Working out at home is supposed to be super convenient. There’s no need for transportation or drive time; you don’t need to worry about getting a spot in class; the privacy factor is pretty awesome, too. The one hiccup people always run into, though, is the lack of equipment. A pair of dumbbells is easy enough to find (and inexpensive), but if you’re primarily working out at home, you need more than that. Make your workouts more versatile with a few solid pieces of equipment, including some DIY-flavored replacements to save a few bucks.
Dumbbells: Let’s start here. Dumbbells are used for strength training. You can have a couple pairs. Use a lighter pair like 1 to 3 pounds for high rep workouts, like Pilates or barre. Pick up a heavier pair between 10 and 15 pounds for the supersets with six to eight reps. You can even get a third pair even heavier than the last to use for deadlifts and heavy training days. Try to find the lighter ones at a store or online and look for the the big boys are gently used exercise equipment stores to save a little. No dumbbells? Try a couple bottles of water for those high rep workouts.
>> Read more: Row with Dumbbells
Kettlebell: Pick up one or two of these. You’ll be able to work the glutes with swings and the upper body with presses. Try using one with your pushup or swinging it beneath your leg as you lunge. Most sporting goods stores will have these, and you can expect to spend $30 to $60 on a decent one. Pick your size here.
Resistance Band: There are really three main types of resistance bands. The most versatile type is the latex band without handles. Check it out here. Why? Because you can use it like you would the tube-style with handles and you can also tie it to create a circular band at any tightness. The tubes are a bit more expensive, but some people prefer the handles, like this one here. Finally, you have the mini band, which comes in handy for smaller movements often used in Pilates as well as warm ups. Check it out here. If you don’t have one, you can use a stretchy scarf (of that old Moby wrap).
>> Read more: Pilates Spotlight: Mini Band
Step, Bench or Box: Having a sturdy, elevated surface for your workouts is key for challenging the leg muscles and upping your pushup game. If you don’t want to spend $100 on an actual aerobic step with risers, you can try a wallet-friendly model like the Tone Fitness Stepper here. If you’re crafty or you have a man in your life who really wants to build you something, make your own plyometric box. Find the instructions here. Adding a step or box to your workout will intensify everything from steps to jumps to lunges all the way to pushups, planks and creative moves. If you don’t have one, you can use the bottom step of your staircase at home, a chair if it’s not too high, a curb or a park bench if you’re on-the-go.
>> Use your step: High Energy Step Workout [VIDEO]
Squishy Ball: On the resistance team, this ball is excellent for isometric movements as well as assisting you in certain exercises. Imagine setting it between the knees as you bridge up and down to work the inner and outer thighs. Try placing it on your lower back to support it as you focus on the core. As you get stronger, you can actually set it underneath one hand during a pushup. It’s a simple piece of equipment to have and the Internet is stock-full of workouts you can do at home with it. Click here to watch Real Mom Model Melissa take you through her barre workout with the ball! The ball costs less than $10. Learn more here. You can use your kid’s kickball, a pillow or rolled up towel as a sub.
Jump Rope: This classic tool can give you a burst of cardio during any strength circuit and work your calves with a simple plyometric workout. When you pick up a jump rope, you want to step on the center of it and pull the handles up to your chest. The bottom of the handles, where the rope meets them, should be at the nipple line or a couple inches lower than your armpits. Cable jump ropes are great if you’re experienced, otherwise try something a little softer like this adjustable model here. There’s no real sub for the rope other than pretending like you’re using one!
Continue to the next page to see equipment that will take your fitness game to the next level.
Go to the Next Level
If you’re finding these home workouts to be consistent and efficient for you, it’s time to invest in some bigger pieces.
Chin Up Bar: Work the lats, core, arms and chest with a chin up bar. You don’t need anything fancy, just a secure place to put it. If you don’t have a pull up or chin up, yet, you can wrap your resistance band around it and step your foot into it to assist you as you pull. Buy it here.
Barbell: You don’t need to go Olympic size right off the bat, but check out the at-home version. With a barbell, you can perform cleans, deadlifts, push presses and more. It’s a refreshing take from dumbbells. You can front and back squat more efficiently with it. Find a model that offers the weights with it. Get more information here.
Medicine Ball: Used for resistance training as well as to improve coordination, balance and power, a med ball is the equipment you’ll love to hate. They come in different weights and models, some with handles (but you can’t throw those). Stick with something simple and anil those woodchoppers, wall balls, ball slams and more. Get it here.
TRX Straps: There is so much you can do with a pair of these! Simple and steady strength training or innovative cardio. You need a solid anchor from which to hand these. Pick up a pair with adjustable straps so you can switch from rows to mountain climbers with ease. They can get pricey, but start with a lower end model first. Learn more here.
Top Tier Training
Match your experience with these top of the line pieces to complete your at-home gym. You’ll probably need to put them on a wishlist, though, because they’re the definition of investments.
Rowing Machine: If you can’t get a run in or you really want to avoid the treadmill, try the rowing machine. If you haven’t tried it before, run into a local gym and check it out. This isn’t something you’ll buy on a whim. The rowing machine is very effective in cardio training and conditioning as well as working the core and upper back muscles. You can track your calories burned, distance, watts and change the resistance. Not sure if this is for you? Click here to read more about the rowing machine.
Pilates Reformer: This is getting serious. It is highly recommended that you train in Pilates for some time, either taking classes yourself or becoming certified. This machine is limitless in what it can do for you. Obviously, there is strength and resistance training. You can also squeeze plyometric work out of it and some really intense stretching. Having one of these at home is a dream for many, but it’s so effective and versatile, you won’t need anything other than a squishy ball. These champs will cost you a few thousand.