If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room, or a nice garage you could covert, then you can go big with a treadmill, rowing machine and multigym. But otherwise, just a little space in your living room or bedroom can work too.
A home gym can be a worthwhile investment. We are all busy people and most of us are pretty good at finding reasons not to go to the gym. But keeping active is so important. Not only for weight loss, but it has a whole host of other health benefits too, from strong bones and muscles, to combating stress and anxiety. So, how exactly do you “build” a gym? And how do you know which equipment is best, so you don’t waste your money on the latest fad which will become a clothes horse in a few months?
We’ve put together your ten must-have items to get your home gym started. Equipment which is small enough to store away and won’t break the bank, but still packs a punch.
The pull-up is the finest upper-body bodyweight exercise there is. Beginners may find it tough to start with, but it’s great for building muscle in your arms, back and shoulders. It will even strengthen your core too. You can also do a number of basic gymnastic exercises on a pull-up bar to vary your workout. Plus they can be hooked over or fitted inside any doorway and then easily stored.
Plyometrics, also known as “jump training”, are boxes that are used as a platform to jump on and off. It involves exercises where muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time. Great for building speed and explosive power.
You can also use a plyo box for squatting, for bench dips, and for other non-jumping exercises. Try using it against the wall if you’re using one for the first time so it doesn’t move so much if you don’t quite manage to reach the top.
Initially used by physiotherapists to re-train people after injury, the medicine ball has now become popular for fitness and sport in general. And rightly so. These versatile balls range in weight from one to ten kilos, and are a great piece of kit for plyometric (jump training) exercises as well as core strength movements.
A must-have piece of equipment for your home gym, the kettlebell is so versatile, and you can get good results. From squats to push-ups, a kettlebell workout can burn up to 20 calories per minute – about as much as running a 6-minute mile. A kettlebell uses muscles in your body from head to toe, and it focuses a lot around your core and increases flexibility. A 2kg weight is perfect for beginners, and both men and women can use them as part of their workout routine. Just choose the weight that works for you.
The exercises you can do with dumbbells are endless. Plus they’re cheap and usually adjustable so you can change the weight to suit you. Look for the hex shaped dumbbells with black rubber coating as they’ll last the longest and are the most comfortable to workout with. It’s a good idea to get a few different weights to accommodate the different exercises you’ll be doing.
If you haven’t used a skipping rope since your school days, then you’re in for a surprise! There’s a reason boxers use skipping ropes in their training. It’s fantastic cardio and is also great for coordination. Skipping can give you a full-body workout that uses your abs to stabilize the body, legs (calves, hamstrings, quadriceps) for jumping and upper body (forearms, deltoids) for turning the rope. They are low in cost and are a small piece of kit to store away. But they can have a big impact on your exercise routine.
If you’re a beginner, just get a durable rope to work on your cardio. Or look for a lightweight wire rope to work on speed, or a weighted rope to work on strength.
Also known as toning bands, they are both very cheap and very effective at building strength and improving mobility. Plus they bundle up into a tiny package so you can shove them out of sight when you’re not using them.
Trampolining is a fantastic top-to-toe workout. It’s a fun way to lose weight and keep fit. It’s also low impact, which makes it great if you’re recovering from an injury.
Did you know that rebounding exercise is 68% more efficient than jogging? It can also help tone your muscles and strengthen your skeletal system, improve balance and posture, and is also the most proven way of eliminating cellulite. And, you can even do it while watching TV. What’s not to love?
Try adding a small set of dumbbells to your routine for a tougher workout.
The hula hoop isn’t just for young girls! In fact, experts claim it burns more calories than other anaerobic exercises. It helps with fat loss around your middle and is a great core workout.
Don’t be surprised to find slightly bruised hips after your first couple of goes, but this will soon stop. A hoop is also easy to store behind the sofa or under the bed, and some can even be taken apart to make it even easier to hide away when it’s not being used.
Your home gym, of course, would not be complete without a barbell. Both dumbbells and barbells are free weights. Compared to gym machines, they force your muscles to work harder and require greater stability and balance. A typical barbell is four to seven feet long and one inch thick. This piece of equipment works best for compound movements, such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Although, it can also be used for a whole host of other exercises too.
Ideally, start your training session with barbell exercises and finish with isolation movements using dumbbells. Alternate between the two and see how your body reacts. If you have a weaker muscle group, prioritise dumbbell exercises. To gain size and strength, perform heavy lifts with a barbell.
Take a look at some of the exercises you can do with a barbell. Just make sure you don’t go too heavy, especially if you’re just starting out.
It’s impossible to get everything you need from just one piece of kit. We all get bored of doing the same thing and your body gets used to doing an exercise, so it’s good to rotate equipment and try new exercises to mix things up. Start by doing a thirty minute workout at least three times per week. You can gradually build the length of time you’re exercising, the intensity (speed/weights), or number of days you exercise as you advance. And why not invite a friend over to try out your new home gym, so you can motivate each other? Remember, you don’t need to buy everything at once to be able to workout. You can just get a few of the essentials to get you started, and gradually build up your gym as you get into your new exercise routine.