
You don’t have to work at stabilising the weight or the rest of your body because the machine does it for you.
That’s where free weights are a much better option.
Don’t get me wrong the big machines do have their place, but don’t think that they are a superior option.
Free weights, in my opinion, offer a much better workout. And you can do the exercises you want to do.
Free weights come in the form of weight plates and bars, dumbbells, kettlebells.
They’re great because you can do a variety of exercises and workouts with them.
When you start to buy multiple dumbbells and kettlebells it can start to get a bit pricey, and storage can start to be an issue.
So, if you do want to cover lots of weights, either go for a barbell with weight plates, or adjustable dumbbells and kettlebells.
If you’re into your strength training you might be tempted by a power rack, or squat rack to use it’s other name.
They are commonly used with barbells and weight plates and can help with exercises like squats and the bench press.
They are usually accompanied by a lifting platform where you’d perform barbell deadlifts.
Now you might be thinking ‘why do I need such a thing to help with squatting and pressing?’ And to be honest, if you’re asking that question, you probably don’t need one.
It’s for when your weights get heavy. So heavy that you need assistance to get the barbell in place.
That’s what the power rack does.
You put the barbell at a level where you can put it comfortably on your shoulders, or press up, and you load it with the weight.
The rack then holds it until you’re ready to lift.
To give you an example, I used a power rack when I was doing some serious weight training. My squats were in excess of 100 kilos.
I couldn’t get a barbell weighing 100 kilos onto my shoulders in any other way.
Power racks are most commonly used by power lifters and strength athletes.
So, if you are interested in delving deeper into the world of strength training then this one should go on your ‘to get list’.
Although unless you are already lifting some serious weights, you probably won’t need it right away.
A cable machine works much the same as any kind of weight training device, it provides resistance for your muscles to work against.
So, what is so different about a cable machine?
Well, they’re actually more effective than most other forms of weight training as you can target every part of your body with just one machine. It is a full-body workout machine. And those muscles can be targeted from any angle.
They also work your core and stabilising muscles pretty hard as most exercises are done standing up. And all of this is done with constant tension. There’s no ‘easier’ part of the move unlike with dumbbells and barbells.
All of this means a very efficient workout. Great if you’re pushed for time.
You might be thinking ‘WTF is functional equipment’?
Well, functional training is all about moving your body in a way that mimics everyday life situations.
So, rather than targeting one group of muscles, like biceps for example, you target your whole body including your biceps.
Because, let’s face it, you very rarely use your biceps in isolation.
So, functional training equipment, is equipment that allows you to train your body in this way.
If we take the bicep example from above. Traditionally if you want to train your biceps, you grab some dumbbells and do bicep curls.
But the functional way of training your biceps would be to grab a slam ball, lift it over head, slam it down on the floor and squat down to catch it as it bounces back up.
Functional training is great because you are working your whole body all of the time. You’re raising your heart rate for a great cardio workout and using weights so all of your muscles are getting worked.
This is great if you’re pushed for time. If you struggle to schedule in an hour regularly.
You also don’t need as much equipment, because one piece will do several different things.
It’s no secret that I love kettlebells.
The fact that they’re so versatile and efficient at giving you an amazing workout is just a couple of the many many reasons I love them so much.
When choosing a kettlebell, don’t be tempted to go for cheap and/or light.
Either one won’t last you very long.
You’ll soon out grow a light weight and cheap, well, do I really have to tell you why not?
Competition bells, which means they are larger, in fact they’re all the same size, are the best option. Because of their large base you can use them to balance on.
The downside with kettlebells is, when you get a few in your collection they are quite difficult to store.
The way around this is to get and adjustable kettlebell.
They range from 4-18 kilos. That should be more than enough to get you started.
But get two, if budget allows.
For ideas on how to use your lovely new kettlebells, check out my Home Kettlebell Workout.
Medicine balls are grippable but heavy balls that can be used for a variety of exercises.
Like most functional equipment, they are a great way of working your whole body in a variety of different ways. Cardio, strength, mobility.
There are so many to choose from nowadays. Some have handles. Some bounce.
If a medicine ball or two takes your fancy, I’d go for the none handled version to start off with as you can throw them down on the ground easier increasing the amount of exercises you can do.
Don’t worry about handling them, as most are fairly easy to get hold of.
Weight wise, unlike kettlebells I’d start slightly lighter. Just a couple of kilos. As an example, I typically use a 16 or 20 kilo kettlebell for swinging. But medicine ball slams I’d use a 6 or 8 kilo ball.
Unfortunately there’s no adjustable form of medicine ball, so, if you do want one, or two, or three, consider where you’re going to store them.
Resistance bands are a great option for any home gym. Whatever the size.
They’re so good, because again they’re very versatile. Full body, cardio, strength and mobility. All are covered with these bands.
But why they would make a great addition is that they’re so easy to store.
They are great for small spaces. They don’t take up much space at all, which is why they’re on my list for small home gym equipment.
It means that if you go away. Whether it’s a holiday, or you’re working, or just a couple of days away with hubby. Your workout can go with you.
They fit so easily into a suitcase. And they’ll give you a great workout in just 15 minutes.
Ok, foam rollers won’t give you a workout per-say. But they will get your heart rate up, get you breathing a bit heavier and have you wincing like your on your 101st squat.
They’re all about recovery. And recovery, as we all know, is a crucial part of your workout.
So, what do they do?
When you apply pressure to your muscles with a foam roller, it’s like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. It increases the blood circulation to those muscles.
It’s not comfortable or relaxing, but helps to release any knots you have in your muscles. It helps relieve inflammation. It helps increase your range of motion, flexibility and mobility.
And maybe not on that day, or the day after, but soon, it will improve your overall comfort.
Trust me on this. It is worth taking the time to do some foam rollering.
Ah the workout mat. Here we are again.
Yes, they’re crucial no matter what kind of gym your building, or what kind of workout you want to do.
Because, at some point or another, the likelihood is, you’ll be doing some body weight exercises. Or, you’ll be stretching.
You will be stretching, right?
Ok, you could do that on the floor. But it’s not going to be comfortable.
A yoga mat will cushion your knees. Buffer your back. And snuggle your shoulders.
Seriously. It will make anything you have to do on the floor easier.
They’re not that expensive. And they don’t take up much room. So make sure you include one in your home gym.
Phew. That was a lot to take in.
The most important point to take away is, any gym workout equipment for home should be based around the things you like to do.
We spend way too much of our day doing chores. Doing things we have to do. Make working out fun. Make it your ‘me time’. Make it your escape. And make your home gym your sanctuary.
Have I missed anything?
What’s your favourite piece of gym workout equipment for home?
What is going to be a definite in your home gym?
Let me know.
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