It has always been my opinion that everyone should have a dedicated place in their house to perform some sort of exercise. I prefer an actual home gym to a corner of your bedroom, but if a shared space is all you can muster, it’s better than nothing. But outfitting a home gym can not only get expensive, it can also take up a good bit of your home’s footprint.
Here are 5 pieces of home gym equipment that cover both your cardio and resistance needs. They are as easy on your pocket book as they are on your square footage.
Does it get any more low-tech than a jump rope? At some point, every kid has picked up a rope and started skipping. It’s fun and it’s simple. And it makes for a great workout. So get yourself a rope and start acting like a kid again. All you need is a little bit of floor space and sufficient head room.
There are many different types of jump ropes available, including beaded ropes, leather ropes, ropes with weighted handles, speed ropes, etc. A good, general purpose rope with smooth, bearing handles will do for most.
Speed ropes are thin and light. They are the right choice if you are looking to progress to double unders, where the rope passes under you twice on each jump. But save the speed rope for when you’re proficient with regular jumps. A bad miss with a speed rope will definitely leave a welt!
Remember to land on the balls of your feet and maintain soft knees when jumping. A simple 10 minute session with a rope can be grueling if you push yourself. Start slow and try to go as long as you can with consecutive, unbroken jumps. Rest as needed, but just enough to resume jumping.
A good jump rope can be had for about 20 bucks.
A good set of resistance bands is like a weight set in a bag. Bands are not only versatile, but they are portable as well. Throw them into your backpack or suitcase when you’re travelling, and you have a gym on the go. One advantage of bands over free weights is that they offer progressive resistance throughout the entire range of motion. The farther you stretch the band, the tighter it gets.
Look for a set of bands with multiple resistance levels and interchangeable handles. Loop bands are also a good choice. They are great for not only resistance exercises, but they are also very effective for stretching and mobilizing tight joints.
Bands will vary in cost depending on what you choose to go with.
Plyo Box or Utility Bench
A sturdy box or bench will come in handy for a ton of exercises. At some point you will progress beyond floor work and require a stable base on which to work. And if you add weights to the mix, a bench is virtually a must have.
Of course plyo boxes are the obvious piece of equipment for step-ups and box jumps, but they are also great for other applications. A 24” box will serve most people well and won’t take up much floor space. Even a flat utility bench can be tucked away against a wall when not in use.
Boxes are great for scaling more challenging work. For example, if full plank push-ups are a challenge, use a box or bench to progress through incline push-ups until you are capable of performing a strict push-up from the floor. A simple bench or box makes a great platform for doing triceps dips. Band exercises such as seated shoulder presses can be performed with the center of the band anchored beneath the box as you press the handles upward.
A set of steel plyo boxes like mine runs about $200. But here’s how you can make your own 3-in-1 plywood box for about $30.
Bodyweight exercises are great. They require no special equipment, they can be performed almost anywhere, and they are
safe. Best of all, mastering bodyweight exercises makes your daily movement easier, since you are essentially perfecting movements that you utilize during the course of a normal day.
Bodyweight moves like push-ups, squats, planks, pull-ups, burpees, etc. can all be scaled for increased difficulty by varying how the exercise is performed. But the simplest way to ramp up the intensity is to start moving more weight. And one of the easiest ways to do that is by utilizing a weighted vest.
A good weighted vest should fit snugly and allow for variable loads. Mine can be adjusted in 1 lb. increments from 1 pound to a maximum of 40. Wearing your weights instead of holding them gives you the freedom to use your arms and hands to do exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups. Hiking with a weighted vest is also a great workout, especially when it involves a lot of hill climbing.
I love my vest because it has removable 1-pound steel weights. I haven’t been able to find another like it, but Dick’s carries a similar one for about $75. It’s also a 40 lb vest, but has 2 pound sand pouch weights instead. So it’s a bit less adjustable for weight, but still very versatile. It’s a great investment if you commit to using it.
Suspension trainers have gained a lot of popularity over the past few years. A suspension trainer is simply a pair of heavy duty straps with a handle at the end of each. The other end of the straps are anchored to the top of a power rack, door, tree limb, monkey bars, or any other structure that will safely hold your weight.
The most popular brand of suspension trainer has been TRX, but if money is a concern, you can get much more affordable ones that will serve you for years. I have been using a homemade suspension trainer for about 10 years and it is still going strong.
The list of exercises you can perform on a suspension trainer goes on and on. Chest presses, push-ups, dips, rows, arm curls, triceps extensions, one-legged squats, suspended core work, etc. Pair a suspension trainer with a weighted vest and you’ll have quite a ways to go before you outgrow your setup.
TRX trainers start at about $100 and go up from there. You can get one like this one for about half that price from Amazon.
Here’s the original YouTube video that I followed to make my suspension trainer. I like to DIY stuff. 🙂
Remember, outfitting your home with exercise equipment doesn’t mean dropping a lot of cash or losing an entire room to a home gym. You can build an amazing workout routine around a few pieces of simple equipment that won’t set you back a ton of money.
Be Your Best,