Home Gym Essentials

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Ask the Professional: Home Gym Essentials

by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

When you find that it's too difficult to make time in your schedule to go to the gym, don't let that discourage you from still finding time to workout! Yes, the gym is a great place to workout but it's not the only place you can accomplish a great sweat session. If this is the case, you might want to have some equipment on hand to do your own workouts at home! Even without equipment you can accomplish a lot including squats, lunges, and push-up variations along with loads of various core work but if you are looking to add in some more variety to your home workouts then having equipment readily available will definitely help. Given that you probably wouldn't want to turn your entire home into a gym, space might be a little limited and fitness equipment isn't necessarily the cheapest either so I'm going to discuss some cost effective, space saving options you can include in your home gym that will still allow you to have a great workout. This is my honest opinion but with a fitness background and professional experience, I believe I can provide some good insight as to what you should acquire for your home workouts.

First and foremost, invest in a yoga mat. This piece of equipment will prevent you from having to do any floor exercise or stretches on scratchy carpet or hard floors and will provide you with more support. Not to mention the yoga mat will protect your floors from any sweat or scuff marks that might happen.

Next, I'd recommend resistance bands (both bands with handles and mini looped bands) and kettlebells. Resistance bands are inexpensive relative to most other resistance training equipment and they are very space efficient and easy to store. On top of that, you can get 3-4 bands and give yourself a ton of options as far as resistance goes. Each band will be varied in resistance but you can manipulate the bands will handles even more based on where you hold the band or how you anchor it down for certain movements. Every resistance band product will have instructions and guides on how to use them as well and will most likely come with a library of exercises that you can do with them.

As for the kettlebells, you might be wondering why I would suggest those over dumbbells. Aim to get a few pairs of kettlebells of varying weights; pairs are significant in this consideration as you can do pretty much everything with kettlebells that you can do with dumbbells not to mention the additional movements and exercises unique to kettlebells. You can also perform movements similar to those that you would do with a barbell. I believe that kettlebells are an all-encompassing resistance training tool that will help you not only get stronger, but improve your overall fitness level and are a key component of a home gym.

Next, I would suggest a jump rope if this fits in your workout practice (healthy joints). A jump rope is a great tool to help build your cardiovascular fitness especially when you're tight on space. The amount of space that it takes to store a jump rope is almost non-existent so it is a pretty simple piece to add to your home gym and it's budget friendly. With everything we've discussed thus far, I believe you would have the tools necessary to workout at home easily while being space and cost conscious. One last space efficient and relatively cheap tool I would consider adding is a door frame pull-up bar. Besides being able to do pull-ups and hanging leg/knee raises, this can also be used as an anchor point for your resistance band as well to open up your exercise library even further.

If space and cost are not as big of an issue, then you can open yourself up to outfitting a more full and complete home gym. Should you have the opportunity and resources to do so, I would recommend getting a full squat rack with a pull-up bar attached to it, a barbell, plates, and a bench. Now, you have completely evolved your home gym and give yourself as wide of a variety of exercises that you can imagine. I would also recommend getting a dumbbell set with a dumbbell rack for storage. This will increase your resistance training equipment selection and provide you with the necessary tools to get the same great workout at home as you would at a gym. After that I would recommend a rowing machine, TRX suspension straps, and an adjustable plyometric box. These three pieces are highly functional and would be perfect for a multitude of strength and cardiovascular exercises making your home gym complete and well rounded.  

There are a lot of things to consider when creating a home gym so begin by designating a specific space in your home and set a budget. These two dictators will be the basis of which you can base your equipment selection on. My biggest recommendation when putting together your home gym would be to slowly accumulate more pieces. Start off small and add more equipment as you progress physically. Get the essentials first then add additional equipment as needed.

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