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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon

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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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)

Photo courtesy of Amazon
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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GGRSPARK 8/13/2019
Correction... whenever the gym is not an option. Bands ate in my suitcase always...next purchase will be s foam roller — fot physio ) homework) related to my tight IT Band. Retired from teaching but still kearning. Report
GGRSPARK 8/13/2019
I originally bought weights to practice teaching a muscle class to brginners, then I got a step( same reason ) a stability ball, and bands for therapy at home. I use them all whenever the workout is not an option Report
I never knew they had adjustable dumbbells! How cool! I have 2 lb dumbbells as I have shoulder issues. I have a yoga matt, one kettle bell, resistance bands, and a stability ball. I prefer to go to my senior exercise classes 5 days a week but use some of my home equipment when no class is available. Report
CKEYES1 6/2/2019
Love my kettlebells Report
XREPHA 5/26/2019
I couldn't live without my treadmill. However I also love my reformer. I have resistance bands and a foam roller, a weight machine, Pilates chair and elliptical in my home gym. But I use the treadmill and reformer the most. Report
SOOKIE 5/21/2019
I have a few dumbbells (1 to 8 lbs), resistance bands, a mini stepper, and an aerobic step bench. Report
TAPESTRIES 5/18/2019
I have about 30 exercise videos, some walking/cardio, some strength training, and yoga. I also own wrist weights, ankle weights, several types of resistance bands and a set of hand-held dumbells - 3-8 pounds. That gives me enough variety in my workouts. Also, there's always Youtube and Sparkpeople videos. Report
ROBBIEY 4/18/2019
Good info Report
AQUAGIRL08 4/1/2019
Good list with great ideas. Thank you! Report
MUSICNUT 3/11/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
BABY_GIRL69 12/19/2018
Good info Report
BONNIE1552 10/31/2018
Love my free weights, resistance bands, and weight bench. Report
Thank you for the ideas. Report
excellent article Report
Great alternatives! Report
I prefer weights in Lou of a machine Report
Recently added a stability ball. Report
I have most of these thank you for the list. Report
Most are good purchases. Would have to see the yoga mat before I pay $88 for it. My over the door mirror cost $7 at Home Depot. Report
Nice and practical items. Report
Great article! Report
I have most of these things. Report
There are some things that would work for me. Report
Anyone who says they don’t have room isn’t really trying. As a snowbird I live in a fifth wheel trailer for 5 months a year. I can get a good workout with a set of adjustable weights (mine are Bowflex), my ottoman ( when I bought it I made sure it could double as a weight bench), a yoga mat, resistance bands (though I really don’t like them) and a library of DVDs (for the campgrounds with no internet) and some books detailing exercises (Women’s Health have good ones in the “Big Book”series). I walk the campground and bike the surrounding area for exercise as well. No excuses. Report
I workout exclusively at home five or more days a week. Sadly, I do not have a dedicated space, so I stow all equipment. While I have many of the pieces suggested, I would question the need for a massive, expensive piece of equipment like the Bowflex. I was gifted a TRX, I like it...it’s not my favorite. I don’t want to damage doors or my ceiling so the install is a pain. Personally I would add a foam core balance board and a weight bench to your list. On my list of equipment I want to own: a medicine ball, weighted gloves, and a punching bag. Ultimately I would encourage people who are serious about working out at home to purchase the technology that will allow you to watch SparkTV or YouTube on your TV. Endless workouts to access that provide the form cues and expertise of certified trainers in your home...a true game changer! Report
I prefer to exercise at home, but not treadmill or home gym, farm work is great exercise, just finished putting away 20 50lb bags of feed! Report
These are great recommendations, I have most of them except for the home gym, the kettle bell and the TRX. I also have resistance bands that are eady to pack for travel. Report
I purchased the total gym and that is a big help and I am making monthly payments for 10 months. Easy peasy! Report
As a person who has used both some strength exercises and weight lifting machines at the gym---I prefer to use weight lifting machines at the gym. First since I seem to lift more weight there than the hand held weights at home. Second my cost is minimal at the gym, without having to keep buying more hand held weight for at home. Report
There's at least something for almost everyone's preference. Report
We always hated gym atmosphere, dolts working out and acting stupid, have bought equipment for home use over time, and no excuses not to do our work outs. No bad gym smells, either! Report
I enjoy working out @ home. Saves me travel time to and from the gym. So, that means I am MOST likely to do my exercise routine! Report
Would love to workout at home. But space does not motivate me. Need gym atmosphere. Report
I work out at home at least 6 days a week. I have three pairs of dumbbells, 3lb, 5lb, and 7lb, and two exercise mats, 1 thin and 1 thicker. Bought the last mat at Marshall's for about $15. I also have a library of workout videos, some emphasizing weight training, and some, aerobics. They were all free, as I downloaded them to the DVR. Report
Some useful suggestions there. Report
Great! Thanks. Report
I've got 2 lb. dumbells, and that's good enough for me. I would never buy a mat for $88.00, $379.00 for a Bow Flex, I have the TRX Go Training Kit (But it's not called that.) Mine is called a door pulley. I have a stability ball, I think I'll get steps next. I hope everyone has a Terrific & Blessed Tuesday! Report
I've got 2 lb. dumbells, and that's good enough for me. I would never buy a mat for $88.00, $379.00 for a Bow Flex, I have the TRX Go Training Kit (But it's not called that.) Mine is called a door pulley. I have a stability ball, I think I'll get steps next. I hope everyone has a Terrific & Blessed Tuesday! Report
I've got 2 lb. dumbells, and that's good enough for me. I would never buy a mat for $88.00, $379.00 for a Bow Flex, I have the TRX Go Training Kit (But it's not called that.) Mine is called a door pulley. I have a stability ball, I think I'll get steps next. I hope everyone has a Terrific & Blessed Tuesday! Report
Thanks Report
Great ideas!! I didn't know you could buy adjustable dumbbells. Report
Have to say kettle bells are my all time favorite and have been for years. Can get a full body work out in a short amount of time. Report
Great ideas! Report
LOL! Geostomp. Report
Although some of the prices are a bit high, I did find a great exercise ball for much cheaper and may get it soon! I already have a few of the others so it will make a nice addition to my exercise equipment. Report
47 bucks for a door mirror? Are you serious? Report
Over the years I've moved from household items to set weight dumbbells. I just recently bought a pair of power block adjustable ones and LOVE them - for ease of switching between weights (reduces down time) and for space saving, they live in the living room, but I stash them behind the cat tree. Report
I am fortunate to have a treadmill (given to us by in-laws) and stationary bike. Over the years I acquired dumb bells of various weights up to 10 lb., a yoga mat, resistance band and stability ball. There's a step in the room where I work out but I can only use it to step up and back down. I like the idea of using the ball as a bench for some exercises. I'm sure there's a skipping rope around but not enough ceiling height to use it indoors. I have everything I need to get in a good workout. Report
an $80 mat seems ridiculous. Report
Just joking here, but... What jump rope *isn't* "portable"? Report