When you’ve finally made the decision of setting up your own home gym, there’s no going back. I know that was the case for me. I started with a few small things actually.
I was doing a bit of running then and after doing it 5 to 6 times a week, my body just got so used to it that I felt like I should change things up a bit. That’s what drove me to buy my first ever pair of dumbbells.
10-pound dumbbells weren’t much, but it got me started. I researched for all the dumbbell exercises I could do to hit as many muscles as I could, and though it lasted me a few months, it just wasn’t enough. So I bought a dumbbell set, the kind where you can interchange the plates to lift heavier.
Then, like an addiction— the good kind, that is— I started buying other equipment one by one. I bought a kettlebell, a pull-up bar, and a plyo-box. Without realizing it, I already had set up a small home gym. The turning point for me was when my functional training cage came. There was no going back.
I had the convenience of not leaving my home, saving gas and money, and having no excuse to not work out. It’s one of my most worthwhile investments as it is also like investing in your health and you don’t need huge floor space in your home for it.
But first things first: what are the home gym essentials to optimize home workouts? I hope the list I came up with below will help get you started. Some are experience from my personal use and some are popular choices from
Here Are The MOST Popular Home Gym Essentials!
Of course, I have to start this list off with an item I actually started with which are dumbbells. Dumbbells offer a lot of versatility in terms of the variety of movements and exercises that you can do on them. Unlike barbells and other fixed gym equipment, dumbbells can be held by both hands separately which allow multiple motions targeting specific muscles.
These are best used for developing strength or cutting your muscles lean. As you are completely focused on a single arm or leg at a time, dumbbells will help you in your strength to gain your muscle goals.
If you’re good with up to 8lbs maximum weight for your dumbbells, and this will be the first time ever that you’re using them, I would recommend the AmazonBasics Neoprene Dumbbells. It comes with a rack that only occupies a very small floor space.
If that weight’s a bit short for you, then I would recommend the Merax Deluxe Adjustable Dial Dumbbell with Weight Plate at 71.5 lbs, totaling 143 lbs for 2 dumbbells. These have docks so they just don’t look like you’ve left them on the floor.
One of my personal favorites in my home gym is the kettlebell. I know it sounds too simplistic, but kettlebells are essential if you want to develop all the main aspects of fitness: flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance. It’s the epitome of small but terrible as it can give total body conditioning using just one small piece of equipment.
Another reason to love kettlebells is that it can improve your core strength through ballistic training. This kind of training allows the explosive exertion of your power which results in the stimulation of abdominal muscles.
I also like that it can help improve my coordination. As kettlebell exercises are very dynamic: you can move it over your head, your sides, or between your legs, you are trained to improve your focus, balance, and can also be a great cardio alternative all the while developing your overall athleticism.
If you’re considering a kettlebell to be included in your home gym, I recommend the Bionic Body Soft Kettlebell with Handle. This kind is great if you’re just starting out as it will help eliminate risks of harming yourself or breaking your floor if it drops as it is covered with neoprene and filled with iron sand.
An effective way to target multiple muscle groups with minimal equipment and movement required is to do pull-ups. Generally, pull-ups target your back and biceps area, but with a varied range of positions using the pull-up bar, you can target so much more.
For instance, a wider grip on your bar will develop the middle part of your back muscles more. This position targets your traps and inner lats. On the other hand, a closer grip pull-up engages your outer lats and biceps. Should you want to engage your core, keep your legs extended, and feel your midsection burning.
I also think that it develops your endurance. I’ve started by doing one smooth pull-up a day and that was all I could do. Eventually, I could do 10 easily and more as I regularly used my pull up bar at home. Setting up was also a breeze: I only needed a door frame and some drills.
I’m using the AmazeFan Pull Up Bar for Doorway. After locking it on my home gym door frame, my commitment was the only thing I needed.
A plyo-box is a tool for plyometric exercises which are basically jump training exercises. Plyometrics are a very powerful form of aerobic exercise as it requires you to exert maximum effort in short intervals. It involves explosive exercises that will improve your speed, strength, and endurance.
The jump box also helps with your cardio conditioning, it actually requires more amounts of oxygen versus other exercises like squats and deadlifts. I was easily able to incorporate jump training into my workout as it requires minimum floor space and a box.
Some people choose to DIY their jump boxes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Home gym equipment should be safe and follow a certain standard. While most DIY’s are cheaper, they don’t mean safer. Also, as you progress with your jump training, you’d need to add more height as you build more power in the current height you’re working on.
For this, I’d recommend an adjustable plyo-box like the Rep Fully Assembled Adjustable Height Plyo Box. It’s adjustable from 16-20-24 inches high.
Suspension Training Gear
There’s a reason why almost all home gyms in America are equipped with a suspension training system: it’s affordable, versatile, and low impact. All you need is some sort of anchor: a doorknob, door, or anything stable that you can secure your bands in and you’re set.
Suspension trainers provide a different approach to bodyweight training. As you are in a fight against gravity, a suspension system will ensure that your core is always engaged. From chest presses to rows and squats, developing your core strength is one of the major benefits of suspension training.
Another notable feature of suspension training is how it develops your muscle endurance. With muscle endurance, you are able to exert consistent effort in longer periods. I used suspension training when I was building strength and endurance for my first half ironman marathon. And it helped me a lot.
While TRX is synonymous with suspension training, there are other brands you can also try.
For instance, the INTENT SPORTS Bodyweight Max Trainer Fitness Resistance Kit is also a great choice for an all-in-one suspension kit. Or the GoFit Gravity Straps – Resistance Training Kit which comes in nice neon green.
If your goals have shifted from cardiovascular conditioning and muscle endurance training to weightlifting, then you have to get a Power Rack in your home gym. No need to worry as this doesn’t occupy too much space at all. You’ll still have plenty of room for all the other gym toys.
Power racks enable weightlifters to safely workout without the risk of falling weights and other accidents. You’ll also be able to carry more weight than you usually do when you’re using a full-range power rack. Generally, power racks can offer a variety of exercises from pull-ups to lateral pull downs, but it all depends on the rack you’re buying.
For example, the Impex Marcy Pro Full Cage and Weight Bench Personal Home Gym Total Body Workout System has a dip bar, barbell station, as well as a pull-up bar. On the other hand, CAP Barbell Orange Cap Exercise Power Rack caters to basic demands only such as a pullup bar and weight storage. For both power racks, you need to buy your own equipment.
Indoor Cycling or Stationary Bike
A stationary bike is one of the most effective ways to burn calories, lose unwanted fat and at the same time train your heart, muscles, and lungs to be stronger. Stationary biking is a low impact activity that doesn’t put any strain on your knees and other joints.
More than being a great cardiovascular workout, it can also strengthen your lower body muscles. Pedaling targets your quads, calves, and hamstrings. If you’re up for more intense cycles, it can also work your core, back muscles, and gluteal muscles. Biking for longer hours will inevitably strengthen your upper muscles from your shoulders to your biceps and triceps as you hold on to the handlebars longer.
One tip I can give for stationary biking is it is a great tool for interval training. This isn’t something new as there are cycling studios across the country which offer stationary biking experience through interval training. But as you are building your home gym, you can definitely do intervals at home: just alternate going fast and slow at high and low intensities for certain amounts of time.
As someone who has trained long on different road situations, I can say that indoor biking is one of the safest routes to go. The key though for both outdoor and indoor cycling is the right fit of the bike to the user. With this, I recommend the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike.
This bike enables you to custom-fit it into the right proportion for your body. Most biking injuries are caused by high or low saddles and handlebars. Having it adjusted for your own convenience will allow you smooth indoor cycling for a long time.
In my theory, there are two types of home gym users: one who prefers a stationary bike and one who prefers a treadmill. There is no right kind of cardio equipment and both reap great cardiovascular benefits.
Some say that treadmills can burn more calories than biking and some claim the vice versa, whatever the case may be, a treadmill will help you burn about 200 calories at 10 km/h just for 20 minutes of using it. If you apply HIIT on your treadmill using different inclines and speeds, you are bound to burn more calories and lose more weight in a shorter amount of time. Some treadmills even have preset routines uploaded in their systems and you just have to choose.
Additionally, having a treadmill at home allows you the benefit of improving your heart health and reducing your cholesterol. They’re convenient, effective, and worth the investment. And unlike cycling equipment, most treadmills are foldable, occupying only a tiny space in your home gym.
Take the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7515 Smart Treadmill which is nothing short of a full-blown commercial treadmill like what you see at your local gyms. It folds into more than half of its floor space and gives a fantastic performance
While I am no believer of spot training– the myth that you can work or reduce a single part of your body without affecting other parts– I think that an ab wheel is also an essential home gym equipment for two reasons: core training and upper body strength training.
Make no mistake, the ab wheel looks like a simple rollout gym tool, but it is one of the most difficult things to do especially if you have a weaker core. The core comprises your stomach, back, and some gluteal muscles. If you can’t hold a plank even just for a few seconds, then your core needs some working on, and working it on the ab wheel may be very difficult but very effective as well.
Some even consider rolling out on an ab wheel a bit dangerous as it can pose some strain on your lower back and cause injury if your core cannot hold the movement.
I would recommend training a few weeks on planks and pushups first before moving on to the ab wheeler just to get your core established a bit.
Both for beginners and pro fitness enthusiasts, I would recommend the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro.
Weighted or Speed Ropes
You will often see a jump rope in boxing gyms and for good reason. Jump roping is an efficient aerobic exercise that can be a supplement to any kind of program be it weight loss, strength, endurance, or performance training. It’s very easy to do but reaps great results in a short amount of time.
Jump rope delivers one of the highest calorie-burning benefits compared to other aerobic exercises. A research conducted by Science Daily shows that about 1300 calories can be burned after an hour of vigorous skipping. That surpasses swimming by 500 calories, jogging by about 400 and cycling by 300. It’s that effective.
You can actually purchase two kinds for your home gym: weighted jump ropes or speed ropes. If you’re quite new to jump roping, I would recommend using a speed rope first, just to get you learning the basics. Don’t get me wrong though, speed ropes are also used by pros and athletes for footwork, coordination, and speed training. For your first speed rope, you can try out this one by WOD Nation.
Once you’ve progressed and you get to learn the tricks like double unders or scissors, then you can move on to weighted jump ropes. The added weight will surely allow more calories to be burned as you go through an hour of jumping. Not only that, but you’ll also surely build your strength. For this, you can try the Weighted Jump Rope by Pulse.
If you’re looking to combine cardio and strength training, and you want more versatility and impact, then the good old’ sandbag is just right up your alley. I would also consider this the gym equipment of those who are a bit lazy to set up anything, you can already incorporate it in your workout routine. It’s that simple.
Sandbags are considered functional training equipment. You can lift it, use it with your squats, lunges, or presses. I personally like doing a few suicides with this in my garage. Five rounds with this and I’ll be sweating all over the place.
These are also good for your stability. Training or working out with an unstable weight will work on your body control. As you continuously try to shift and re-center the weight of the mass, you’ll find yourself continuously adjusting and engaging different parts of your body. Sandbags are a pain to train with, some even claim that people who lift heavier using barbells, can only lift 50% of it with a sandbag.
But the right pain in the home gym constitutes progress. If you’re interested in having a sandbag in your home, I would recommend the SKLZ Super Sandbag Heavy Duty Training Weight Bag. It comes with sandbag pouches that can increase the weight of your bag to up to 40 lbs.
Regardless of the kind of exercise, you’ll be sure that a weighted vest can turn it into a full-body workout. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, a weighted vest is literally a vest strapped on your upper body which weighs at about 10 lbs to 40 lbs. Basically, it makes any exercise harder than it should be.
Weighted vests offer a lot of resistance and you have to pull on almost all of your muscles groups to execute anything. I can say that this is one equipment I can’t live without as it adds intensity to any workout I do: on the treadmill, squats, jump roping, pull-ups… name it! It’s that versatile. Imagine doing burpees wearing one of these.
Another reason why I like it so much is for days when I need to rush and can’t spend an hour in my home gym, I can strap my weighted vest on and do a 15-minute exercise and still sweat the same amount. One of my favorites is the weighted vest from RunFast which is the Max Pro.
While I consider this an essential for any home gym, weighted vests are not for everyone. You need to assess first whether or not you can execute your routines properly even without weighted vests. If that alone poses a problem, then wearing one would be dangerous for you as it may lead to various joint injuries.
More than the additional aesthetics it offers, gym tiles will provide a layer of protection to your actual floors from heavy equipment. With the type of equipment, you’ll be using at home like barbells, ab wheels, and sandbags, you’ll be sure those will leave hard-to-ignore scratches, perhaps even dents, on your floor. The right gym flooring will help keep these at bay.
Other than that, gym floors also reduce noise when working out. I can imagine some of you have youngsters at home sleeping at random hours of the day. Floorings like the rubber ones are best for noise absorption.
It will also ensure your safety as gym floorings are designed to be slip-resistant. The layer of the cushion will be very kind to your joints, especially your knees, as you perform your workout. I’m especially thankful for my gym flooring as I do a lot of weighted high knees and jumping with my plyo-box so I’m feeling reassured when I execute those movements.
There are three kinds that you will commonly find being used in gyms: gym floor puzzle mats, rubber gym flooring, and carpet gym floorings. Each serves a different purpose and addresses a different need.
Puzzle mats are intended for lighter workout routines. Think bodyweight exercises, yoga or pilates, light cardio, and light equipment lifting. It’s very lightweight, flexible, and easy to maintain as it is waterproof. You can buy one like the ProsourceFit Puzzle Exercise Mat.
Rubber floorings are what you’ll find in my own home gym. I do a lot of strength training and lifting so I mostly have heavy equipment at home. These are sturdy, resilient, and great for any kind of workout be it HIIT, heavy cardio, or plyometrics. I personally use Rubber-Cal Shark Tooth Heavy Duty Mat. I find these perfect for my workout routine.
Lastly is the carpet gym flooring. This adds a layer of style and comfort in your workout space. It can be used for any type of workout and it will make your home gym feel like it’s truly part of your home. I would recommend this indoor and outdoor carpet by House, Home, and More.
There’s something about seeing yourself in the mirror execute a move that gives you an extra boost of confidence or motivation. It’s either you like what you see or not— either way, it gives that extra needed boost. That’s why you see a lot of your commercial gyms covered in mirrors.
But more than being cheaper aesthetics, mirrors will actually help you perfect or improve your technique. When you work out in front of a mirror, you actually see what you’re doing wrong or right. This helps especially when you’re alone in your home gym.
Wrong positioning and form are the main culprits of injury and ineffective exercise. Mirrors will help you execute your movements at the correct angles and positions. Doing so will prevent you from acquiring any injury and will help you get the best out of each move.
I would recommend having a mirror in your home gym, not necessarily covering all four walls, but a mirror-like the TroySys 48″x72″ MiraSafe Single Gym Mirror Kit will do.
Gym Wall Decals
“Your only limit is you”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, and “The body achieves what the mind believes.” These are some of the most used motivational wall decals in gyms. Not only do wall decals like these add a flair of style to the barren-looking setup of a home gym, but this will also serve as a reminder when you’re about to reach your limit.
Your decals will be a reflection of your personality and what motivates you. Some like it simple such as: “No excuses” or “Hustle for that muscle”. Others like it deep: “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow” or something like that.
Even others are more visual and like to see a photo such as this. Either way, you will surely be reminded of why you’re doing what you’re doing when you’re surrounded by these motivational decals. You can try Wallency Beast Mode Motivational Quote Gym Wall Decal.
Sound System For Your Home Gym
There’s no doubt that music can positively impact our overall mood, performance, and well-being. This is backed by science. And it’s not just to alleviate your boredom.
Music that is synchronized with your own workout will help you last longer and come out stronger. In fact, studies show that to perform your best in cycling, the tempo of your music should be at 125 to 140 beats per minute while on the treadmill it should be 123 to 131 beats per minute.
Researchers have shown that music can do two things: delay your fatigue or increase your capacity in working out. This is why when you listen to music as you workout you feel like you have more endurance, power, and productivity. These facts are undeniable.
I would recommend and persuade you to get the sound system for your home gym. It doesn’t have to be a full setup. A Bluetooth speaker with ample volume and bass strength will do. These Altec Lansing Bluetooth speakers will last you 24 hours– that is if you can last that long in the gym.
Don’t feel obliged to get everything at once, starting your home gym at the beginning can be overwhelming. I’d recommend to focus on what will give you the best compound workouts such as squats, deadlifts and benchpress if you’re after strength while using a power rack. If you’re after all-round fitness then making use of kettlebells in your routine and creating a HIIT workout based around it together with some cardiovascular training will do the trick, surely!
I am more than sure that with a little bit of research and the help of online guides for workouts, that you will be able to perform a lot of exercises and routines with the equipment I listed down for your home gym. You don’t need to buy all these sixteen at once, I didn’t set up my home gym in one day.
I started with small items, enough that I was within my budget to sustain my workout needs. I also checked a lot of local ads for deals that I can get my hands on. There is a lot of second-hand gym equipment that is still very good quality. You also have to consider how committed you are to working out, setting up a gym than not using it will be a total waste of time, effort, and money.
Lastly, you don’t have to buy the same exact things as I listed down here. It’s all a matter of preference and what kind of routine you’re planning to do. The important thing you have to remember is that a home gym is not only an investment for your house but an investment for your fitness as well.
I hope to hear from you in the comment section. Let me know which items should be added on this list that would be great for a home gym.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is through constantly challenging yourself.