Working out at home has become the norm in 2020 for obvious reasons. Amidst the COVID-19 health crisis, gyms and fitness studios were one of the first things to close in order to keep the case count low and the infection rate at a minimum. I mean think about it — can you believe in today’s terms that we used to share equipment with countless others and sweat profusely in a room with strangers and not be concerned in the slightest? Oh how times have changed, and personally I won’t be stepping foot in a gym for quite some time. If you’re thinking about creating your own exercise area in your home, these are the home gym essentials you need.
Creating a home gym is something that used to be reserved for the ultra-wealthy who had the space and cash to deck out a room in their house as their own boutique fitness studio. Whether you’ve got this space and budget or not, creating a home exercise space has become more necessary in order to stay fit and healthy amidst the pandemic. Contrary to what you may be thinking, you don’t need a bunch of fancy gym equipment or a designated home gym room to stay in shape — you only need some floor space and a corner to stash all of your exercise goodies.
In terms of creating a home gym, this is where we can get creative. I’ve compiled a list of my absolute home gym essentials that maximize the movements you can do while minimizing the floor space they take up for the most part. Whether you’ve got a room you’re looking to fill with equipment, or want a few tools you can whip out for a quick post-work flow, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 home gym essentials everyone can and should create space for to stay as healthy and fit as they can during quarantine and beyond.
1. Yoga Mat
First and foremost, a yoga mat is one of the most helpful devices you can have in your home gym setup. It opens up the door for a yoga practice which, on its own, is a great workout. It can also serve as a barrier between you and the floor during a whole host of other exercise activities including strength workouts, barre exercises, pilates, stretching and HIIT. You want something thick but not so thick that you’re wobbling and can’t feel grounded. This yoga mat from TOPLUS seems ideal, with its eco-friendly material, non-slip surface and 6mm thickness. It’s also lightweight so it’s easy to move to and from the living room or set up and roll back up in your home gym.
2. Resistance Bands
If we’re talking about maximum training with minimum space, resistance bands may take the cake. These pieces of equipment take up no space at all and can seriously help you gain muscle mass and tone your body with a few simple moves. I highly recommend having a pack of these in your home gyms for warming up your muscles before bigger workouts, or toning very specific areas. They integrate quite well into yoga and pilates workouts, and they’re great to bring with you when you’re traveling as well. This set is thin, flexible and comes in five different intensity levels so you can switch them in and out depending on what part of the body you’re working, and even layer them on top of one another for an additional effect.
3. Jump Rope
This is another skinny, flexible, portable piece of equipment that can be a great source of cardio in a small space that doesn’t have room for a treadmill or exercise bike. Take it back to the basics of recess during your childhood and grab a jump rope for getting your heart rate up between lifting sets, or warming up your body for a HIIT workout.
These jump ropes have anti-dust ballbearing systems built into them that give you a stable, durable swing. They suit a variety of heights and skill levels and are made of thickened PVC that’s anti-tangle so storing them is easy. The soft memory foam handles are nice to grip and you can adjust the length of the jump rope easily.
Kettlebells are another product I highly recommend adding to your home gym equipment arsenal. They’re great for strength building and cardio with swings and are extremely durable. When used correctly, they can tone almost your entire body and hit every muscle group with a series of movements. Add a set to your strength routine and watch your body grow stronger with every pull, swing and lift.
This set available on Amazon has three different weights to choose from and is made of durable vinyl that won’t rust. Each of them also has an ergonomic handle that make these weights easy to handle and maneuver during workouts.
5. Weighted Jump Rope
A weighted jump rope takes your standard jump rope up a notch by adding a strength component. Combine cardio, toning and strength exercises into one movement by adding a weighted jump rope to your routine. Crossrope is a high-quality, smart weighted jump rope system that gives you access to streamed workouts via a smartphone app that syncs to your jump rope. Their jump ropes are available in a variety of sizes for different users and their fast-clip connection system makes it easy to switch between lighter and heavier weights mid-workout.
6. Adjustable Dumbbells
Dumbbells are a go-to strength-building tool for me and this set of adjustable dumbbells is space-efficient and super useful for home strength workouts. You can pick your weight up to 25 lbs and the whole set takes up about the same amount of space as one dumbbell, maximizing your movement to space ratio. They have a one-handed weight change design for quick switches mid-workout, and the weights have a powder coating making them resistant to abrasions. Rather than buying a whole set of dumbbells that you have to store, buy this one set and take care of all your weight-lifting needs, at least until you progress into a heavier class.
7. Pull Up Bar
You’ve already got doors in your house, correct? Well, you might as well turn one of them into a pull-up station. Attach this pull-up bar to the door of your home gym and incorporate upper-body and core movements into your routine without needing to add any large piece of complicated equipment. This portable design fits underneath any doorway 24″ to 32″ wide and is very easy to install. It’s made of durable, strong high-grade steel that can hold up to 300 pounds. It has six different comfortable grip positions so you can use wide, narrow and neutral grips.
You can also remove the bar from the doorway and use it for push-ups, planks and ab exercises on the ground, as shown in the picture below. This bar adds another layer to what’s possible training-wise in your home and is a very economical investment for your home gym.
8. Medicine Ball
Another dynamic piece of equipment that’s very useful to have in your home gym setup is a medicine ball. They’re useful for core, upper and lower body workouts as a concentrated source of weight and resistance, and aren’t difficult to store or maintain. This one from Champion Sports has a vinyl surface that’s easy to grip and a soft shell construction that’ll keep its shape throughout your workout. The reinforced seams will ensure it stays intact during even the most rigorous of movements.
9. Cycling Bike
You want great cardio? Get a spin bike. This is one of my favorite ways to get my cardio in, and the good news is you don’t have to drop a fortune on a Peloton to get a great spin bike. This one has a 35 lb flywheel and a heavy-duty steel frame built into it so you’re supported and secure during your workout. It has a comfortable padded seat, an LCD monitor for tracking metrics and an iPad mount for streaming in exercises classes from Peloton, Apple Fitness+ or other apps. The cage pedals will keep your feet secure during your ride and there’s no need for spin shoes with this machine.
10. Rowing Machine
A rowing machine is a great piece of equipment if you’ve got a bit of extra space and are looking for must-have machines. I love rowers for their benefits for your lower body, upper body and core all at once. They take up more floor space than other options, but you maximize the space through the benefits you get strength wise and for your cardiovascular system. This one has an LCD console that displays your exercise metrics and an extra long slide rail that can accommodate a range of sizes. There are eight levels of resistance to choose from and the non-slip foot pedals will keep you snug throughout your rowing workout.
Running outside with a face mask on during the pandemic has been a popular way to stay fit for many people, but as winter sets in and that becomes less available having a treadmill is a great alternative. A treadmill is a home gym essential for its numerous health benefits and versatility — you can walk, hike, run and jog on it and with NordicTrack‘s interactive exercise classes running for a workout just got a lot more fun. Their Commercial X22i treadmill comes with an interactive HD touchscreen that can stream in their studio-quality workouts in real-time and guide you through a fun routine right at home. They have an expansive workout library filled with classes of all types that you get with your treadmill so you can hop off after your run and lift weights, do a yoga flow or sculpt any part of your body. This machine takes up some space and budget dollars, but it’s a worthwhile investment in the long run for a sustainable home gym you’ll actually want to use.
12. Foam Roller
This is not a piece of exercise equipment but rather an essential tool for recovery we should all be using post-workout. Foam rollers are great for stretching, lengthening and working muscle tissue to increase blood flow and improve resiliency. This TriggerPoint roller is made to take care of your body using high-quality materials that won’t break down or lose shape over time. It has high & firm points that mimic massage therapists’ fingers, tubular portions like fingers and flat portions designed to mimic the palm of a hand so you get a full sports massage experience. This GRID pattern channels blood and oxygen towards certain parts of your body as you roll, and the hollow core provides additional durability.
13. Massage Gun
Recovery through massage becomes that much more available when you’ve got a massage gun at your disposal. If you frequently get knots, sore spots or spasms and want a quick way to work them out — grab yourself a handheld massage gun like this one from opove. It’s a deep tissue massager with a quick rechargeable battery that lasts for up to three hours on a single charge. It has Unique Quiet Glide technology built in with a 24V brushless motor that’s powerful against soreness without sounding like a chainsaw is being used in your apartment. This gun also only weighs 2.5 lbs and comes with its own carrying case so transport with it is easy.
No matter what type of strength training you’re doing chalk is very helpful for reducing moisture on your palms and getting a really good grip. This is especially true with heavy weightlifting, where a solid grip can both help your performance and keep you safe. This chalk ball is available on Amazon and easy to refill with fine powder white gym chalk. It’s non-toxic, pigment-free and comes in a resealable zip top bag for storage that’s as easy and clean as possible.
15. Protective Flooring Mats
This doesn’t apply as much to those who want to whip out their yoga mat and a few dumbbells after work and get a good pump on, but if you’re looking to build a home gym you’ll need protection for your floors. Horse stall mats or thicker mats like these EPDM ones are better than rubber or foam support-wise, but any type of barrier will do. These mats are made from heavy-duty tire crumb and are anti-slip and anti-fatigue to give you a safe and comfortable workout environment.
16. Protein Powder
This one would be applicable for exercise outside of the home as well, but now that your local protein shake spot may have reduced hours it’s helpful to have protein powder at the ready at home. As with anything supplement, vitamin or nutrient-related you should check the ingredients and quality before consuming it. This one from the Levels Nutrition Store is made with 100% grass fed whey and contains no GMOs. Each scoop contains 24 grams of protein and 5.4 grams of BCAA‘s, a crucial ingredient post-workout recovery.
Again, this is a product you can use in a home gym or for your activity routine in general, but it’s a super useful tool for any and all athletic situations. The Fitbit Charge 4 tracks Active Zone Minutes, the time spent at an optimal heart rate for athletic exercise, and celebrates when you get these minutes outside of proper exercise. The multi-day battery lasts up to seven days and can track over 20 different types of workouts in real time.