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Ditch the Gym & Invest in These 10 Home Strength Training Essentials

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Should you lift weights? Regardless of your age, weight or gender, the answer is always a resounding ”yes!” Pumping iron (whether it's three pounds or 30) helps to boost muscle strength, bone density, balance, metabolism and heart health, among other amazing perks.
But what if your motivation takes a nosedive before you manage to suit up and make it to the gym, or your jam-packed schedule simply won't allow for the trip? Or maybe you're not quite ready to navigate the (not so) scary weight room. Not to worry—you can start reaping the full-body benefits of strength training from the comfort of your living room (or bedroom, or hotel room) anytime you please.

Benefits of Strength Training at Home

Fitness trainer Julia Buckley estimates that working out at home slashes your total workout time by roughly 50 percent. "You don’t have to waste time packing your gym kit, traveling to the gym, finding a locker, waiting for and then chatting to your personal trainer or training buddy, waiting for equipment—and then doing it all in reverse at the end of your workout," she points out.
And then there's the cost savings—after the initial investment in some basic equipment, home workouts are very inexpensive compared to pricey gym memberships and personal training sessions.
Other benefits include the freedom to work out whenever you want, for as long as you want, without any concerns about picking out exercise clothes, waiting for equipment or arranging for childcare. Plus, you might be more willing to try an exercise you wouldn't otherwise attempt in front of a gym audience.

Working Out Safely at Home

When strength training at home, it's more important than ever to strive for proper form and to stay focused on the workout. "Even though no one is around, you should work hard to the point of fatigue, and don't let the distractions of being at home derail you," says trainer and fitness blogger Ashley Pitt.
Fitness trainer Sarah Bright offers these tips to stay safe when strength training on your own:
  • Learn proper technique, even if that means hiring a personal trainer to come to your house a few times. Consider it an initial investment, just like the equipment. You can also follow online workout videos for tips and ideas.
  • Stay focused on what you're doing instead of letting your mind wander.
  • Build up slowly and progress with care. It can be exciting to "move up" in weight on an exercise, but be sure you can maintain proper technique with the increased weight. 

Creating Your Home Gym

It doesn't require anything fancy—just a commitment, a schedule and some basic equipment, such as these expert favorites. You don't necessarily need all of these, and certainly not all at once. Start with one or two, then gradually build up your collection until you've got your own personalized at-home weight room.
1. Resistance Band: Power-Systems Versa-Loops Resistance Band (starting at $13.58)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Once her clients have gotten comfortable with basic weight-training moves, Kim Schaper has them purchase these for more advanced glute training. The flat, closed-loop design fits comfortably around the upper or lower legs for added resistance.
2. Adjustable Dumbbells: ProForm 25-lb. Adjustable Dumbbell Set ($70)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
A set of dumbbells is an essential home gym purchase. To save space, personal trainer Kristy Stabler uses adjustable dumbbells that can be scaled up or down to match the specific exercise and strength level. As a general guideline, she recommends that women start with a set that goes from 5 to 20 pounds, and that men choose a set ranging from 10 to 25 pounds.
3. Exercise Mat: Manduka PRO Yoga and Pilates Mat (starting at $88.05)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
A good floor mat is beneficial, particularly if you have hardwood floors. For maximum cushioning and comfort, Stabler uses this one from Manduka. "It's a little pricey, but worth it when you're in the middle of a core workout and your tailbone isn't bruised," she says.
4. Stability Ball: URBNFit ($14.99)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Fitness trainer Cheryl Russo loves using a stability ball as a bench to perform chest presses, skull crushers and a variety of core exercises. The ball can also be used for wall squats and hamstring curls. "The bonus of using a stability ball is that it engages the core and is much less expensive than a flat bench," she says.
5. Jump Rope: 321 STRONG ($7.99)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Russo names a fitness jump rope as a must-have for any home gym. "It's portable, can be easily packed for travel and offers a terrific cardio workout for those who don't enjoy running."
6. Mirror: Mirrotech Over-the-Door Mirror ($47.18)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Buckley recommends having a big mirror in your training zone to monitor your form and technique. "You might think you're moving correctly, but the mirror might show you otherwise," she says. "Plus, it can be very motivating to see yourself get leaner or more muscular as you progress."
7. TRX: TRX GO Training Kit ($99.95)

Photo courtesy of Amazon

When helping her clients design at-home gyms, Bright always suggests investing in a TRX suspension training kit to perform bodyweight exercises for every muscle group. Although it must be anchored somewhere, such as over a door jamb, the TRX is very portable.
8. Step: The Step Aerobic Platform ($22)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
If you're looking to expand beyond the basics, Bright recommends investing in a quality step, ideally one with an incline setting that is stable enough to be stepped or jumped on.
9. Machines: Bowflex PR1000 ($379.52)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Although not a requirement, some die-hard home exercisers may choose to invest in a multi-purpose home gym to perform a variety of strength training moves.
10. Kettlebells: Yes4All Kettlebell Set ($42)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Russo uses kettlebells for more of a functional training workout—not isolating specific muscle groups, but recruiting multiple groups at once to perform compound moves. "That's how we move in real life," says Russo. "Rarely do we isolate a muscle when doing something."

Which home gym essentials could you not work out without?

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It is a good thing I have equipment at home. It is helping me get through this Covid time! Report
REDROBIN47 9/18/2020
I like going to the gym but am working out at home for now. These are some good ideas. Report
Great info as we have cancelled our gym membership. Report
LEANJEAN6 9/10/2020
This is a great "read:--- A good home gym and it works! Report
REDROBIN47 9/3/2020
Right now, I'm more comfortable working out at home. I'm not going to go to a gym until I feel it is safe. Report
Awesome...thanks! Report
I grab my 5lb weights and YouTube. I can workout all day at home. Report
BOBJ21 8/25/2020
Kettlebells. These are my go to exercise weights. Report
ARMSTRJE3 8/22/2020
Had I not read this, I would not have realized that I can secure my resistance bands and TRX bands using the garage door. SWEET! Report
STEPHLOKI 8/22/2020
My exercise mat Report
RO2BENT 8/22/2020
Gotta do the hard work Report
CD25558046 8/22/2020
Weights & peanut ball. Report
K4KETO 8/22/2020
This was great, thanks! Report
Thanks Report
REDROBIN47 7/7/2020
Good plan. Right now, I'd much rather be at home. Report
A few good ideas to add to my home gym Report
EVIE4NOW 6/5/2020
Thanks. We have a pretty equipped gym in the exercise room, but would of course like to add to it. Sometimes,, weights, treadmill, bike, recumbent bike and eliptical don't seem enough. Report
JANIEWWJD 3/11/2020
I have bought most of these items already for my home gym. Awesome article!!! Report
NASFKAB 1/23/2020
Good Report
NEPTUNE1939 1/19/2020
ty Report
KHALIA2 1/12/2020
Great Info! Thanks for sharing! Report
ROBBIEY 12/2/2019
great Report
I have the step. I love it. I have 2 lb, 3lb, 5lb, 8lb, and 10 lb weights. Sometimes I use a stretchie band. I used to have a treadmill. I didn't mind it at first, especially in the winter. Now I just walk our track, or do a workout video. Report
Correction... whenever the gym is not an option. Bands ate in my suitcase always...next purchase will be s foam roller — fot physio ) homework) related to my tight IT Band. Retired from teaching but still kearning. Report
I originally bought weights to practice teaching a muscle class to brginners, then I got a step( same reason ) a stability ball, and bands for therapy at home. I use them all whenever the workout is not an option Report
I never knew they had adjustable dumbbells! How cool! I have 2 lb dumbbells as I have shoulder issues. I have a yoga matt, one kettle bell, resistance bands, and a stability ball. I prefer to go to my senior exercise classes 5 days a week but use some of my home equipment when no class is available. Report
Love my kettlebells Report
I couldn't live without my treadmill. However I also love my reformer. I have resistance bands and a foam roller, a weight machine, Pilates chair and elliptical in my home gym. But I use the treadmill and reformer the most. Report
I have a few dumbbells (1 to 8 lbs), resistance bands, a mini stepper, and an aerobic step bench. Report
I have about 30 exercise videos, some walking/cardio, some strength training, and yoga. I also own wrist weights, ankle weights, several types of resistance bands and a set of hand-held dumbells - 3-8 pounds. That gives me enough variety in my workouts. Also, there's always Youtube and Sparkpeople videos. Report
Good info Report
Good list with great ideas. Thank you! Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Good info Report
Love my free weights, resistance bands, and weight bench. Report
Thank you for the ideas. Report
excellent article Report
Great alternatives! Report
I prefer weights in Lou of a machine Report
Recently added a stability ball. Report
I have most of these thank you for the list. Report
Most are good purchases. Would have to see the yoga mat before I pay $88 for it. My over the door mirror cost $7 at Home Depot. Report
Nice and practical items. Report
Great article! Report
I have most of these things. Report
There are some things that would work for me. Report
Anyone who says they don’t have room isn’t really trying. As a snowbird I live in a fifth wheel trailer for 5 months a year. I can get a good workout with a set of adjustable weights (mine are Bowflex), my ottoman ( when I bought it I made sure it could double as a weight bench), a yoga mat, resistance bands (though I really don’t like them) and a library of DVDs (for the campgrounds with no internet) and some books detailing exercises (Women’s Health have good ones in the “Big Book”series). I walk the campground and bike the surrounding area for exercise as well. No excuses. Report
I workout exclusively at home five or more days a week. Sadly, I do not have a dedicated space, so I stow all equipment. While I have many of the pieces suggested, I would question the need for a massive, expensive piece of equipment like the Bowflex. I was gifted a TRX, I like it...it’s not my favorite. I don’t want to damage doors or my ceiling so the install is a pain. Personally I would add a foam core balance board and a weight bench to your list. On my list of equipment I want to own: a medicine ball, weighted gloves, and a punching bag. Ultimately I would encourage people who are serious about working out at home to purchase the technology that will allow you to watch SparkTV or YouTube on your TV. Endless workouts to access that provide the form cues and expertise of certified trainers in your home...a true game changer! Report
I prefer to exercise at home, but not treadmill or home gym, farm work is great exercise, just finished putting away 20 50lb bags of feed! Report
These are great recommendations, I have most of them except for the home gym, the kettle bell and the TRX. I also have resistance bands that are eady to pack for travel. Report
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