… and ditch the gym membership stat!
As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, I feel confident that the below list of equipment covers pretty much all bases for your strength and conditioning needs, no matter your sport or goals.
Also, I know, some of you need to get out of the house to achieve your best training, but please keep reading. Your home gym equipment is mobile so you can go places like the local park to do your training, or the trails, the beach, the mountains—whatever’s available to you—or you may discover you like the option to train at home!
For others of us, myself included, working out at home is not a problem at all. We’re able to get down and dirty training at home—and not get distracted—so it’s a lot more convenient, realistic and time-efficient to have strength training equipment available at our fingertips (no bulky machines required!). Plus options open up: You can have slow-weight days (i.e. random sets throughout the day), dedicated strength workouts, add strength intervals to your bike trainer sessions, and so on. As a coach, I am also able to see my clients in a more intimate setting than a gym, and I lead their workouts without it feeling like work, for them or me.
Speaking of, on a nice day, I’ve been known to pack up some of my basic equipment and take the workout into nature. Doing workouts outside has more benefits than just good views: get your daily dose of Vitamin D, a stronger endorphin release, and improve mood and happiness. I’ve spent countless hours in a gym (heck, I was a personal trainer), and I will say hands down it’s much more enjoyable to train at home and/or outside. For runners and triathletes, I’ll give more dynamic workouts combining things like resistance bands, wobble cushions and a jump rope to do activation drills/exercises in conjunction with a run-strength workout like hill repeats.
If you’re worried that this is sounding expensive, don’t. Cost-wise, this endeavor doesn’t have to break the bank, as you’ll read below. For “heavier” items (weight vests, barbell plates, etc.) just take your time to build over 6-12 months, or if you have the time/desire scour places like Craigslist, eBay, and thrift stores for deals on the more pricey items.
My at-home gym was built over a couple years—at first I just had bands, a TRX and a few other basics, but then when I chose to stop working out of a gym (thus lost access to weights and whatnot) I went the next step and got the heavier equipment. So, everything listed below are items I now have and use regularly, as do many of my clients who’ve opted for this route.
Last tip, I’ve organized this list in order of what to buy first, starting with the least expensive yet effective pieces, working your way up to heavier, more expensive and valuable equipment.
Also, be sure to check out my 15 favorite functional strength training workouts for inspiration once you have your goods!
The Basics for a Home Gym
- Stretch cords, $20.85 – Great for swimmers and triathletes, and getting your resistance exercises like lat pulldown and rows without weights; I like Black Mountain brand (and they have great customer service if a band happens to break, oops).
- Resistance bands, $9.95-$18.95 per band – I use this brand; they’re hearty and great for lateral band walks. Nothing over 1-inch thick is necessary unless you’re using a band for assisted pullups (the thicker the band the easier the pullups will be, so pro tip: save money, don’t go too thick, and work harder on building a strong pullup, hehe).
- Get 1-2 of either: 1/4″, 1/2″, 1″…. and 1 1/8″ or 1 1/2″ for pullups.
- Mini exercise bands, $9.10 – Best for lateral work and adduction exercises; I like this brand and they’re cheap – less than 10 bucks each for a light, medium and heavy resistance.
- TRX or the Woss trainer, $150 vs. $40 – Getting one of these is absolutely a must IMO. Many of my athletes use the Woss and they say it’s great, sturdy and no different than TRX other than the name. I received a TRX as a gift some years ago, and love it. They both do the job. So, your call!
- Jump rope $15.97 – A staple for any fitness junkie. Don’t go too cheap here, I did back in the day when I taught corporate fitness classes and basically wasted money on jump ropes that sucked. They’re a great tool for a full-body workout, single-leg exercises, and also easy to travel with too!
- Check out custom jump ropes at www.rxsmartgear.com if you’re willing to invest a bit more; they’re $42.95, but worth it. I love mine.
- Kettlebells, prices vary – With KBs it’s about being able to move them well that matters, so heavy is not always better, and that’s your money-saver. My RKC instructor turned me on to kettlebellsusa.com, and this brand is by far the best quality for the best deal that I’ve been able to find. Plus they have FREE SHIPPING in 48 states. (I have no affiliate relationship here, I just love the product.)
- I bought four sizes: 8kg, 12kg, 16kg, and 26kg. I recommend getting something in these ranges relative to your needs: a light bell, one or two moderate-weight bells, and one heavier bell.
- Dumbbells instead? You can probably find a DB set for cheaper, maybe on craigslist or ebay in fact, and they’re super effective too, but I find that I can do more dynamic full-body work with just a few KBs so I’m on #teamkettlebell.
- Check out our video on perfect kettlebell swing form here.
- Pullup bar, $26.18-$49.48 – There are those that fit in your doorway (not a huge fan), and those that you install. We have a basic steel one that we drilled into the wall outside; it’s gritty and badass.
- Stability wobble cushions, $14.90 – Get two. These are great for stability work and a lot cheaper than a Bosu ball or foam balance pads, both of which are nice but pricey. Try a Bulgarian split squat with the front planted foot on one of these – yowza!
- A 45lb Olympic barbell, $91.99-$117 – This is the bar I have. It costs more for the chrome, so go with black to save a few bucks. These are great to have for more serious athletes or those looking to add significant strength and power. But it starts racking up the bill, so if you have to make a choice, I’d invest in KBs first. Or, look on ebay or craigslist for deals!
- Upgrade to plates when you’re ready and need to; prices vary but you can find get some basics for less than $100. Again, look on ebay or craigslist for deals!
- Weighted vest, $0-$196.53 – One of the best fitness purchases of my life! I love my vest, and it’s also a great training tool for obstacle course racers and backpackers. I splurged on this Hyperwear Vest, which is super nice, form-fitting with adjustable weights and sizing, but you can find or make a vest for cheaper (before I got my vest I’d load up a backpack with old ankle weights and made sure to buckle the chest straps to not put too much of a load on my back, or you could even use canned food or household items instead of ankle weights).
- Lastly, for body maintenance…
Not including kettlebells, weighted vest, or plates for Oly bar; and using the cheaper of the options listed…
You’re looking at $305 or less!
- Make functional weights using sandbags for dirt cheap – and you can create all different sizes!
- Get an old tire and a sledgehammer for sledgehammer swings (this is the one thing I dearly miss from my old gym and plan to create at our home).
- Slide board – you can make this using a slippery surface (i.e. white hardboard panel board) and some other material for under $60.
- Slant boards – for foot-strengthening exercises; use wood to assemble small slant boards that you can stand on in all directions or just place a flat board against something to create an angle – and make sure it’s safe to stand on with your full weight!
No need to order all these now (the Amazon delivery person might hate you) but in my opinion this is all great equipment to invest in over time.
What are the essentials in your home gym? Comment below with equipment recommendations, daily workout routines, and questions!