We’ve all seen those infomercials selling premium stationary bikes or bulky fitness equipment that promise to get you in the best shape of your life—and they usually come with a price tag that follows suit.
But you don’t have to shell out the big bucks on fancy equipment to create an effective home gym. We spoke to Logan Collins, certified personal trainer and fitness center coordinator at Texas Health Prosper, to narrow down the Top 10 basic necessities for any home gym.
1. Adjustable Dumbbells
“Free weight exercises provide you the most ‘bang for the buck’ and have exercise options for your whole body,” Collins says. “A pair of dumbbells you can easily adjust the weight on would be the most versatile and usable addition to any home gym.”
If you can’t find a set of adjustable weights, a light set and a heavier set will work as well. The light set should be a comfortable enough weight for you to perform exercises easily, and the heavier set should be just heavy enough to offer a challenge.
2. Adjustable Free Bench
Although a free bench may seem like a piece of bulky equipment, Collins says it’s a vital piece of equipment in any home gym due to its versatility and how it can be used with other equipment.
“Adding on to the adjustable dumbbells, an adjustable free bench is a perfect addition to a home gym,” he says. “It opens up many more exercise options to use in tandem with the adjustable dumbbells as well as bodyweight exercises.”
Still skeptical whether you really need to free up the space in your home gym for a bench? It usually takes up no more than four feet in length and a little over a foot in width, and can easily be folded up and moved to the side when not in use.
3. Adjustable Kettlebell
Are you seeing a theme here? Similar to adjustable dumbbells, Collins says adjustable kettlebells allow you to expand your exercise options and help you conserve space, which is definitely a luxury in most home gyms.
4. Exercise Tubing
Chances are you’ve seen this colorful tubing hanging up on a wall of your local gym, but never really knew what to do with it.
“The tube shape of the band allows handles to be added to it, which opens up the option for a variety of different exercises that would be difficult with your typical resistance bands,” Collins explains.
Exercise tubing is very versatile, can provide light resistance and is great for warming up or when you want to do some lighter exercises during your off-days.
5. A Good Quality Yoga Mat
Whether you’re using it to practice yoga, just need it to provide support and cushion to your joints, or use it rolled up under your back during exercises, a thick yoga mat is worth its weight in gold for any home gym.
“A good quality mat is necessary for someone who plans on doing different ground-based exercises as an extra layer between their body and the floor,” Collins adds.
Look for something that has good cushion to it, but isn’t so bulky it’s difficult to roll up. If you already do yoga, it should be heavier than the one you take to class with you.
6. A Foam Roller
If you’ve seen a foam roller at your local gym and been confused as to what it does, you’re most likely not alone. It may even seem like a foam roller isn’t a necessary piece of equipment to include in your home gym, but Collins says they’re one of the most underrated and underutilized recovery tools.
“Foam rolling is used for myofascial release, or relieving ‘trigger points’ that form in muscles from exercise and exertion,” he explains. “It is a technique that helps with injury prevention, maintaining mobility and relieving some exercise-related inflammation that can occur.”
7. Jump Rope
If you’re not a big fan of running or need something a little easier on your joints, a jump rope is great for squeezing in a great cardio workout.
“A jump rope is the perfect option for weather that’s less ideal for a walk or jog outside,” Collins says. “It can also be used in combination with resistance exercise to create an interval type workout program.”
8. Perfect Pushup Handles
Say goodbye to classic pushups that can put a lot of stress on your wrists and get the most efficient pushup every single time with pushup handles.
These handles allow you to perform a classic pushup, but with a twist — literally. These coasters allow you to rotate your hands and arms 90 degrees as you descend down into the pushup, similar to how a boxer’s arm rotates as they are throwing a punch, maximizing your results and reducing stress on your wrists and upper body.
“The perfect pushup can help with overuse injuries to the wrists and allows you to work the pushup at different angles you wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” he says. “It adds more variety for your exercises!”
9. Miniature Exercise Bands
Miniature versions of things seem to get the short end of the stick (no pun intended) when it comes to their efficacy, but miniature exercise bands can help you target a specific area or provide a smaller circumference for resistance training versus their larger counterparts.
“Mini bands are a great way to target different areas of your body with certain exercises,” Collins adds. “They can be used to ‘pre-activate’ muscles on various movements, as well as to ensure you feel it where you should!”
10. Grip Trainers
Grip trainers, or “grippers,” may seem like an old-school piece of exercise equipment, but Collins says the improved grip strength these oldies but goodies provide is underappreciated.
“Grip strength is one of the most, if not the most overlooked things in the exercise world,” he adds. “Improving the strength of your grips has the potential to drastically improve your overall quality of life and make everyday tasks easier. The best part? You can use these anywhere!”
These 10 items are proof that you don’t have to sacrifice copious amounts of space and money to create an effective home gym, but Collins adds that learning appropriate form and technique is most important for getting an effective workout, whether you’re at home or not.
“If I met someone that was new or inexperienced in exercise and they told me they wanted to get a home gym set up rather than a gym membership, I would do my best to convince them to hold off on it at first and join a gym,” he explains. “Exercise on its surface is very simple, however there are quite a few ‘small’ details regarding exercise technique that can be the difference between injury and progress. There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning a home gym, but you should invest in a great personal trainer at the beginning to make sure you are performing the exercises correctly and that you don’t hurt yourself!”
Texas Health fitness centers not only provide a wide variety of gym equipment, but staff members can help explain and demonstrate how to properly use a piece of equipment or how to perform a certain exercise, giving you the base knowledge you need to excel in the gym and at home.
This post was originally posted on AreYouaWellBeing.TexasHealth.org.