You want to workout, but don't want to waste your precious time trekking to the gym every day. So, you've decided to get some equipment at home and are going to get your workout on there. While I fully support equipment-free workouts, I also know that the benefits of strength training are incomparable when it comes to truly changing your body's composition. Effective strength training requires extra load (weight) over time, so eventually, investing in some equipment for your home gym is probably a good idea. But, hear me out, you don't need all of this at once, and you can absolutely start with nothing. Some of the most effective workouts are bodyweight only, so start where your current fitness level and budget will allow. But, if you want to start investing in some equipment, here are my recommendations.
Dumbbells are super versatile, require you to engage your core for balance and are relatively low cost compared to other workout equipment. You can start out with just a few sets, and add on as you get stronger. For most women I recommend starting with a set of 8lb dumbbells, and moving up from there. You can go as low as 5's if you'd like, and as high as your strength takes you. I've got 10's, 15's, and 20's right now, and plan on adding 25's soon. The great thing about dumbbells is it really doesn't matter what type you buy, and you can get busy with just one set. Just be sure to keep working your way up towards higher weights as you find yourself getting stronger. You can usually buy a set for about $25-$30. I like the hexagon shaped dumbbells over the round ones because they can be used for more exercises!
Kettlebells are also versatile and low cost. One or two Kettlebells can give you hundreds of exercise options. You can find these at Target, Dicks, or any other sporting goods store. For a Kettlebell, I recommend going a bit heavier than your dumbbells. I like to use these for a lot of double arm/double leg moves, so can typically hold a bit more than I can when using dumbbells. Right now I've got a 25, and I plan on adding a 30 and 35 soon!
I love these bands because they can make anything just a bit more challenging. Seriously, hip thrusters, squats and just plain ole' walking are killer with these bad boys. These usually come in sets, and are not too expensive. These will take simple bodyweight moves up a notch, without adding in super heavy weights. You can grab a set for $10 here!
A Chin-up Bar
An old trainer, at one of my favorite gyms, used to always say, "the best ab exercises are sprints and chin-ups and pull-ups". Back then I didn't totally get it, but now I've got to say, I couldn't agree more. Chin-ups and pull-ups are intimidating, but addictive. Chin-up bars are usually in the $20-50 range and will not only help you sculpt your upper body, but will help you strengthen your core. This is one piece of equipment I recommend everyone buy and start working with. You can start from a chair or stool, or use resistance bands to help you build up strength until you're ready to pump out those chin-ups on your own. Grab one here.
I love a balance ball shoulder press, or inverted push-up. There is nothing that will train your core quite like a balance ball workout. You can use these guys the same way you would use a bench. The benefit here is that with a bench, your core is allowed to rest, while you are focusing on your arms, legs, glutes or back. On a ball, you are engaging your core, while targeting those other areas. You are improving your balance and teaching your core to stabilize the rest of your body, which is ultimately its most important job. Plus, a balance ball is super cheap. You can usually find one for less than $20!
There is nothing like ending a killer strength training workout with a set of box jumps or step ups. For most, a stair will do for a while, so don't rush to the store to buy one of these just yet. However, if you are ready to get a bit more explosive, do some more intense interval training or just want to up your metabolic conditioning game, invest in (or build) yourself a series of boxes. Amazon has a great set of 3 here for $120. You can buy one for about $50!
I'll be honest in saying that I don't love jump ropes. In fact, I am terrible with them. I get tripped up easily and would much rather just go outside and run some sprints. However, for many of you, a jumprope interval at the end of a strength training workout is the perfect way to polish things off. If you loved jumping rope as a kid, then you are in luck! Jumping rope is a fantastic way to build cardiovascular strength and get a great calf/booty/arm workout, while "playing" like you used to as a kid. Plus, I love a jumprope for your home gym, because they are cheap and you can take them anywhere; hello travel workout! Here's a great one for only $10!
Here are a few other fun items for your home gym if you've got room in the budget:
Medicine Balls (weighted ball for tosses)
Smaller Resistance Ball (use for squats, and core work on the floor)
Foam Roller (for getting those knots out after a workout)
You don't have to break the bank to build a great home gym. Start small, buy one or two items at a time, and make good use of those before you go all in. As you get stronger, and more committed to your workouts, pick up pieces here and there. I always recommend sticking to the basics, and buying items that can be used in a variety of ways. This stuff doesn't have to take over your time, and buying workout equipment shouldn't take over your budget or lead you into debt. But, if you want to get a great workout without leaving the comfort of home, I recommend slowly building up your home gym, so that it has all that you need to get strong, fit and full of energy!
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