6 Essentials for Your Home Gym

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6 Essentials for Your Home Gym

Joining a gym is a great way to get in shape, but it's not the only way. You can get an effective workout without ever leaving the house. Here's what you need and how to set up a gym at home.

Dumbbells (Free weights)

A good set of dumbbells will help you start a strength training routine.  Expect to pay $10-$20 for a pair of 5-pound weights. Prices will increase as the weight goes up. 

Stability Ball

An exercise ball goes by many names (stability, Swiss, physio, etc.) and is extremely versatile. You can use them in place of an exercise bench for many exercises, improving your balance and coordination. The balls come in different sizes (based on your height and weight), and a rainbow of colors, and cost around $25 apiece. 

Exercise Mat

Place a good exercise mat on the floor to stretch comfortably and cushion your body during floor exercises—a must if you do a lot of Pilates or yoga. For about $20 you can get a sticky mat (for Pilates and yoga), which is thin—but better than a hard floor. The price goes up for larger and thicker mats.

Jump Rope

Use a $15 jump rope for a quick and effective cardio workout. Slowly jumping rope burns 120 calories every 10 minutes; jump faster and burn 140 calories in 10 minutes. Opt for a thick cloth rope or a plastic beaded rope; thinner plastic ropes tend to twist easier.

Cardio Machines

Once you have the basics, consider investing in a piece of cardio equipment. Make sure your machine has different resistance levels to allow for workout variety and challenge as you progress. Costs vary, from $400 for a basic stationary bike to over $600 for a good treadmill. 

Setting Up Your Gym

Now that you know what to buy, make sure you have enough space for your gym. If you can't dedicate a room to exercising, set aside a corner of the basement or home office. Choose a room with a high ceiling, and a sturdy, clean floor. Make sure you've got good lighting and ventilation (possibly with a fan). 

Try to set up your gym in a place where you'll have access to a TV so you can watch your favorite workout DVDS or a stereo so you can crank some energetic tunes. Better yet, if you have a laptop computer, you can use it to watch workout DVDs, follow along with SparkPeople videos, or listen to music. You’ve created a gym that you can really enjoy! 

Resistance Bands

Bands or "tubes" are great because they are compact, portable, and allow for a wide range of motion. Resistance bands come in 3-5 different levels of resistance and usually run around $15 for a set. 

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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5/14/2012 4:21:31 PM

DEPSERV's SparkPage
Sorry but I think this list is a little arbitrary to be named "essentials." I'd call it "nice things to have." My main exercise used to be martial arts, and all you need for those exercises is some floor space. The same thing applies to dancing, calisthenics, etc. To go one step better, years ago I designed a karate-style dummy made out of old tires (it has a head that sticks up above shoulders, upper and lower torso, legs, groin, etc.); beating it up with everything from palm heel strikes to boots to baseball bats was as good and complete an exercise as you could get. This is just one of a great many examples of things that can be either part or all of a home gym.


5/13/2012 4:19:44 PM

EASH5M's SparkPage
I feel good I have everything they say i need.


5/10/2012 11:48:38 AM




5/10/2012 10:18:37 AM

Thanks for the tips. I think I need to rearrange my workout room.


5/7/2012 1:02:41 PM

APONI_KB's SparkPage
I have something kind of like a treadmill. We named him Bodie and if you put a leash on him he'll take you on a run every single morning. There is some pretty good technical running gear out there to protect you from the cold, not that Bodie cares about the cold.


5/7/2012 10:55:25 AM

MOMOSG's SparkPage
These suggestions are great and it's good to see I have pretty much everthing I need already. The only suggestion I can't take advantage of is cardio equipment. I have no space for anything that can't be easily stored.


5/7/2012 9:42:28 AM

I have a rowing machine that is easily movable and use Wii Fit, yoga mat,bumbells, resistance ball. Love doing the Sparkpeople exercise videos, so the gym is in the office where the computer is and in the family room where the Wii Fit and TV are....lol


5/7/2012 8:00:35 AM

treadmill, punching bag and stability ball for days i don't make it to the gym


5/6/2012 10:50:14 PM

I use my garage as my home gym. I store all the "garage stuff" in cabinets and shelves. I've put a coat of bright yellow paint on the walls, mounted a TV on the wall and I keep it nice and clean. I pull the car out when I want to work out. To keep from feeling claustrophobic I keep the door open to allow lots of cool air in. I have all the equipment you've suggested and every exercise video ever made. I keep a gym membership as well. When it get's too hot working out in the garage is not possible. Use what you have got, you will not need what you have not!


5/6/2012 2:32:17 PM

I have no room for cardio equipment. However, I have a Wii. I use My Fitness Coach, Wii Fit in Six, the Just Dance series, Zumba games, Exerbeats plus lots of workout dvd's. Aerobics classes abound!


5/6/2012 11:19:33 AM

Some of these items can be found used for relatively cheap prices in Salvation Army stores, Good Will stores, and the local classifieds paper. Frankly, many people don't stick with their programs, so they end up giving away or selling their equipment. I found a nordic track (obviously an older model) in the salvation army store for about $30.00, and some dumbbells for a few dollars each. I tried jumping rope indoors once many years ago, and the rope hit the ceiling, so that didn't last long.


5/6/2012 11:08:23 AM

The last picture makes me less. Yes, we all have that much space (an entire large room with lots and lots of windows) to dedicate to our home gym. Yeah, right...
I think free weights and resistance bands are great additions that anyone can use at home regardless of space


5/6/2012 10:57:31 AM

Thanks for the advice, but Jillian Michaels, walking and biking are a good enough work out for me. Oh and you do burn calories with housework or even by reading.


5/6/2012 10:40:08 AM

HYATTI1's SparkPage
All good tips but the last two a little costly for a must have.


5/6/2012 10:09:18 AM

I have all of these except for cardio machines-- I have a treadmill waiting for me at my mom's house, just no truck to move it in. But since warm weather's finally on its way, I'm back to biking and walking outdoors so it doesn't really matter much until the fall.

I thought I did a really good job of getting the essentials on a very small budget, and this confirms it!

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