In today's circumstances, home gyms are hot commodities! They have allowed people to continue fitness routines and programs despite gym closures or limited capacity. While equipment can be hard to come by these days, here is a list of some “must-haves” and a “wish list.” Keep in mind, you don’t need much to get fit! There is lots of opportunity with the right program, regardless of budget and the amount of equipment you can acquire.
Anyone can get outside with a pair of running shoes and get in a jog, hill sprints or long run. If we want to maintain or gain strength, we need to have some form of weight. Assuming you are going to invest in a minimal amount of gear, you may be limited to one, maybe two sets of dumbbells.
If you are only getting one pair, don’t be fooled into getting the heavy ones. Set the ego aside, but don’t sandbag it either. A good goal would be to find a set of dumbbells with a weight that allows you to do the following work:
-15-20 reps of a deadlift with BOTH dumbbells
-12-15 reps of a squat with BOTH dumbbells on your shoulders
-8-12 reps of a push press with BOTH dumbbells on your shoulders
These sets should not be to failure, but a bit unpleasant by the end of the suggested rep ranges. This loading should allow you to do a variety of workouts with varying rep schemes and movements. Some of you may be wondering about kettlebells. These are also a great option but they often take more skill to learn how to use and nearly anything we do with them can be accomplished with dumbbells. Dumbbells provide a lower barrier to entry in regards to technique and skill.
Rings Pull OR Up Bar:
The beauty of the rings is that they can hang from a variety of places as long as you have something secure to mount them to either inside or outside. Plus, you can easily adjust the height to make movements easier or harder. You can do upper body, lower body and midline work with minimal space and a little education on the rings. Pull-up bars are great for exactly that, pull-ups. There are a variety of options out there but I would suggest only getting one if you have a secure place to mount it. The studs in your garage wall or a basement ceiling tend to be good options.
Believe it or not, plyo boxes can get pretty spendy. If you’re looking for an easy workaround you can get handy and build one on your own. A quick google search can show you a variety of ways to build one of your choice. If you’re not a fan of getting out the tools a simple and effective option is a sprinkler box or that Yeti cooler you have sitting in the corner. As long as these are on a secure surface where they won’t slide around or have risk of tipping over you should be good to go. The sprinkler boxes come in a variety of sizes as well but they are tough to find in anything higher than about 15”. 20” is usually a good starting point for most people and allows for a variety of movements.
You can do box step-ups, box jumps, lateral hops, etc. These can be unloaded or loaded and a simple addition like this will open up a host of exercises.
These are, for the most part, incredibly inexpensive, you can take them wherever you go, and they are a great tool for some cardio work. They require motor control, balance and with different jump rope variations, it may be more entertaining than you think. You don’t simply have to skip rope. You can alternate feet like you are running in place, move in and out like a jumping jack, forward and back, practice crossovers or double unders. Get creative!
Barbell and Plates:
Now we are getting into a more serious home gym setup. This would be for those of you looking to get into more traditional lifts like power and Olympic lifting movements that require a barbell. Before you grab any old barbell, there are things to consider. Think of barbells like a set of skis or ski boots. You can buy low end, or high end. At the end of the day, anything will work but you pay for what you get and if you invest in a reasonable barbell, it will last you a lifetime. For frame of reference, you can get a great, all-around barbell for roughly $250-300. I would suggest checking out Rogue Fitness and taking a look at their Ohio Barbell or the Rogue 2.0 bar.
Depending on what kind of lifting you plan on doing, it may be a good idea to invest in some bumper plates as well. These allow you to drop the barbell and won’t do any damage to concrete. I still suggest something to drop the weights on like some ¾” stall mats, but with or without the mat, you would be unable to drop a bar with metal plates on it and not have some pretty poor consequences to follow. The Rogue HG bumper plates are a great investment and you have a few different choices when it comes to how much weight you would like to have for your workouts.
If you’re going to have a barbell and plates, you will want a rack. I would suggest either a power rack that you can mount to the ground or one of the folding options that Rogue offers. You will need some space for these but in the grand scheme of things, they take up a very small footprint. The other bonus is that they will have a pull-up bar at the top of them!
There are some stand-alone options that provide you the opportunity to squat or bench press but you are more limited on what you can do with them. The positive side with either option is you can often set them up to have some form of plate storage on the side of the rack to help keep things organized.
Rower or Bike:
For those of us that are less inclined to get outside for our runs in the winter, a rower or bike is a great investment. Some of you may already have a trainer for your mountain or road bike which would be a great tool to use as well. If not, consider a rower. These are incredibly simple to maintain, are easy to get parts for if needed, last a lifetime and are easy to store when you prop them up. Concept 2 makes a few different models. I would suggest model D with a PM5 monitor. If you have used an erg before, you know how far in the pain cave you can go, if you really want to!
Having some kind of flooring is a definite bonus. Once you acquire even a small amount of gear, I would suggest looking into ¾” stall mats. You can find these at your local tractor supply (although they have been a hot commodity recently and are difficult to come by), or even a local feed supply shop. It’s basically a horse stall mat that is solid rubber but it gives you both a firm surface to lift on, and if you accidentally drop something, you will have a better chance of saving the surface you are standing on.
Another option if you’re looking for something that has some more “give” is a Dollamur Mat. These are easy to roll up and store off to the side when not in use. They can be great for lunges to save your knees or anything that has you laying on the floor from sit-ups, planks or even yoga.
Don’t feel like you need to acquire all the equipment at once, especially in a time like this when fitness equipment is priced at a premium. Piece together your home gym one thing at a time, if needed. Check out KSL, your local Craigslist or keep an eye out for gyms that may be selling off some of their old equipment. Some of the new equipment these days may be a better investment, depending on what you are purchasing. I’m a huge fan of Rogue Fitness due to their customer service, high-quality equipment and warranties. Also, everything is made in the U.S.A.
Ultimately, start with what you can afford and space you have for it. The top four picks of dumbbells, rings, box and a jump rope can get you a long way. Now you have no excuse not to get in your workout with your new home set up!