6 Essentials for Your Home Workouts


By: , – Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
  :  27 comments   :  60,501 Views

If you’ve seen enough infomercials in your time, it’s easy to get convinced that you need to buy the latest and greatest in exercise gadgets or gizmos in order to reach your fitness goals.
The truth is, there’s no need to spend a ton of money on fancy equipment or even a gym membership to get in a good workout. In fact, many great workout routines don’t need any equipment at all. But if you are looking to invest in a few pieces to help you get fit in 2013, there are a few, inexpensive items I’d recommend.
As a personal trainer, I actually train all of my clients at home using these six essential items (and they’re each cost less than $20).
Must-Haves for Your Home Gym
Most of the weight machines you see lining the weight room at the gym are unnecessary (but they definitely help sell gym memberships!). And many of the exercises you can do on the machines can actually be improved by getting up off of them and using your bodyweight or dumbbells instead. If you are strength training regularly at home, I recommend investing in one or two sets of dumbbells to take your resistance workouts to the next level. Most dumbbell sets cost less than $20 for the pair. (Some weights are sold individually, so double check before you buy and are surprised with only one weight.) Get one pair of heavier weights that are heavy enough to challenge your larger muscle groups like your legs, chest and back, and one pair light enough to fatigue your smaller muscles, such as those in your arms, shoulders and upper back. (Here are more tips for selecting the right weight for resistance training.)  This set by Cap Barbell includes three pairs (two, four and six pounds) that are neoprene coated and even come with their own rack for less than $20. That's a steal!
For around $12 or less, you can afford to stock up on one or two resistance bands for your home gym. Loop them around a door knob (or use the door anchor that many bands come now with) or stand on them for a myriad of exercise options. One of my favorite things about these Spri bands is they are so portable: Toss one in your purse or in your suitcase when you know you’ll need to sneak in a strength training workout on the go. Get more tips on working out with resistance bands.
Paper plates?! As exercise equipment? You bet. Probably the least expensive item on this list (you can buy 100 of them for less than 5 bucks), paper plates are a fun tool to amp up your strength moves and offer a low impact option for many cardio drills. Try placing one under each foot in a full plank position, then bend your knees and slide your feet in (and then back out) for a challenging abs tuck, or sliding them under your feet for a lower impact mountain climber. The plates work on most surfaces (just be sure to test out on your flooring first to make sure they don’t scratch). Google "paper plate workout" and you'll find tons of great videos and exercises you can try at home. Believe me!
Sometimes you need a little extra padding on the floor during moves like crunches, kneeling push-ups and back extensions, so having a mat at home can be a worthwhile investment. A yoga mat rolls up easily for storage and portability, and a nice, good quality one shouldn’t cost more than $15. I love this floral print one from Altus Athletic that comes with its own carrying strap.
I know there are plenty of apps for your smart phone that can help you time your workouts, but I personally don’t like to have to fumble with my phone (or get sweat all over it) during my workouts. That’s why I love the GYMBOSS wearable interval timer. You can pre-program it to sound and vibrate during specific intervals of your choice (Tabata anyone?) and you can clip it on to your waistband or top and it stays put during even high-impact workouts, making it easy to focus all of your attention on your workout--not the clock.
You don't need a $2,000 treadmill to do cardio at home. One of the cheapest pieces of cardio equipment you can buy (most are under $10) is a simple jump rope! Skipping rope is not only fun, it’s also a killer cardio workout that helps build agility and coordination too. And you don’t only have to use it for jumping either—it also doubles as an agility ladder too. Lay it flat on the floor in a straight line and practice moving up and down the rope forwards and backwards in a zigzag pattern, or try quick steps or bunny hops over and behind it, as shown in Coach Nicole's Jump Start Cardio workout video. Get creative with your foot patterns for a cardio workout that builds dexterity too.
Don’t forget: Even the nicest, most expensive pieces of workout equipment won’t do you any good if you don’t put them to use. I’m talking about that treadmill in your bedroom that is currently being used as a clothing rack. It’s not about how much you spend on getting fit, it's about the time and effort you put into it. And a happy, healthy and fitter you? Well now, that is just priceless!
Have you ever invested in a piece of fitness equipment that you wished you hadn’t? What's the best "steal" you've ever gotten on a fitness device you actually use?

About the Author
As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, and now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit jessicasmithtv.com/shop to learn more about her fun, results driven programs for all levels of exercisers.

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  • 27
    At age 60, I do use 3 and 5 pound weights. In place of the paper plates, I use furniture gliders. I like the "paper plate" workout! - 6/4/2017   9:05:43 PM
  • 26
    Neat ideas! - 6/4/2017   4:20:20 PM
  • 25
    Thanks for the great ideas! - 6/4/2017   9:14:44 AM
  • 24
    I adore my step, so many killer workouts out there to up my cardio game. Adding a riser? Whoa...and this from a woman with two fake knees! I really like my kettle bells, and my foam balance board. All stores easily, my home gym is a closet, ha...I stow and haul equipment each workout. Proof that it doesn't require much more than the willingness to sweat and earn those endorphins. - 6/4/2017   7:50:22 AM
  • 23
    Great ideas. Thanks. - 6/4/2017   6:55:49 AM
  • 22
    Great ideas. I had never thought of using paper plates! - 6/3/2017   10:52:05 PM
  • 21
    This is good reference for exercising. Thanks. - 6/3/2017   9:59:24 PM
  • 20
    Great article Jessica. Thanks. - 6/3/2017   9:42:48 PM
  • 19
    Careful with the paper plates, you may do the splits without wanting to...... - 6/3/2017   8:53:48 AM
  • 18
    great - 6/3/2017   6:35:35 AM
  • BRODYH74
    I've owned multiple Gymboss timers and can't say enough good things about them. Great for tabata, boxing/ mma, etc. And very reasonably priced too. - 6/3/2017   2:12:12 AM
  • 16
    So clever and encouraging! Jessica, thank you for your articles!!!!!! - 10/23/2015   8:07:20 AM
    Loving this article.. Especially since I have all of these items. - 10/15/2014   9:45:54 PM
    As far as the weight of the dumbbells go, I use 3 lbs and are very challenged right now and they are making a difference. Let's not forget those of us just starting out. Also, I can't imagine using more than 8-10lbs on some of the high rep. workouts that Jessica Smith does in her videos. Don't think I would be using 15- 20lbs there. Great if you can though! - 4/24/2014   12:16:54 PM
  • 13
    Ok.... I would have to use the light dumbbells. I have lots of trouble with my wrists and hands......Probably from years of "wagging" lots of weight at work. More than a couple of pounds and I would be up all night in tears........ Have pity on us with less than perfect hands..............LOL - 12/31/2012   2:06:57 AM
  • 12
    Paper Plates? Wow! That may just be the ticket to doing dance types of cardio on carpeted floor?? We have horrid shag carpet on top of slag concrete floor and so dancing is hard on knees and joints unless I wear my cardo/exercise shoes....but they are built for traction and that creates too much heat and friction on carpeting. I bet the paper plates would help do the gliding and enough slippery to make it easier to dance on this carpet!! - 12/31/2012   1:18:18 AM
  • 11
    I agree about the dumbbells, I am in the 10, 12, 15, 20 range...I also wish there was a different cardio option than jump rope for those with back problems...I guess I'll just have to stick to walking or going to the gym to use the cardio machines there :(
    ...regardless, these are great suggestions! :) - 12/27/2012   12:04:12 PM
  • 10
    I checked out the paper plate workout. Wow. Now who came up with that idea. May have to try it out
    - 12/26/2012   12:16:52 PM
  • 9
    Paper Plates, who would have thought!?! - 12/26/2012   11:24:37 AM
  • 8
    I have INDIAN CLUBS and KETTLEBELLS, which are two items I keep for myself to work out at home. - 12/25/2012   10:38:10 PM
  • 7
    LTHORN is right, dumbbells are too light. That's a common mistake for women to use light dumbbells. It's a waste of time and you don't get any results. - 12/25/2012   12:49:31 PM
    I will check out the paper plate workout. I tried the jump ropes, not coordinated I guess. So I bought air ropes and I love them and they are versatile enough to give my arms a workout as well. - 12/25/2012   11:19:37 AM
    I have it all - except jump rope. Too high impact for me at this time, but I do use my stationary bike. And, I teach preschoolers how to walk and/or crawl over a rope - keeping one side of their body on one side of the rope as the rope curves across the floor. Does that count? Great sensory integration, good core workout and they don't care how you look! - 12/25/2012   9:57:48 AM
  • 4
    OK, the paper plates threw me, but it turns out I have the complete home gym otherwise! Yippee! - 12/25/2012   6:27:47 AM
  • 3
    I bought a manual treadmill years ago. What a waste of money. Would never own one. I do have a motorized one that I have use lots. In the winter or bad weather it sure gets a workout. I bought 2 boxes of weight plates with bars for around 40 bucks. I use them all the time. Love my stretch band. I have one that goes up to 75 lbs. - 12/25/2012   12:39:01 AM
  • 2
    Interesting that dumbbells is actually why I went the gym route. Given that I'm working with 15, 20, and 25 pound dumbbells now, I'd have spent nearly what I did on my gym membership buying the 8s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, and 25s ... and be filling space with all of those.

    Definitely need a yoga mat, though. I have a hard-wood floor with an area rug that isn't exactly comfortable. Simple things like crunches and stretches would be great to do at home with that. - 12/24/2012   1:56:56 PM
  • 1
    Those dumbbells are super nice! Wish they came in higher weights - who uses 2,4, and 6? - 12/24/2012   9:15:27 AM

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