At-home gym equipment – What to buy to get the most bang for your buck

When I start working with a new virtual personal training client, the first few questions I ask are:

What gym equipment do you have access to?
Do you plan on working out at home, or going to the gym?
What does your at-home workout space look like?

If you are trying to figure out how to stay fit in the “new normal,” I have a few budget-friendly recommendations to slowly build-up your at-home gym, piece by piece.

These tools are essential to help you modify exercises to make them easier… and also modify to make it harder. This way, you can start wherever you are at at get stronger from there!


TRX – Suspension Trainer

The TRX is THE BEST travel-friendly piece of gym equipment.

Why I like it:

Good for on-the-go.

It weighs just a couple pounds, and packs up nicely into a mesh bag. I like to throw it in my suitcase if I’m traveling somewhere for an extended period (a week or more), and I know I’ll want to train.

Easy-installation.

You don’t need to mount it on the wall. You can use the door anchor.

Promotes a more balanced workout.

It’s great for horizontal & vertical pulls. This means that you can train upper-body rows and other pulling exercises without a band, pulley, or weight. To translate to more layman’s terms… the TRX will help you balance out your workouts, strengthen your back muscles, and combat poor posture caused by hunching over a desk all day long.

What to buy?
  • TRX Pro – about $250. I prefer this one. It was designed for more wear-and-tear, and the handles, straps, etc. are nicer quality than the TRX Home System. That being said, if you like to be as economical as possible, you can save yourself $50 by going with the TRX Home System, which retails for about $200.
  • Please don’t opt for the cheap knock-offs sold on Amazon. For equipment like this…. Remember, it’s going to be holding up your entire body weight. You want to trust the experts to make a quality product.

Yoga Mat

Why I like it:

Prevents rug burn.

Have you even tried doing a plank hold on your elbows on your carpet? That’s an immediate recipe for rug burn. Save yourself the discomfort and get a mat.

Provides added grip for your hands and feet.

It can be dangerous trying to do exercises on your hands (or feet) on slippery floors. Even carpet can be slippery if you’re wearing socks or have dry hands. Yoga poses (and a lot of other exercises) require some traction, which is why most gyms have those rubbery floors.

Solidifies your intention.

Even if you have a carpet and think that you don’t technically need a mat or yoga mat for your exercises… I’ve found that rolling out an exercise mat when it’s time for  my workout solidifies my intention to workout. If you are doing mostly body weight exercises like planks, push-ups, squats… or of course, yoga! Then having a mat that you can take out and put away each time helps you define your workout space.

What to buy?

I have an awesome mat one of my entrepreneurial friends gifted to me. Unfortunately, she’s not selling it anymore. But what I love about it is the feel of it. I believe it’s microsuede. Check out the following options:


Exercise Bands

Mini Bands

Mini bands are great because they can help you activate the right muscles, strengthen muscles that are weak, and add variety and challenge to an exercise.

What to buy?

This is another instance where I do not recommend buying the cheapest thing you can find off of Amazon. Get these mini bands from Practice Better, and you won’t be disappointed. They even have XL mini bands that might be good for tall people and for people living in larger bodies.

Super Bands

Super Bands (also called Monsterbands) are great to use for assistance with a pull-up. They also add resistance to squats, lunges, deadlifts, single leg deadlifts… and is more versatile, as it can be used instead of an exercise band with a handle.

What to buy?

Practice Better sells quality Superbands. The most versatile are the lower resistance ones, so start with a 1/4″ and a 1/2″ band… and depending on your intended use, you can get those heavier ones!


Yoga Blocks

If you are a beginner to fitness, or have very tight hamstrings, hips, etc… then yoga blocks will be your friend to help you stretch during your warm-up and cool-down. If you are more intermediate or advanced,  you can add some additional challenge to an exercise by elevating your hands or feet using yoga blocks. Whatever your fitness level, yoga blocks can help you work your way up to more and more advanced moves.

What to buy

First of all, you need at least 2 yoga blocks to be of any use for most things. Buy a 2-pack.

I don’t have a particular brand that I recommend. Browse Amazon, or shop around to find the color and price you like.


Weights

When it’s time to add weight to their workouts, most people think about buying dumbbells. But that’s really not the most economical choice. It costs a lot of money to keep adding heavier and heavier dumbbells to your collection. In my home gym, I actually do not own a single dumbbell.

Instead of dumbbells, I recommend investing in resistance bands (see above), kettlebells, or sandbags. This equipment will add resistance to your exercises and help you get stronger, and you can be more creative with those three things than you could with dumbbells.

Kettlebells

Great for deadlifts, kettlebells swings, overhead press, weighted squats/lunges… and so much more!

What to buy

What weight to buy? This is so individualized, so I can only give a generalized recommendation. For many of my clients, I have found that the 12kg (26lb) kettlebell is very versatile. It’s a good one to start with. Great for kettlebell swings, goblet squats, cleans, and overhead presses. I currently own 12kg and 24kg (53lb) kettlebells in my home.

Sandbags

Also great for deadlifts, swings, overhead press, cleans, carries, drags… and so much more. And what’s really cool about sandbags is that you can adjust the weight just by adding or taking away sand. No fancy mechanism involved.

What to buy
  • Ultimate Sandbags – you can buy a regular filler bag to fill with sand, or choose an upgrade so you can fill it with water!

Cardio Equipment

Even before the pandemic started, I was seriously considering 2 very different pieces of cardio equipment for my apartment. A spin bike… or a boxing bag.

After reflecting on it, I realized that I would be completely miserable and would not look forward to going home after work to sit on a spin bike at the end of my day. So, I opted for the boxing bag.

Boxing is GREAT cardio, and in my opinion, it’s way more fun and functional than sitting on a stationary bike. But what you probably didn’t know is that a boxing bag is one of the most affordable pieces of cardio equipment you can buy! You can get a bag for about $90-200, or buy a whole kit to install it for around that price or just a bit more. I recommend splurging for the full training bag, rather than the freestanding ones. But if installation on a wall is not an option for you, go ahead and get the freestanding bag!

What to buy

Spin Bike – If you decide to go the traditional cardio route with something like a spin bike… My roommate in Boston bought a bike from Sunny Health & Fitness. I used it a few times, and thought the quality was good!


Once you’ve got your gym set up with some of this essential equipment, what do you do with it? How do you stay motivated? How do you keep to a schedule and keep progressing?

I offer virutal personal training sessions, monthly exercise programs, and a Fitness Motivation + Accountability Program. Schedule a 15-min initial consult with me to tell me more about your goals and talk about which of my services is right for you!

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