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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5/7/2012 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!


5/6/2012 8:39:24 AM

Right now I have an exercise bike and some free weights. My next step will be the resistance bands.


5/6/2012 8:24:00 AM

I like the videos but I agree that space can be an issue. It is possible to exercise without equipment.


5/6/2012 8:03:22 AM

You can definitely get a good workout with significantly less equipment than even this! I don't even have a corner that I can dedicate to a home gym -- I live in a one-bedroom basement apartment.

Seriously, just put together whatever kind of push-up you can muster, whatever kind of back exercise you can muster (swimmers, supermans, pull-ups, whatever), a leg exercise like bodyweight squats or lunges, and a core exercise, and do 10 reps of each. Do one set, then do 20 jumping jacks, then move on to the next exercise, do 20 jumping jacks, etc. When you've done one set of each exercise, start the circuit over, and see how many you can do in 15 minutes.

SparkPeople has a huge collection of strength exercises that are good for people who are beginning to work out. Mix it up! Do one kind of push-up one week, then change that push-up the next week. Or, one week do the circuit as many times as possible in 15 minutes, but the next week make each exercise last a minute and see how many reps you can do in that minute. Save jumping jacks for two minutes at the end of each circuit. Replace jumping jacks with running in place, running in place with high knees, running in place with kicking your butt. So many options!


5/6/2012 7:06:45 AM



5/6/2012 6:33:47 AM

I do the bodyrock.tv home workouts. The online workouts are great, motivating, use little equipment and the community and support is amazing. I love the workouts with the pink Equalizers the best.


5/6/2012 5:46:06 AM

I just need the skipping rope and may and then I'll have everything. By then, it will be time to up the weight on my dumb bells.

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