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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5/6/2012 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.


5/6/2012 3:10:09 AM

Resistance bands and a skipping rope maybe. Dumbells I can improvise with cans from the cupboard, or water-filled coke bottles, my bicycle doubles up as an exercise bike with a small attachment and housework fills most of my other needs. Why must everything cost money?


1/23/2012 2:12:02 PM

KRASTON's SparkPage
If you wanna get serious with bands, I recommend Bodylastics.com. I originally purchased the basic set from them for P90X but once I logged into the Liveexercise.com website that is free to use, I got hooked on the free live workouts they have using these bands....it's freakin awesome. I've been using the bands exclusively for resistance training and have put on alot of muscle since I started in June of 2011. I really have noticed changes in my body more since I started watching my diet in October 2011. They have great Cardio shows too that use Plyometrics like P90x and Insanity. Sorry, I'm a little gung ho because I've never loved working out before and since I started using these bodylastics bands and watching the workout shows on Liveexercise.com, I just love it...I think alot of it has to do with the instructors doing the shows, I watch the Chiseled show mainly and Blake and Ashanti are hilarious, plus you can interact with them on the website and they actually respond back either in writing or on the air...and if you want to join them on the show, just go down to Boca Raton, Florida and they will actually put you on the air with them working out....I mean, where else can you do that?


7/24/2011 8:07:30 AM

JOHN4NELL's SparkPage
I have equipment here with me and I love the short videos from coach Nicole, and by the time I have done the videos I have completed one full hour.


7/23/2011 11:04:38 AM

dancing with cans of soup (or anything) will provide cardio and tone at the same time.


7/23/2011 12:31:52 AM

FUNSPIRIT11's SparkPage
Good tips!


7/22/2011 9:10:25 PM

Almost there!! Just missing the rope!! Good luck everyone.

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