11 Kinds of Exercise Equipment to Buy for At-Home Workouts
Fitness experts reveal the must-have exercise equipment to maximize your at-home workouts, from dumbbells to an ab wheel.
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The closure of non-essential businesses, like gyms, and stay-at-home mandates during Covid-19 have kept most people indoors. For many regular gym-goers, that means taking your workouts inside the home.
Due to limitations on space and equipment, most people will focus on bodyweight exercises for at-home workouts. "Bodyweight exercise is a good option because it's free and you can do it anywhere," explains Sarah Grooms, trainer on Obé Fitness on demand (which is offering a free month with code: ATHOME), and a personal trainer in New York City. "I'm a firm believer that bodyweight exercises help build a strong foundation, and a solid core before adding any equipment."
While bodyweight workouts are great, you can also take your at-home workouts to the next level. How? "To provide variation so we don't get bored at home, and to increase intensity so we continue to see progress, equipment will greatly help level up your at-home workout," explains Liz Van Voorhis, founder and CEO of Fit Collective, trainer in New York City.
If you want to amp up your home workouts, consider some of these must-have exercise equipment options to create the ideal home gym. (Plus, check out the workout moves to do with everyday objects at home.)
$12- $55 depending on weight
A pair or two (or three, or four, depending on the weight you want and need) of dumbbells can help you increase the resistance for many bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, crunches, and more, explains says Van Voorhis. "I incorporate binto my classes and will add lighter dumbbells to up the intensity of the punching sets," she says. "Dumbbells will help you create strength more quickly and perform compound movements that work multiple parts of the body." (Also, try out these upper body exercises using dumbbells.)
$46- $70 depending on the color
While a yoga mat won't necessarily increase the intensity of any particular exercise, it's a sanitary way to put padding between you and the floor, as well as a way to keep from slipping during certain exercises. "Yoga mats offer a slight cushion when working out at home, and they're a great way to keep your downstairs neighbor from banging their broom on their ceiling if you're incorporating high-impact plyometrics training into your day," explains Grooms. "If you're doing a tabletop or side-saddle specific exercise, using a yoga mat will have your wrists, knees, and hips thanking you later."
Booty bands or mini resistance bands
$25 for pack of four different resistance levels
Slip one of these small resistance bands around your ankles or knees (depending on the exercise) and get ready to feel a big difference. "The idea behind these versatile bands is that they provide an extra external force working against the body during your movement," explains Grooms. "Whether you're using bands to activate your glutes prior to a run, or you're super-setting an upper body workout with a resistance band, you will feel every last inch of the burn in the best way." Plus, these bands travel easily, too. (To get more use of your mini resistance band, give this exercise routine a go.)
Weighted medicine ball
Small ball, big weight. Weighted medicine balls come in a variety of weights so choose one that your body can handle. "Medicine balls can add explosive power and also rotational power to exercises like linear and lateral slams, as well as reverse lunges," says Trevor Franklin, group fitness trainer and personal trainer at Performix House in New York City. If you have downstairs neighbors, we recommend avoiding the slams though.
TRX Home2 System
This piece of equipment was developed by a Navy Seal looking to work out during deployment with limited space and equipment. This makes the TRX Suspension Trainer the ideal piece of equipment to add to any home gym. "The TRX allows you to use your body weight at various angles, which increases resistance, therefore making bodyweight training even more effective" explains Van Voorhis. "It's also a great tool if you have injuries that may prevent you from doing other types of exercises, as the straps provide additional support. For example, if you can't do a push-up on the ground, you can work up to it by starting at a lesser angle on the TRX, gradually increasing and then taking it fully to the ground." The TRX can also up the intensity of exercises like ab or core-focused moves, too.
TRX is also offering its app for free over the next three months, so you'll be able to learn how to use your TRX Suspension Trainer with a huge library of exercises and customizable workout plans. Use code: YUPVKVHVRW
Upgrade from towels and consider purchasing this underrated gliding tool. "They're an inexpensive option that allows you to work on both stabilization and low-impact exercises, and they're extremely versatile during a workout," says Grooms. "My two favorite exercises to do using sliders are reverse lunges and plank mountain climbers. For the reverse lunge, place the slider under the ball of the foot that will be moving backwards. For your plank mountain climbers, put a slider under the ball of each foot." Bonus? Your core is guaranteed to get stronger with every exercise you're doing with sliders.
If you have a door frame and you're able to do pull-ups, or you want to work on your pull-ups, consider investing in an at-home pull-up bar. "Aside from being able to work on pull-ups, which are arguably one of the most valuable back and grip strength builders, this tool also adds a whole new realm of leg raise movements that aren't as easy to do with just the body," explains Franklin. "It requires little space and is usually a small upfront financial investment." (Here's how you can learn to do a pull-up.)
Take your flow from the gym floor to your living room by purchasing a kettlebell (or two, or a set). "You get the most out of a workout doing compound exercises that allow you to work multiple body parts and muscle groups, and kettlebells allow you to do that with added resistance," explains Van Voorhis. "They're especially effective when performing certain dynamic exercises as well as flowing from one dynamic exercise to the next, which weights like dumbbells aren't designed to do." The main exercise movement is the kettlebell swing, which is generally used to flow from one exercise to the next.
BOSU Balance Trainer
Perform mountain climbers, push-ups, or if you want to really challenge yourself, try pistol squats using a BOSU Balance Trainer. This is a versatile tool shaped like half of a Swiss ball, rounded and soft on one side, and flat and hard on the other. "Whether you're doing cardio or strength exercises, you're guaranteed to get an extra core burn with a BOSU ball as it brings an added element of stability to every move," says Grooms. "It doubles the bang for your buck as you're able to utilize the tool on both the flat and round sides for different challenges."
$18- $27 depending on resistance/thickness of the band
"Personally if I had to pick only one piece of equipment to use, it would be resistance bands," says Van Voorhis. "You can use them for stretching, you can use them for strength moves, and you can vary the resistance depending on how you use the band—all with only one piece of equipment." She recommends using the bands looped once for exercises like lunges paired with bicep curls, upright rows, or delt raises; looped twice for high knees holding the band overhead; looped three times for standing squat jumps with the band above the knees, or plank jacks with the band below the calves. You can also loop the band around an anchor to perform exercises like lat pulldowns, shoulder extensions, and rotations, tricep extensions, or use it for extra support when you work on pull-ups by wrapping it around the bar and resting your foot in it. (For greater use of your resistance band, try these 5 upper body exercises.)
Tired of crunch variations? Flip over and strengthen your core with this rolling piece of equipment. "The ab wheel is a great way to help strengthen and develop the outer and inner abdominal wall, and if used correctly, it can help fire up the lats and triceps," says Franklin. "My personal favorite trait of the ab roll out wheel is its size—it's small, which makes it portable, so it can easily fit in most gym bags or suitcases if you ever want to take it with you."