With gym and fitness studio closures during to the pandemic, our living rooms, bedrooms, offices, and even terraces turned into our main place to work out. Many have returned to the gym, but many others enjoy having an at-home gym. Figuring out exactly what to put into your home gym that will be the most useful, cost-effective, and take up as little space as possible, can be a daunting task. There is no shortage of varying equipment on offer. Keeping a few key points in mind will help you to narrow down your list and allow you to create a balanced, at-home fitness program. Keep reading, I’ll help you compile a good one.
When exercising at home, our aim is to create a balanced fitness routine. The WHO recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigourous physical activity per week and the US & UK suggest a breakdown of 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
I like to break it down into the following sessions:
● 1-3, 30-60 minutes strength training sessions
● 1-3, 30 minutes dedicated core and stability work
● 1-3, 15-20 minute power cardio/interval sessions
● 1-2, 20-45 minutes steady-state cardio sessions, plus active recovery (yoga, Pliâtes, walking, leisurely swimming)
Of course, we can combine some of these elements into one session to make a workout more effective and efficient. For example, you can practice a strength session, adding in your core work at the end. Or add in a short power/cardio/HIIT routine as a finisher to a lighter strength or body weight session or even a steady-state cardio session.
WHERE TO START:
Whether you are a beginner or advanced exerciser, the potential list of exercise equipment can be endless. To help narrow down the choices, I’ve used the following as my criteria to create my list of most recommended equipment.
The equipment has to be useful for a variety of different exercises
It has to be cost effective and durable – a more expensive item that can be used in multiple ways ends up being less expensive than a mid-range purchase that hardly gets used
Takes up minimum space
Above all, don’t be afraid to try something new! Keep an open mind towards new exercises and routines! Gett out of your comfort zone and discover new things that you may actually fall in love with!
Let’s start with some beginner and intermediate level equipment:
Beginner/Intermediate exercise level equipment:
Resistance Bands: Mini Loop bands and a light Long loop band, tubing with handles
Timer app (Seconds)
In addition to the list above for more advanced exercisers:
TRX or suspension trainer
Doorway chin up or pull-up bar
Bosu Stability Trainer
Below I explain in further detail each piece of equipment. The equipment is listed in order, starting with the highest recommended exercise tools, according to our criteria from above:
Recovery & Mobility: As you’ve heard me mention many times in our training sessions, mobility is the key to maintaining healthy joints, especially as we age. Myofascial or soft tissue release techniques can help ease off the tension of tight, sore muscles. Keeping tissues soft and supple means that our joints can work properly and also help us avoid injury. You can practice self-myofascial massage in addition to the mobility routine. Recovery is an important part of any exercise routine.
Mobility Ball: A mobility ball is a tool dedicated to self-myofascial (soft tissue) massage. It can help break up tight connective tissue surrounding your muscles. They can be used a variety of different muscles: bottom of the feet, shoulder and back muscles, calves, glutes, sides of the shoulders and pecks, quadriceps, and hamstrings. You can buy mobility balls in different densities and even make use of some you may have at home such as lacrosse ball, tennis or golf ball, all depending on which body parts you want to target.
Foam Roller: This is another tool to ease sore muscles and help reduce inflammation. Foam rolling can ease off tension and help you relax, as well as increase your range of motion. There are different models available. I suggest starting out with a smooth roller. As you become more comfortable with foam rolling and depending on your exercise frequency and intensity, you can move up to a textured one. Foam rollers are good for hitting larger muscles and using a less targeted approach than a mobility ball. Ideally, you will use both for recovery.
Dowel Rod: This can be a simple and inexpensive wooden broom or mop handle that you can find at any hardware store. This helps keep the shoulders supple and flexible and improves posture by opening up tight chest muscles.
Resistance bands: They are light, easy to store and travel with. They add a low-impact alternative to strength training and also provide more exercise variety when you have little other equipment on hand. There are two sets that I highly recommend and that we use in our online sessions: mini loop bands and long loop bands. You can also find exercise cords or bands with handles. These are handy, easy to store and can provide you with a wide range of different exercises.
Swiss ball: A Swiss ball can really elevate your core training to a new level. They can be deflated and easily stored when not in use. They can also be used for a variety of flexibility and mobility exercises, equally important to a balanced fitness program.
Dumbbells: Dumbbells can be a great way to add variety to an exercise program while getting a full body workout. They are not just for bodybuilders! They can be an integral part to getting stronger and gaining muscle; an important part of losing and maintaining weight loss. They can be great for targeting the arms, back, core, and leg strength.
Kettlebells: One of my personal favorites, training with kettlebells offers the perfect balance of strength and cardio, while taking up little space. It is an all-in-one compact gym, perfect for those who are short on storage space. The hardstyle swing is one of the best conditioning exercises you can do. Swings deliver quick results in both fat loss and strength gains. You need very few kettlebells (even one will do if it is the right weight for you) and very little space to practice in. In addition to swings, kettlebells can be substituted for dumbbells in a variety of strength training exercises such as the overhead press, rows, squats, deadlifts, loaded carries, thrusters, and Turkish get-ups. They can also be used to increase flexibility and mobility. Russian Hardstyle kettlebell skills and techniques take a bit of time to learn. However, once you develop a good technique, you can maintain and improve your fitness level for years to come with this one simple tool. I suggest always learning kettlebell techniques from a qualified instructor, like me! Contact me for a demo session!
Step: This can be a simple household step or a designated fitness step. This allows you to perform step-ups, an exercise with many benefits including: improving balance and symmetry, increasing your unilateral (single-sided) leg strength, less strain on the lower back compared to other leg exercises, builds not only strong legs and glutes, but a strong core, as well. It can also be incorporated into cardio work. It is very important to choose a stool that is steady and sturdy, with no risk of tipping over. Choose a height that will challenge you.
Skipping Rope: Skipping ropes have long-time been a favorite conditioning tool. Skipping or jumping rope offers a variety of benefits such as increased cardio training and heart health with a big calorie burn, increased bone density through impact training, increased coordination and lower risk of injury. They are light and easy to store; you don’t need a large space for training. For an increased challenge, choose a skipping rope with weighted handles. Jumping motion may not be an ideal exercise for anyone with known pelvic floor issues, especially women.
Medicine Ball: This is a weighted ball that is small enough to hold in your hands while you exercise and challenge your muscles like dumbbells. With its inclusion with certain exercises, you can increase your explosive strength, challenge your core, improve your balance and shape adds an extra element of variety.
TRX/Suspension trainer: This military training tool will allow you to train the entire body. It provides an effective weight resistance workout, allowing you to build your strength, as well as get your heart rate up. It is especially beneficial in building up strong core muscles. It takes up little space and is very easy to travel with. There are some specific training techniques involved; working with a coach to get started is recommended.
Bosu Stability Trainer: Bosu stands for BOth Sides Utilized. It looks like a Swiss ball cut in half and attached to a large round disk. You can use both the flat or inflated surface for a variety of exercise to challenge your whole body. The Bosu ball can improve balance, increase workout intensity and and improve flexibility. I mainly reserve it’s use to working the core as the unstable surfaces force the core muscles to work constantly to stabilize your body position. I DO NOT recommend using this during strength training sessions with free weight, as many sources on the internet instruct. This can lead to an unnecessary risk of injury. Each tool has its purpose.
Sand Bags: Sandbags can be a great overall strength tool. Most look like a small duffle bag filled with sand. Working with a sandbag can be a challenge because of the constantly shifting center of mass. Training with unstable objects can produce a different set of strength and skills sets compared to other stability training methods.
If you have any questions on any of these exercise tools, please feel free to contact me for a chat! I can also help you decide which weight will be right for you.
Now it's time to try it out for yourself! Here is a quick 30-min at-home training session for you!
Go get your strong on!