The Best Home Gym Equipment and Exercises to Get You in Tip-Top Shape

best home gymEveryone nowadays seems to have an opinion about the best way to get in shape: go to the gym, exercise at home, use only heavy weights (or is it only light weights if you’re a woman?) Whatever your opinion may be, we can all agree that some type of physical fitness should be done in a consistent manner. So whichever exercise plan fits you best, you need to stick with it.

And how do I accomplish that, you ask? Well, the first place to start is to decide whether you want a gym membership where you can meet other fitness enthusiasts, swap getting in shape secrets, or just plain socialize.  But if you’re like a large number of people who can’t always make it to the gym or are tired of the same douchebags hogging all the equipment then a home gym just might be your best answer. Setting up a home gym isn’t that expensive if you put a little research in it in which case you can finally lose weight without a gym membership.

What Kind of Equipment Should I Have?

Just like everything else, there’s no magic pill or piece of equipment that can whip you in to shape.  But there sure are some very effective pieces of equipment for any home gym to get (or keep) you in the best shape of your life.  Below are just a few of the pieces that I think give you the most bang for your buck.

Jump Rope

The oldie but goodie. You don’t have to buy a big clunky treadmill or elliptical machine to get your cardio in. This old-fashioned piece of rope can give you a heart pumping workout for about $5.  Increasing your heart rate and working on your coordination go a long way in improving overall fitness.


If you don’t know what TRX is, you’ve been missing out. But before I go in to how awesome it is, I do find it to be more effective for the more advanced, already-exercising, athlete.  Ok, back to its awesomeness.

The history of the TRX stems from an invention by a member of the Navy Seal Team who wanted a full body workout that he could take on the go.  Hence developed the TRX, a suspension training equipment that allows you to use your own body weight to create resistance while holding you in place.  The “rope” allows for you to hook your hands or your feet for the most challenging of poses.

Chin Up Bar

This apparatus can hang on any doorway and is relatively cheap.  A wide variety of pull up/chin up bars are already on the market, some of which are more effective than others.

Anyone who has tried a pull-up for the first time knows that this exercise can really push your limits.  Some bars also come with straps to hold your arms up while you grip the bar so that you can work your abs with some leg lifts.  Or perhaps you want to target your obliques specifically, then you just add a twist and you’ve created a full upper body and core workout.

Dumbbells (Adjustable)

If you have the room to put a full size rack of different sized dumbbells, then go for it.  But a lot of us seeking to develop a solid home gym in a limited amount of space can highly benefit from adjustable multi-weight dumbbells.

Just like the jump rope can be essential for a good at home cardiovascular workout, a set of dumbbells can be the essential piece for effective resistance training.  Everyone knows (or should know) that you need to build muscle not only for efficient and long-term weight loss but for increased bone health and joint stability as well, not to mention improved emotional and mental well-being.

Resistance training can be done in a number of ways where dumbbells are concerned. You want to make sure the weight is heavy enough on your adjustable dumbbells so that your last repetition is a struggle (on average 10-12 reps; no, you women will not get bulky! Ugh…).  Weights can be a wonderful addition to any exercise routine and if done correctly, can not only improve your appearance greatly but will have an even more positive effect on your health.

Stand-up Punching Bag

Anyone who has ever done a boxing class knows how taxing this type of workout can be on the body.  It will knock you into shape in no time.  The benefits of having a stand-up bag over a hanging one is that it can be transported anywhere anytime. You fill it with water and let the punches and kicks rip!

Stretching/Yoga Mat

What I love so much about workouts done on the ground is the opportunity to slow things down mentally while giving my body an intense workout.  When we’re doing the fast-paced stuff all we can think about is “faster…keep up…don’t quit…” and on and on.  And then we rush to work or rush to get the kids or ourselves to school all the while our minds and bodies are pushed to overdrive.  Laying out a mat and really concentrating on specific exercises followed by stretching gives us the time to re-center and re-boost.

Mat work can involve traditional yoga or pilates poses, focused abdominal work, upper body strengthening, and/or stretching with or without supplemental equipment.  The fitness industry has also come out with mats that have various exercises printed right on them! Who can go wrong with that?

Exercise Bands

Rock out with the band! Resistance bands are a great addition to any strength training routine or rehabilitation program and come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and strengths. This portable exercise equipment is also easily stored, making it perfect for home use, hotel workouts, or when you want to workout just about anywhere. Just like free weights, exercise bands come in a range of resistance levels, from highly stretchable to heavy-duty strength. The most common types of bands include tube bands with handles, loop bands (aka giant rubber bands), and therapy bands. (When in doubt, a fitness professional can help determine which band is right for you, depending on your fitness level and specific workout plan). For most exercises, try aiming for 8-25 reps for 2-3 sets per exercise.

Let’s take a look at how to do a squat exercise: Stand on a tube band with the feet slightly wider than your shoulders and center of the band between the feet. Holding a handle in each hand, bring the top of the band over each shoulder, securing the band in place by crossing your arms at your chest. Sit straight down, chest up, abs firm, pressing your knees out over your toes. Rise back up to start position and repeat for 8-12 reps.

As for upper-body, here’s how you do a bent over row which targets your back and arm muscles: Stand over the center of the band with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend slightly at the knees and hinge at the waist, keeping your hips back. Grasp each handle with hands facing the outside of your knees. With elbows bent, pull the band up toward your hips, squeezing your shoulder blades together until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Lower and row for 10-12 reps.

As You Can See, No Serious (or Seriously Expensive) Equipment Needed

A home gym built from those mentioned above can simply and effectively do the trick.  Combine your workouts with a clean, healthy eating regimen and you are definitely on your way to better health and overall physical fitness.

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