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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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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